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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2014 – 3:48 pm

It’s been a while since the Chiefs have come to Arizona. The last visit was in 2006, in the first season of University of Phoenix Stadium. It, like this Sunday’s visit, comes a week after the Cardinals made a trip to Atlanta and lost. Back then, the Chiefs’ game was the first NFL start of a first-round draft pick – quarterback Matt Leinart. This week it’s the first NFL start of first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper.

It’s an interesting parallel even if it doesn’t relate directly to Sunday’s game. Leinart actually played well that day with a couple of touchdown passes (even though Larry Fitzgerald left with a hamstring injury that would ultimately keep him out three games, the longest down-time of his career) and should have had a third if Bryant Johnson didn’t let a throw go right between his arms.

But that was then, this is now. Game-day decision Fitzgerald should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two games – keeping that three-game stretch back in 2006 as his career-high (or low?). And Cooper’s play, while important, won’t be as important as the play of quarterback Drew Stanton, who needs to bounce back. The QB is in the crosshairs, especially with the Cardinals without running back Andre Ellington and his problem hip.

— If the Cardinals win, they remain the NFC’s top team, regardless of any other game, with three games to go. If they lose, they will no longer be the NFC’s top team regardless, because Philadelphia and Seattle play each other and a win with a Cards’ loss puts either ahead in the standings. The Cardinals don’t want that.

— One running back the Cards won’t have is Michael Bush, who was released Friday. That could be a short-term thing, but for now, the non-Ellington backfield will feature Stepfan Taylor—who will get the start in a running-back-by-committee scenario — and Marion Grice. Arians had some praise for Grice Friday. And all season, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he saw Grice as a player who could fill the Ellington role. Now he has to.

“We have a lot of trust in him,” Goodwin said.

— This is interesting: Cardinals punter Drew Butler was fined $8,268 for facemasking Falcons punt returner Devin Hester on Hester’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back. It was called back because Hester was flagged for facemasking Butler. Except … Hester wasn’t fined for the penalty.

— So to recap, the man who was penalized was essentially exonerated with no flag, and the man who should have been flagged wasn’t. Throw in the fine-but-no-penalty for William Moore on Cards’ wide receiver Jaron Brown, and it doesn’t seem like the officials had the best game.

— For those who want to know, the Cardinals will again wear their red pants Sunday (with the normal red home jersey.)

— The Cardinals are holding their annual toy drive Sunday at the game. Partnering with The RoomStore, volunteers will join cheerleaders to collect unwrapped toys and donations for underprivileged children outside each entrance at University of Phoenix Stadium.

— If the Cardinals win, they will have seven home victories. That would be the most for the franchise since 1925, when the Cards had 11. Eleven home wins. It helps that the Cards that year played 13 of 14 games at home (which was in Chicago at the time.)

— In 59 career games before he infamously lost the tip of his finger trying to make a tackle in New Orleans, safety Rashad Johnson had three interceptions. In 22 games since, he has seven interceptions. To be fair, Johnson didn’t start really playing a lot until the second half of the 2012 season, but still.

— Larry Fitzgerald, asked if he takes pride in his run blocking in the offense: “I take a lot more pride in catching passes.”

Fitz laughed as he said it, and he did say he does want to help with his blocking. But let’s not confuse this. Later, Fitz said “I have nothing to do with the run game. I’m a wide receiver.”

— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the game in Atlanta was a “bad day at the office” for his unit. Bowles said they forgot it quickly, and have to move on. The defense needs to. They will be crucial down the stretch, especially as offensive injuries mount.

— Bowles was on the staff of Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in Reid’s final year as Eagles’ head coach. It didn’t go well – the Eagles were bad, and Bowles, who eventually took over as interim defensive coordinator, was hammered by fans and media as the defense struggled – but Reid said now Bowles was the best interview he’s ever had. Bowles returned the compliment.

“It was great working for him,” Bowles said. “I probably learned more from him in one year than I have from a lot of people over a long time.”

— Hopefully for the Cardinals, it also means Bowles learned Reid’s tendencies. The Cards need every advantage.

See you Sunday.

