It had been 47-7, a dismantling of an NFC West rival, and Calais Campbell was happy. But not too happy.
“My message the whole time will be, ‘Keep putting work in, keep respecting the process,’ ” the defensive end said. “We have a long way to go. We haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
Those weren’t just words to Campbell. As he spoke, he used his hands to emphasize his point. There were some laughs last week about Bruce Arians telling his team they weren’t (insert bleep noise here), and more chuckles Sunday when Arians said his team now smells just a little bit better. But the idea that the Cardinals will keep their heads about them even though they have scored a ton – 126 points in three games, seven points better than the high-flying Patriots – and dominated two weeks in a row.
“The kind of guys we have on this team now, no one is going to get carried away,” said long snapper Mike Leach, who is playing in his 16th NFL season and has a good pulse on such things. Leach noted that the best part of the Cardinals is that even in spots where they are young, there are vets who have taken guys under their wing.
Plus they have a coach who, while he might smile a bit when he says it, is willing to say they ain’t (need that bleep again) and mean it.
That isn’t to say the Cardinals didn’t play really, really well Sunday.
— The Cardinals have 17 touchdowns in their first three games, only the fourth team in NFL history to do so. The last was the Cowboys, who had 18 touchdowns in the first three games of 1968. Kind of mind-boggling.
— Carson Palmer is now 16-2 in his last 18 starts with the Cardinals. He made one really bad decision – he said he was trying to throw his interception out of bounds but instead, the floater was not even close to anything but 49ers cornerback Kenneth Acker – but had a bunch of nice throws. Plus he had two dropped, including what would have been a 28-yard TD to Smokey Brown.
— Chris Johnson turned 30 Sunday and he averaged 5.0 yards a rush and gained 110 yards on the ground. And he’s the youngster in the offensive trio that lit up the 49ers, alongside Larry Fitzgerald (9 catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns) and Palmer (311 yards passing and the two TDs.)
— He’d never ever say it, but I can’t help but think Fitz is sitting back having “I told you so” thoughts to the NFL world.
— Tyrann Mathieu. “Savage season” indeed.
— Justin Bethel not only had his first interception of his career for a touchdown, but it came on his first defensive snap of the season. Plus he forced a fumble on a kick return (the 49ers kept it) and downed a punt. What a day.
— Drew Butler did not hit a great punt that ended up being returned inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line and set up San Francisco’s only touchdown. But he did strike a good punt on the play where Bethel caught it cleanly at the S.F. 1, held for a beat, and then tossed it back so he wouldn’t take it in the end zone.
The officials first threw the beanbag around the 4 where the Cards ending up grabbing the ball, but Leach was there to help.
“They were just discussing it and I was just letting them know, reminding them what the rule was just in case,” Leach said.
The Cards had the same play last year with Bethel against the Lions. Leach wasn’t going to forget. And on the next play, the Cardinals swarmed Carlos Hyde for a safety.
— That punt-and-return by the Niners for their only score was the only time the 49ers crossed the 50 the whole game.
“The passion the defense plays with is … unbelievable,” Leach said.
— Colin Kaepernick was bad. The Cardinals made him look so with the four INTs. But Torrey Smith had no catches against cornerback Patrick Peterson. And Anquan Boldin was held to two catches for 16 yards.
— There were a ton of good performances, but linebacker Kevin Minter stood out again too. It felt like a make-or-break year for Minter. Three games in, it feels like he’s making it.
So … the last time the Cardinals put a defensive back in their Ring of Honor, it was at halftime of the game against the 49ers, which the Cardinals won. And then they later reached the Super Bowl. Just sayin’ …
Tags: 49ers, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Colin Kaepernick, Drew Butler, Justin Bethel, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Leach, Ring of Honor, Tyrann Mathieu
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The offensive line is set. Bruce Arians said Earl Watford will be the starting right tackle against the Saints and Lyle Sendlein will be the starting center, joining guards Jonathan Cooper and Ted Larsen and left tackle Jared Veldheer. What’s more, Arians said the plan is for Watford to remain the starting right tackle even after Bobby Massie returns from suspension. That doesn’t mean Watford can’t lose the job, but it’s a huge statement for Watford, who has been looking for a starting role.
As for Sendlein, I felt since he was signed he’d find his way into the starting lineup. A.Q. Shipley provides depth at center and guard, but he’s had a hard time holding on to starting jobs thus far in his career and Sendlein played well in the preseason. More on the offensive line later on the homepage.
— The Cardinals named their captains. Offensively, it’s Veldheer and Carson Palmer. Defensively it’s Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell. On special teams, it’s Justin Bethel and Mike Leach. Arians said more than 20 players received more than three votes, which spoke to the depth of the candidates and leadership for the Cards.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Calais Campbell, captains, Carson Palmer, Earl Watford, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Justin Bethel, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Patrick Peterson, Ted Larsen
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It was a long presser from Bruce Arians today after no morning walkthrough. Here are some of the highlights before I head down to practice:
— The injury list right now includes cornerback Jerraud Powers, who is now dealing with a hamstring issue of his own and will be “shut down” for a few days. Arians did not sound concerned. Good news, though, running back Chris Johnson is actually better than Arians originally thought with his hamstring and is day to day. Arians said Saturday he thought Johnson would missed a week or two. OL Earl Watford had a shot in his troublesome ankle and gets a rest day (the Cards are off Tuesday too), and will be back Wednesday, as will TE Jermaine Gresham (back) and WR Brittan Golden (sore after taking a big hit Saturday.)
