It’s been clear from the day the Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer that Bruce Arians was high on his abilities — I mean, why wouldn’t he be? — but that was reiterated during an ESPN interview this weekend when Arians was talking about his veteran QB.
“What he did last year with the Raiders, in a crazy situation, I thought was very, very impressive,” Arians said.
Let’s recap what Palmer did: In 15 games, he threw for 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and completed 61 percent of his passes. The Raiders still went 4-12. There is a lot that goes into all that. Those statistics may not have come in a lot of victories, but they still are impressive — especially the TD-to-INT ratio for a player who was forced to throw a lot because the team was behind. His top wide receiver was Denairus Moore (don’t feel bad if you have not heard of him.) The top pass catcher was tight end Brandon Myers, who had 79 catches for 806 yards. The first thought when you look at his receiving corps is that it was impressive to reach 4,000 yards without a top go-to type of threat.
Does Palmer have better receivers in Arizona? Certainly. Larry Fitzgerald alone changes the equation, Andre Roberts was pretty good last year and as I have noted before, it looks like Michael Floyd has made a big leap — at least at this point in the offseason — from Year One to Year Two. The Cards have to show they have a decent tight end threat (this is a crucial year for Rob Housler; if he can’t break out now with this QB and this offensive scheme, he may never) but Palmer will help.
What does that mean for Palmer himself? Well, he’s playing in a much more difficult division than last season. He’ll have to up his game to match his numbers. But if he stays healthy — and assuming the offensive line makes strides forward, as everyone is expecting right now — that can happen. Regardless, look at the numbers last year from the Cards’ QBs, which were ugly to say the least: 3,383 yards, 11 TDs, 21 INT, 55 percent completions. It figures to be much, much better. That alone I’d think would give fans a certain modicum of relief.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Raiders, Rob Housler
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It was Bruce Arians’ introductory press conference when he first talked about his offense and how he wants to take shots down the field. That’s how he rolled in Pittsburgh, how the Colts played last year and how the Cards will do it now, because as Arians sees it, yards in big chunks helps a lot. Certainly, it’s something the Cards could use more of after 2012. It’s a big reason the club picked Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, because he showed off some big-time speed at the Scouting combine, running a sub-4.4 40.
(Although the scouting reports wonder if Swope’s 40 times can translate on the field or if he is better suited for a quick slot game. Swope, speaking after he was picked, about being a deep threat: “I see that instantly.” He also said his speed is real: “A lot of people had me as just a possession receiver coming in.”)
If Swope can help stretch the field, that would be a big deal. But the Cardinals have gotten deep prior to last season with their other wideouts. Don’t forget Larry Fitzgerald had a sparkling and career-best 17.6 yards per catch in 2011, when John Skelton/Kevin Kolb weren’t as errant getting him the ball as last season. Fitz’s YPC got crushed in part last year because it seemed the team worked so hard to get him the ball on short stuff just so it’d be complete that he didn’t gain many yards. The longest pass play of the season was a 53-yarder to Michael Floyd in the finale, and that featured a lackluster tackling effort made (as you can see on the video below.) The Cards only had nine pass plays of at least 30 yards last season.
Floyd led the team with 12.5 yards a catch, and that was boosted from 10.7 only after his eight-catches-for-166-yards in the last game of the season. Fitz, in what was his most frustrating season as a pro, was at 11.2 (71 catches for 798 yards, ugh) and Andre Roberts was 11.9 (64 for 759).
There should be more accurate throws downfield from Carson Palmer this season. There should be better protection up front to actually allow the quarterback time to chuck it downfield this season. And there is no question there will be plays called to do it too, whether it’s to Swope, Fitz, Roberts or Floyd. Or someone else. The Cardinals need those kind of big plays.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ryan Swope
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One of the clichés that always floats around at draft time is that a team never ever ever should fall in love with a player. I mean, if you’re picking No. 1, fine. But otherwise, there is always a risk that said player or players isn’t going to be there. And you don’t want to be disappointed or let the emotion of losing out on such a crush drive you to do something dumb when you are on the clock.