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RB Bush cut as Shaughnessy rejoins roster

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2014 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals made a somewhat surprising move today by cutting recently signed running back Michael Bush. The Cards were going to have to create a roster spot for linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who is coming off IR/designated to return. But the Cards also decided to promote running back Kerwynn Williams back to the active roster from the practice squad, so cutting Bush and new tight end Matthew Mulligan were the moves made.

Bruce Arians had been hesitant to say if Bush was playing this week, and this probably is the reason why. Stepfan Taylor is getting the start at running back in place of the injured Andre Ellington, who heads up a long list of injured players. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate Bush from coming back — it’s possible he’s just not up to speed yet, not like Williams, who knows the offense, and this is a game-to-game thing — although it’s also possible the Bush experiment simply didn’t work out.

Arians said the running backs will be worked in as the game dictates. I’d anticipate Marion Grice getting a chunk of work even with Taylor starting. We’ll see if the Cardinals can make headway running the ball against what has been a bad Chiefs’ run defense.

“The runs that are working pretty good are the ones downhill,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “We have to be better at the ones that go sideways, as far as zone plays.”

Ellington (hip), starting right guard Paul Fanaika (ankle), defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb surgery) are all listed as out.

Arians also said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has been making progress but who is still not 100 percent, is going to be a game-day decision again — so no lock Fitz plays. Fitzgerald did practice fully Friday for the first time since his knee injury, however.


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Fitzgerald inactive again for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2014 – 12:39 pm

It isn’t a big surprise but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will miss his second straight game with his knee sprain. It’s only the second time Fitz has missed back-to-back games in his career — the first coming in 2006. He wasn’t going to play if he couldn’t do everything, coach Bruce Arians said, and clearly, Fitz can’t do everything yet. New running back Michael Bush, still learning the system, is also inactive.

Today also marks the first NFL game for rookie undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson, who is needed on special teams with Kenny Demens (hamstring) out.

The full inactive list:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)

— RB Michael Bush

— LB Desmond Bishop

— LB Kenny Demens (hamstring)

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— DT Ed Stinson (toe)

— TE Matthew Mulligan

The Falcons have their own high-end receiver sitting out: Roddy White will be inactive with an ankle injury.


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Friday before the Falcons

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2014 – 3:54 pm

In all the seasons the Cardinals have been a franchise – and in this case, we’ll just go back to the Cards’ jumping into the fledgling NFL in 1920 – the team has won at least 10 games only seven times. Only twice has the team won 10 since the franchise moved to Arizona, last season and the 10-6 mark the team posted in 2009, the year after the Super Bowl.

The Cards would reach 10 wins Sunday with a win in Atlanta. They should win at least 10 this season at some point, but in so many ways, it’s crucial that it come this weekend, against this team. The Falcons are in first place. They do have Julio Jones and Roddy White this time around. But this is a game the Cardinals have to have, with the way the Seahawks are playing, with the way the Packers are playing, with the way the Eagles are playing.

Bruce Arians is constantly talking about how good teams don’t lose two in a row. His players parrot it. The only time the Cardinals have lost a second in a row since Arians showed up was to eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle on a short-week Thursday night. This is where we need to see that resilience show up again, against a lesser opponent.

— Larry Fitzgerald is officially questionable but I won’t be surprised to see him sit for a second straight game. It’d be only the second time Fitz would have missed back-to-back games in his career. I’m sure it’s eating up Fitz. He’s got a lot on the line here on a lot of levels, between his hot play before he got hurt, his presence that helps the offense and even his impending contract dilemma after the season. But if he can’t go, he can’t go.

— New running back Michael Bush seems unlikely to be active. Arians said this week he’s got to learn a lot and he’s here for the “long haul.” It may be a little soon to reach that point yet.

— The Cardinals are not unaware that the Falcons have Jones and White this time. Patrick Peterson said this week he and Antonio Cromartie are ready for that kind of upscale challenge. Last year, “it definitely minimized their shock plays and how they attacked our defense (having them out),” Peterson said.

— As rough as it was for the Cardinals’ offense in Seattle last week, Arians kept saying that defense was pretty good – and then the Seahawks’ D dismantled Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense on Thanksgiving night. So maybe that was more of a reflection of the Seahawks coming around than the Cards’ offense.

— Of course, the Cardinals do have something to prove offensively this weekend, at least that it was an outlier as Arians believed. This offense was fine shredding a good Lions’ D for a quarter. It’s possible. QB Drew Stanton and company just have to pull it off.