— OLB Shaq Riddick is finally back at practice. So is CB Jonte Green and T Rob Crisp.
— Arians said it was “discouraging” ILB Sean Weatherspoon is still out with his bad hamstring. There is a hope he’ll return to practice this week, but we’ll see.
— The coaches have talked as a staff about playing the starters less Sunday in Oakland in light of all the injuries around the NFL. Arians said each guy will be gauged differently, based on practice and the need for reps.
— When Watford comes back, he’ll work at right tackle and have the chance to battle Bradley Sowell for the starting job. D.J. Humphries will spend the week at left tackle to get some work there; Arians wants him to be able to play both sides as a backup — which he will be to start the season almost assuredly.
— Arians praised Alani Fua and, to a lesser extent, Gabe Martin, at inside linebacker. Arians intrigued by Fua’s length.
— After video watching, Arians still said there is no leader at third QB between Sims and Thomas.
— Although Mike Leach already took the blame on Twitter, Arians reiterated it was Leach snapping the ball too soon to holder Dave Zastudil that caused the botched PAT in the game. “A 25-year-vet, whatever he is, snapping to a 30-year vet, and one wasn’t looking,” Arians said. “You would not anticpate that happening out of thise two guys, but it did happen.”
— Arians liked the game starting left guard Ted Larsen had a lot, but “he blew it with one dumb penalty,” Arians lamented of Larsen’s 15-yarder for jumping on a pile. Still, he said he liked Larsen’s game, and that of Jonathan Cooper’s too.
— The starting center job between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein is “heavily contested.” Arians added that Carson Palmer gets no say in the matter. “Their butts are about the same,” Arians quipped.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Alani Fua, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Gabe Martin, Jerraud Powers, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Sean Weatherspoon, Shaq Riddick, Ted Larsen
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The ball came down basically directly above Mike Leach’s head, and much like Smokey Brown did against the Eagles, Leach played it perfectly. Of course, Brown caught the long pass, while all Leach — the Cardinals’ long snapper — had to do was smother the Drew Butler punt, which he did perfectly. The Cards won the game of field position in St. Louis, and the punt team was a big reason.
As for Leach, the 38-year-old veteran who never makes a snapping mistakes and who still covers punts like he’s 28, it was a fantastic play. It was one of the reasons the Cards have him around. Sure, he costs a little more than a young long snapper might, but you cannot put a price on near perfection at that spot. Leach will be there for you. He will do his job and do it well. And you can forget about it and worry about other stuff, like who will play quarterback or who contain Russell Wilson.
“I want to go out and not be noticed, to be honest with you,” Leach said. “It’s the nature of our position. Do your job and keep your head down and hope nobody sees you and Cat (Chandler Catanzaro) keeps making his kicks and winning his awards and Drew keeps doing great and Justin (Bethel) keeps making all the plays and those guys can get the attention. Then I can just kind of slide back into the bricks and not be noticed, that’s fine. If something happens, and if your teammates kind of give you a pat on the back, that’s good too.”
Leach, who has played in 198 consecutive games, is able to serve as an experienced mentor for the Cards’ two young kickers — a change from last season, when kicker Jay Feely and punter Dave Zastudil gave the Cards a much more experienced special-teams trio. Leach’s years playing tight end or wide receiver (he came into the league as a tight end) has given him the background to track the ball in the air like he did on that punt in St. Louis.
(Leach does a lot in the community too, although he’s usually shying away from the attention doing those things as well.)
It’s those little things Leach stays on top of, like at the end of the punt. Leach did the great job batting it down, but the ball was still loose near the goal line when reinforcements arrived. Wide receiver Jaron Brown was the one to jump on the ball to officially kill it — and while Brown was still a couple of yards from the end zone, Leach made sure to push his prone teammate in the back, away from the goal line. Those are the things that can possibly ruin a play. This, Leach knows.
“I’ve been around a little while,” Leach said.
It’s served the Cardinals well, too.
Tags: Mike Leach
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Sometimes, even the punter builds a fan base.
Dave Zastudil is in the middle of one of his best seasons, averaging 40.4 net yards per punt (45.3 overall) and dropping 32 of his 70 kicks thus far inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He has plenty of fans inside his locker room, between teammates and coaches, but elsewhere? Especially Tennessee? But Zastudil had quite the experience.
It started when he was checking Twitter last week and one of his mentions featured a picture of some guys in a family room holding a giant head shot of someone. “I looked closely and thought, ‘Damn, that’s me,’ ” Zastudil said. He showed the picture/giant head — which featured the tagline “Punting ain’t easy” — to long snapper Mike Leach and kicker Jay Feely, they all had a laugh, and Zastudil thought that was the end of it.