That crossed my mind this morning when NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock talked about what has become a growing sentiment — that all three high-end offensive tackles available: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson — will all be off the board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. Let’s make this clear, no one knows for sure the Cards even like all three at that point, although it stands to reason they do. For a while, it was people thinking Fisher would be there and Joeckel wouldn’t. Then it was Fisher being gone and Johnson being the consideration. But there is a strong likelihood that the Chiefs take Joeckel at No. 1 (KC wants to trade Branden Albert) and the Eagles (No. 4) and the Lions (No. 5) both easily could take the other two tackles. Even if one lasts to No. 6, the next scenario could be the Browns trading out of No. 6 to the Chargers or Dolphins, both of whom need a left tackle like Johnson (pictured below).
Now, the Dolphins are talking with the Chiefs about the Albert trade, which would take them out of the mix. But the Chargers, picking 11th, could try to jump up (with Ken Whisenhunt’s new team potentially stealing a tackle out from under his old team.)
What does this all mean? Well, this is operating under the assumption the Cards are focusing on a tackle. That was the thought last year too and they took Michael Floyd over Riley Reiff, so there’s that. I don’t see the Cards trading up and surrendering a pick, although I’m not positive on that. If all the tackles are off the board in the top five, I could definitely see the Cards trying to trade down a little, although other than the tackles, I don’t know who would trade up. And again, if three tackles go off the board that early, someone is sitting there that hadn’t been expected. Will it be someone the Cards want?
– As long as we are talking about potential picks at No. 7, we have our annual mock draft contest ready for play right here. Hope you decide to take a crack at who you think the Cardinals will select.
Tags: Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, draft, Eagles, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, Lions, Luke Joeckel, Michael Floyd, Riley Reiff
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The NFC coaches breakfast was this morning — bright and early at 7:15 a.m. — here at the NFL coaches meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. That meant an hour hanging out with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. There will be plenty more in-depth of what was said, but for now a few of the main highlights — the biggest being that the reality of Drew Stanton being the 2013 starting quarterback feels very close right now.
– Asked if this was a tough year to be going into the draft needing a quarterback, Arians didn’t blink. “I don’t feel we need one.”
– Along those lines (and again, I will have an article up later today on the subject) Arians said he wasn’t worried about the quarterback situation. He doesn’t know enough about Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley or John Skelton yet, because he hasn’t had a chance to go over video and ask “why” on various plays. He obviously has done that with Stanton. But he said he thinks he can win with Stanton, and he said he won’t have a problem if things stay status quo starting Stanton this season.
– Yes, such QB talk is possiblely a smokescreen. Or just hard driving optimism so players (and fans) don’t want to write off 2013. But Arians sure sounded genuine.
– He wants to name a starting QB before training camp. That’s best for the team, he said, making sure the locker room knows who “The Man” will be.
– It hurt Kevin Kolb that Arians couldn’t sit down with him and talk about his play last season and again, figuring out the whys and why nots of decision-making. Without that information, moving on (given the contract) was the best decision, Arians said.
– He talked a little bit about the possibility of adding free agent Josh Cribbs, assuming at some point Cribbs is healthy and the Cards still have interest by that point. He wouldn’t mind having both Cribbs and Patrick Peterson back for a kick or two. “It’d be a nice addition if it works out.” One thing Cribbs won’t do is be QB in a wildcat formation. “I’m not a wildcat dude,” Arians said.
– Not only will Lorenzo Alexander play outside linebacker, new defensive end Matt Shaughnessy can also stand up and play OLB. That could make for an interesting pass rush situation.
– Asked about the tight ends, he was blunt: “I’m not a fullback guy, never have been.” Not great news for Anthony Sherman, at least on the surface. Arians wants two tight ends when one can maneuver into the backfield, making it much harder for the defense to know what’s coming. Having a fullback restricts that flexibility, he said.