— Kickoff is at 4 p.m. Atlanta time. So the team, unlike previous Atlanta trips, doesn’t fly out until Saturday and the players will be able to play a game on a regular body-clock kickoff of 2 p.m. That hopefully will help.

— The post-Thanksgiving stretch is where divisions are won. This is where the Cards’ road begins.

flaconsbeforeUSEW


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Bush becomes potential help in run game

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2014 – 4:58 pm

Who would have believed that it was the loss of Jonathan Dwyer that might’ve been one of the harshest the Cardinals suffered this season? But after the way Bruce Arians used Rashad Mendenhall and Andre Ellington last year at running back, he seemed poised to have a similar-if-flip-flopped move of Ellington this year getting more of the carries but Dwyer as a key component. Then Dwyer got into trouble off the field, was lost for the season, and there seemed to be an absence the Cards couldn’t make up. Not with Stepfan Taylor, not with Marion Grice.

So the Cardinals signed vet Michael Bush Tuesday and at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, he’s the inside load Ellington isn’t. Bush was cut by the Bears in March right around the beginning of free agency and didn’t get a gig until now. So he’s had no offseason, no training camp, no practice, and it would be foolish to expect him to step right in and make a huge impact. We’ll see if he can make any impact; I remember when the Cards were looking for backs and signed Chester Taylor near the beginning of the season and he just had nothing left. Bush has 809 career carries so there is wear on those tires. Ellington is still going to get the bulk of the work if and when Bush becomes part of the offensive equation.

But it makes sense the Cards were going to be proactive. The running game hadn’t done enough of late, and here’s a potential player of help.

Michael Bush


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As free agency begins, bring the brown paper bag

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2012 – 4:24 pm

Ninety minutes before free agency began Tuesday came this tweet from the New York Times’ Judy Battista: “Remember to breath into the brown paper bag regularly. FA winners are rarely SB winners.” Better advice was never spoken.

It’s hard in free agency for fans. I get that. Once, when the league (for some reason) was starting free agency at midnight Eastern time (which was usually 10 p.m. here in Arizona) such things got lost at first because, you know, people actually went to bed. This year they moved the time to the middle of the day, which is a brilliant strategy for attention — tell me the NFL isn’t the center of the sports universe today. Add in the match-to-the-dried-forest effect Twitter has on instant news and speculation, and it’s simply insane.

A few hours into free agency, here’s what is known: The Cards are clearly looking at receivers. Multiple reports have them expressing interest in Cowboys receiver Laurent Robinson, who is a 6-foot-2 vertical threat who is planning on visiting the Jaguars. Kent Somers reported that he ran into Raiders receiver Chaz Schilens in the parking lot as he arrived for a visit, another big (6-5) guy who had 23 catches last year. Jim Thomas in St. Louis reported Titans guard Jake Scott — a former Peyton Manning teammate — is going to visit Arizona. Raiders running back Michael Bush said something on Twitter about coming to Arizona, but he just said the place and made no mention of the Cards or a visit, so it’s tough to know if he’s here because it’s Arizona in March or if the Cards actually have interest. (Turns out, Mike Jurecki says, Bush is not visiting.)

The Cards just made the one cut Tuesday to get them under the cap — tackle Levi Brown, as expected — and yes, more could/will come as free agents are signed. No reason to dump a player before you have to dump one. Again, this is all fluid. As it should be.

Then there is the Peyton Manning watch. Again, the Cards are waiting to see what happens. There is a decision to be made Friday by 1 p.m. on Kevin Kolb and if Manning doesn’t choose by then it’ll be very interesting to see what the Cards do. But two days-plus in this equation is an eternity when it’ll take a moment’s notice for Manning to say, “I’m in” or not. A lot can happen between now and Friday.

And no, I don’t have a gut feeling or inside knowledge or anything on Manning. I find it hard to believe anyone does.

UPDATE: CB Richard Marshall said on Twitter Tuesday night he was taking a free-agent visit to Miami.

So keep some perspective, enjoy some of the odd choices being made (an apparent ton of money for Pierre Garcon, along with Josh Morgan and probably Eddie Royal, as the RG3 receiving corps? Really?) and let’s have this play out a little.


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