But when Zastudil got out to the field pre-game last Sunday, he looked behind the Cardinals’ bench and there, standing in the front row going crazy and holding up the Ain’t Easy Zastudil head were those same fans.
“Somebody gave me a pen and said, ‘You gotta go sign this,’ ” Zastudil said. “These guys went nuts. Every time I got near them during the game, they went nuts. It was like a funny dream.”
Zastudil said he sensed some “fun sarcasm” in the “punting ain’t easy” message but noted they were just some good Cardinals fans having fun. “I’m just happy the covered up the top part of my head (on the picture) so my hairline was covered,” he said. “It looked like I was a little younger.”
“It’s hard,” Zastudil said, tongue firmly in cheek. “I’m expecting this every game now.”
Tags: Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Mike Leach
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Mike Leach, NFL
Posted in Since1898 | 3 Comments »
I will stay til each and every person who would rather get an autograph from a real player gives up & settles for one from me.
— Mike Leach (@MikeLeach82) August 22, 2013
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Cardinals, Mike Leach, NFL, Twitter
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Two former William & Mary University Alums – Alex Gottlieb and Mike Leach – full circle as teammates
— Alex Gottlieb (@ae_gottlieb) August 7, 2013
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, Arizona Cardinals, Cardinals, Mike Leach, National Football League, NFL, Twitter
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A few days before Karlos Dansby made his first appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium after leaving the Cardinals – this past season when the Miami Dolphins visited – the veteran linebacker was asked his opinion of the man the Cards had drafted to replace him: Daryl Washington. Dansby replied in classic Dansby fashion.
“He’s a dynamic player, what more can I say about him,” Dansby said. “He’s very athletic, very fast. He reminds me of myself. They did a great job of getting the guy to fill that void.”
It was that moment when there was a little Dansby-envy swirling for those of us listening who had covered Los when he was in Arizona. He was always energetic and always could give a good quote. (One of the all-time favorites was when I was doing a story on teammate Sean Morey agreeing to donate his brain to science right at the beginning of the concussion talks first exploded. I asked Karlos what he thought: “That’s huge, man.” That was always one of his go-to expressions. Trust me, you had to be there.)
The man could play some football too. The Cards never wanted to let him go — they thought they had an extension ironed out before the 2009 season but that fizzled when Dansby changed agents — and his price tag got too high. His price tag might’ve been too high again (there was a reason he wasn’t signed yet) but Dansby’s chance to return home where he still has a home was too important. “I told my agent to bring (the salary) down,” Dansby said to me this morning, motioning his hands down like he was doing a version of his old dirty bird celebration. Dansby couldn’t stop smiling. Regardless of what the contract is, he is happy.
— He doesn’t have a jersey number yet. He won’t get 58. That’s Daryl Washington’s.
— No, his return doesn’t mean Washington is on his way out. Actually, you have to think the Cards have some decent plans to play them together. That would make sense, and Los could be a rusher from the outside if needed. He is versatile.
— DC Todd Bowles knows Dansby, because Bowles was in Miami in 2010 when Dansby was there. Bowles understands what Dansby can do.
— Between the addition of Kevin Minter in the draft and Jasper Brinkley and Dansby, the linebacker corps looks pretty decent right now, when it was a huge question mark back in early March.
— Only eight players remain on the roster that played with Dansby the first time around: Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Leach, Reggie Walker, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein.
— It’d be great if Dansby comes full circle and could end his career here, but let’s remember this is a one-year contract. Right now, he’s in the same boat as guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Antoine Cason and Matt Shaughnessy. They all want to be getting paid more money, and are counting on good years to improve their stock and earn them that kind of contract. Dansby will be trying to do the same. We’ll see if Dansby-the-sequel has a long run in Arizona the second time around.
— That said, did I mention he was pretty happy?
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Todd Bowles
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It didn’t take long before Bruce Arians made it known he was going to be comfortable playing young players after doing it last season in Indianapolis. Then, as March played out, the Cardinals either didn’t bring back older players who were free agents and released others who were on the wrong side of 30. Now, with the offseason roster nearly set, the numbers emphasize just how much younger General Manager Steve Keim has made his team.
The team’s 53-man roster by the end of last season — and that means younger players were on it in place of IR’d vets like Levi Brown, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein — had an average age of 29.7 years. The Cardinals’ current extended offseason roster (subtracting the 16 long-shot undrafted rookies who would obviously bring down the average age by their sheer numbers) features an average age of 25.8 years.
The Cards had 12 players 30 and older on their final 53. As of today, they have eight: Carson Palmer (33), Yeremiah Bell (35, pictured below), Daryn Colledge (31), Darnell Dockett (31), Jeff King (30), Jay Feely (36), Mike Leach (36) and Dave Zastudil (34). Take out those three specialists and the Cardinals’ current average age is 25.4.
The age could rise depending on how the roster is shaped going into the season, because of those 30-year-olds, I don’t right now see any of them being let go. But while Keim’s overhaul was in part about clearing salary cap room this offseason, it was also about an infusion of youth after a Ken Whisenhunt era that relied heavily on veterans.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Roster, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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