– He said the speed at receiver with Fitz, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd is “plenty fast enough.” He added with a chuckle, wide receiver “is not the position I’ve worried about.”
– Rehab has gone well for center Lyle Sendlein, tackle Levi Brown and running back Ryan Williams, but Arians isn’t sure how much they will do in the early on-field work.
– It’ll be wait-and-see where second-year offensive linemen Nate Potter and Bobby Massie play, either guard or tackle. But Arians is confident they each can do both.
– Levi Brown could play right tackle. But Arians right now sure sounds like a guy expecting to have Brown at left tackle.
– The coaching staff are still trying to figure out what position Justin Bethel will play, cornerback or safety. They will pick one and let him learn it well.
– The Cardinals color Kangol was on display again Wednesday morning. Could we see something similar on Sundays? Arians is talking with with New Era and the NFL on that subject. “I’m not getting fined,” Arians joked. “There’s got to be more than baseball caps, know what I mean?”
Tags: Andre Roberts, Anthony Sherman, Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Drew Stanton, Josh Cribbs, Justin Bethel, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lorenzo Alexander, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Nate Potter, quarterbacks, Ryan Williams
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Just in case anyone wasn’t sure about new coach Bruce Arians wanting to get the ball downfield if possible in the running game, Arians makes it pretty clear what he wants to see in his running backs.
He wants someone who can run, of course. And block. Beyond that? Let’s just say that fantasy football players in points-per-reception leagues aren’t going to look at the Cardinals first.
“They are back there because they are runners and pass protectors,” Arians said. “Will we throw to the backs? Yeah. But the receivers are the ones paid to catch it. (Running backs) are helping but it’s doubtful our running back leads the team in receiving.”
Last season, injuries crushed the Cards’ running backs, so reception totals don’t correspond perfectly in what the prior staff wanted to do in the passing game, but even Ken Whisenhunt’s pass game didn’t use the backs a ton as receivers (especially after Tim Hightower left.) William Powell had the most catches for a running back last year (19), and that was sixth on the team behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler and Early Doucet. LaRod Stephens-Howling was tied for seventh with tight end Jeff King with his 17 catches. Ryan Williams had seven receptions, Anthony Sherman five and Beanie Wells only had one.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Anthony Sherman, Beanie Wells, Bruce Arians, Early Doucet, Jeff King, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Tim Hightower, William Powell
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*** We take a break from our regularly scheduled coach-search programming for something else Cardinal-related. ***
Once upon a time, the Cardinals had a talented, tall wide receiver who was a first-round pick. This receiver didn’t have the greatest speed, but he was good at getting down the field, going up for a jump ball and pulling it down in traffic. He did that a lot. Then an assistant coach, Todd Haley, got in Larry Fitzgerald’s face and famously called him a “one-trick pony” and challenged Fitzgerald to expand his game and start getting yards after the catch.
I thought of that story, and of Fitz’s early days, while watching Michael Floyd down the stretch.
Two points to make here: I’m not saying Floyd will eventually turn into Fitzgerald. We’ll see what Floyd’s ceiling will end up being. And I’m not saying Floyd can’t get yards after the catch — he showed he’d break a tackle in San Francisco, for instance (although that tackle effort was pretty weak by the Niners.) But there have been many plays on throws down the field this season where you notice Floyd turning his body all the way around to face the line of scrimmage before he goes up for the ball. He might be more comfortable doing it that way, but it tends to take away any chance of the play going for extra yards after the catch as opposed to him trying to catch it with his body still aimed to the goal line.
Floyd’s numbers weren’t eye-popping this season — 45 receptions, 562 yards, two TDs — but he did finish with the eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in the finale. He has the talent to impact the game.
The Cardinals don’t have a head coach, offensive coordinator or receivers coach right now, so it’s impossible to know how they will view Floyd and where he is in his development. But there are parts of his game that are still growing. Maybe, he can grow in the same direction Fitz did.
*** OK, we now resume all things coach-search. ***
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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I don’t think it’s out of line to think the most interesting question of the week will be who the Cardinals start at quarterback in Seattle next weekend. (Yes, I am aware of the understatement there.) Seattle has never been a particularly easy place to play for any Cardinals QB – I remember some rough games for Kurt Warner – and the last two years, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb have had trouble putting up points.
So after Sunday, when rookie Ryan Lindley had so much difficulty in production, will coach Ken Whisenhunt go back to him again? There’s no way to know if Kolb will be ready this week, but if he isn’t, Lindley is in the middle of six quarters of play he isn’t going to file among his NFL memories.
Whiz noted there were some poor routes/adjustments by receivers – one time, it seemed Michael Floyd just slowed up on a deep pattern, and the ball ended up well over his head – but Lindley knew he struggled. To have 10 three-and-outs as an offense (one ended on an interception), plus a four-and-out when the Cards couldn’t pick up a first on fourth down, was just devastating. When you lose a game by a single point, it’s that much more magnified.
“We just have to play better,” Lindley said. “I have to play better.”
– There is no need to belabor the point. I know there were plenty asking if/when Whiz was going to put in John Skelton. Was I surprised a change wasn’t made? I guess I was. Whisenhunt said he stuck with Lindley because he understood the scheme and what needed to be done. That’s got to translate into the game play, though.
I’m sure the comments below will be dominated by this subject.
– What a day for Kerry Rhodes. He promised on the Big Red Rage “I’m going to make plays, don’t worry about that one” when asked about his return to New York. It was Rhodes’ first chance to go against the Jets and coach Rex Ryan, who ripped Rhodes pretty good after Rhodes was traded away. Had the Cards won,’ Rhodes’ two interceptions and forced fumble would have been the perfect narrative. Losing takes the luster off, for sure, but you have to think Rhodes made his point while continuing to have a good season. Officially, Rhodes had six tackles and three passes defensed too.
– The interception by Patrick Peterson was a heck of an athletic play. It looked like he was definitely beaten, yet he not only made up the ground but grabbed the pick.
– Crazy how Jets kicker Nick Folk hit both the left upright and right upright on a pair of missed field goals. The Jets weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut out there. Some of that was the Cards’ defense, but some of that is the Jets’ issues too.
– Running back Beanie Wells had only 22 yards on 15 carries. There weren’t a lot of holes for him to hit for sure, but watching him run he just doesn’t look totally right with the knee, which did limit him in practice last week. I know that when his two straight runs on third- and fourth-and-1 early in the game that the Cards couldn’t convert hurt. The Jets have a good defense, but an absence of a run game shows up when the QB struggles. Then again, the Jets could tee off on the run because they weren’t concerned about Lindley beating them.
– Punter Dave Zastudil tied his career-high with 10 punts which makes sense in context.
– It was a weird game because the Jets’ crowd wasn’t happy with their team much of the game and let them know it. To have Greg McElroy come in to play quarterback and get the kind of cheer he did just shows how much the fan base doesn’t have faith in Mark Sanchez. McElroy didn’t do anything special. But he was the lone QB with a TD drive.
– Dan Williams was just talking about taking advantage of more playing time if he got the chance, and Sunday, he got the chance with the Jets playing a lot of run-first offense. The nose tackle responded with a team-high 10 tackles.
I wish I had a lot more to touch on but I do not. The QB thing is going to overshadow everything I’m sure.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Dan Williams, Dave Zastudil, Greg McElroy, Jets, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Mark Sanchez, Michael Floyd, Nick Folk, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Lindley
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Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) both are inactive today. So too is tight end Todd Heap, who has recovered from his knee injury but apparently isn’t in the Cards’ plans unless there is an injury to another tight end. With Roberts out — and he is, not Larry Fitzgerald, leading the team in yards receiving and receiving touchdowns — that means rookie Michael Floyd will get his first start. David Carter will start in Campbell’s place.
The rest of the inactive list isn’t a surprise:
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– G Senio Kelemete
– T Pat McQuistan
– RB Alfonso Smith
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, inactives, Kevin Kolb, Michael Floyd, Pat McQuistan, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t naming a starting quarterback for this week yet. Evaluation is still coming. Kevin Kolb is working to get back, and Whiz said Ryan Lindley did OK. He also said Lindley had impressed him at practice over the weeks. He never considered started Lindley in Atlanta after John Skelton had a good game in Green Bay, but said watching Skelton miss too many opportunities early in Atlanta led him to make the change. Much more on this later in a homepage story.
– Whiz on safety Adrian Wilson dealing with his demotion: “It’s never easy but Adrian is a real pro and he handled it well. But that’s where we are as a team. James (Sanders) and Rashad (Johnson) deserved a chance. We are trying to get better.”
– Running back Beanie Wells will be activated off injured reserve this week, Whiz said, and the Cards expect him to play Sunday.
– Regarding rookie left tackle Nate Potter’s first NFL start: “He fought and I think he’s going to be OK out there.”
– Nothing new on cornerback Patrick Peterson. He left the game briefly with a hamstring problem. Whiz said Peterson told him it was cramps.
– Whiz said that given the Cards’ problems, he’d have to at least consider changes within the duties of the coaching staff. One example suggested to Whiz was play-calling. The coach certainly didn’t commit to doing that, but “that’s something that you look at.”
– Rookie receiver Michael Floyd was benched after lining up wrong, but Whisenhunt said Floyd also had come out of a route wrong earlier, leading to an incompletion. With the Cards’ margin for error slim to none, that wasn’t going to work. “When you are where we are offensively, you have to create a sense of urgency to make plays and be held accountable for that,” Whisenhunt said.
– On dealing with the six-game losing streak: “It’s tough. It’s tough. Don’t think for a second it doesn’t burn a hole in my gut or in the players’ bellies. … We’ve been in the games. I’m not defending it, but in my career, if you have a team that’s in a lot of games, it shows you are making progress. We’ve had some setbacks with injuries and we are trying to fight through that. I know it’s not easy. We’re not happy about it and I appreciate the support of our fans.
“Ultimately our goal is to make our fans proud. I know we’ve done that when we went to the Super Bowl and the playoffs and we haven’t forgotten that, and we have a lot of young players in here that understand that.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, coaching staff, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Floyd, Nate Potter, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Lindley
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Rookie first-round pick Michael Floyd is going to be playing more. That’s obvious. But if Floyd plays more, there is a trickle-down effect. In three-receiver sets, that means Early Doucet, coming off a rough game in Green Bay with drops, probably is the odd man out. In two-receiver sets, I still expect Andre Roberts to line up most of the time with Larry Fitzgerald. Roberts has earned that. But in three-receiver sets, Floyd is the prototypical outside receiver. Roberts fits both outside and inside, so it would make sense that in those situations, Roberts would be the slot receiver.
“If Mike played more, he’s just learning the ‘Z’ (position) and I would be forced to go into the slot,” Roberts said. “I don’t know what that would do to my reps. We have a whole bunch of formations. We’ll see.”
Roberts said in his third season, he is expected to be a playmaker. Sometimes those bigger plays are easier done on the outside. But Roberts also understands the need to fill in wherever the team might need him.
“I love playing on the outside,” Roberts said. “You get a lot more deep passes. But I love working in the slot too. The matchups (are good), I think I have a good feel for it. Like Fitz always says, he’s going against the No. 1 corner. And usually the No. 2 guy is on the outside, so the slot gets, not lesser talent but on the depth chart, the No. 3 guy.”
Tags: Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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