J.J. Nelson wore an ice bag on his side, courtesy of the first hit he took in the game Sunday. The last one left more of a mental bruise – one in which it looked like the wide receiver would make the final score look a tad better on a 29-yard touchdown catch from Carson Palmer, only to have the TD erased and the ball lost when replay showed Nelson losing a fumble at the 1 and through the end zone.
“I was just trying to make a play, stick it out there (across the goal line),” Nelson said, shaking his head. “The guy hit me, and made a nice play.”
The score wouldn’t have really made a difference, but it figured to end like that. The loss in Philly couldn’t have been much uglier (although someone on Twitter suggested it was the Cards’ worst game in 10 years, and wow, that anyone could forget the 2012 Seattle trip stuns me). All the Cardinals’ current issues were laid bare – a failure to run, problems on the offensive line, an inability to score, giving up too many big plays – and then you add it a breakdown on third down defense. The Eagles weren’t just converting third downs but long third downs.
The backbreaker, although the game was basically secured by then, was the 72-yard TD on third-and-19, with the blitzing Cardinals unable to get to the quarterback. That was a common theme. The pass rush took a step back, and whether that was Markus Golden missing or something greater, it’s not a great sign.
Bruce Arians took the blame a couple of times in his press conference. He said he didn’t have the Cardinals ready to play. From a 40,000-foot level, seems an apropos assessment.
— The offensive line started Earl Watford at left guard. At one point, when right tackle Jared Veldheer had to leave briefly with a knee issue, the line was, from left tackle to right tackle, John Wetzel, Watford, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and rookie Will Holden. Veldheer did come back into the game, although Arians said Veldheer will be sore (and said the same about DT Corey Peters, who also left for a time with a knee.)
If Veldheer is OK, and maybe D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone can come back next week …
— It did seem like Arians stuck to the run more. It still didn’t produce. Only 2.2 yards a carry.
— Larry Fitzgerald keeps grinding. He didn’t have a catch for a while until grabbing one for a reception in his 200th straight game. He finished with six receptions for 51 yards.
— The Cardinals have lost long snapper Aaron Brewer with a broken wrist/hand, Arians said. So they’ll be in the market. Josh Mauro and Boehm filled in and did OK. But the blocked field goal was because of the snap. It wasn’t bad, it was just a tick slow – which is all it takes for a guy coming off the edge.
— Haason Reddick did play some outside linebacker, but he was having trouble getting past the blocking when rushing the passer. There will definitely be a learning curve there.
— Palmer didn’t have bad stats, but they could have been. He was nearly picked off three times on plays that were broken up by his wide receivers. Nelson had one and John Brown had two, showing off two different cornerback skills. The first Smoke did a nice job simply knocking it away. The second was in the hands of Jalen Mills – and Brown timed his hit perfectly, landing a heavy body blow as Mills was coming down, jarring the ball loose.
It was a day to seek such silver linings.
Tags: Aaron Brewer, Carson Palmer, Corey Peters, Eagles, Earl Watford, Evan Boehm, Haason Reddick, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Josh Mauro, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, offensive line
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D.J. Humphries was upbeat. “Can’t wait to get out there,” the tackle said Wednesday, although technically he had just been out there for practice. The Cardinals didn’t go hard just two days after a game — Bruce Arians called it a walkthrough, although the guys had helmets, unlike what I would consider a normal walkthrough — and Humphries needs to be in the mix in a harsher environment. So too does guard Mike Iupati (although Iupati has been practicing limited the last couple of weeks even though he hasn’t been playing.)
If Humphries and Iupati can play, however, does that get the Cardinals their original, anticipated offensive line on the field. From left to right, it was supposed to be Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Boehm, Veldheer. That’s what it was in the opener for a little bit, until Humphries had his leg rolled up on and suffered his knee sprain. Iupati was never 100 percent, with the triceps injury lingering since training camp. (Alex Boone, who hurt his pectoral muscle, is a guy Arians said will be reevaluated Thursday, and frankly, if there is a guy who would try and play through something, Boone is that guy — especially against the 49ers, his former team.)
The problems with the offensive line aren’t a secret or even very hard to see. The right side, with Boehm and Veldheer, is struggling, and that has nothing to do with injuries. I’ll admit, I am surprised at the Veldheer issues. Out of whatever concerns you might have had about the line as constructed, Veldheer would’ve been last on the list, regardless of a move to the right side. If he and Boehm don’t significantly up their level of play, the rest of the line won’t matter. But it would be something to see the Cardinals’ original lineup on the field for a whole game and see what it might mean.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Alex Boone, Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, Evan Boehm, Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, offensive line
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All along, Steve Keim fretted about offensive line depth beyond sixth-man John Wetzel. So Tuesday, he made a big move to settle such feelings by getting veteran guard Alex Boone on one of those patented one-year contracts he has worked so well. That doesn’t mean Boone will definitely pay off. While many of these deals have worked out (Winston, Cromartie, Freeney, Dansby-in-2013-and-maybe-2017), some haven’t. Sean Weatherspoon didn’t. Evan Mathis — the veteran guard added last year — didn’t.
But unlike Mathis, who was signed to be the starter and when he broke down it was trouble, Boone shows up with the offensive line already set. Is Evan Boehm proven at right guard? No. But he has been there all offseason and all training camp and preseason and I can’t see the Cards making a dramatic move three days before the opener. (Mike Iupati, on the left side, did practice Monday so it looks like he will be ready for the Lions Sunday.)
If Boehm struggles, though, Boone is there to step in if needed. The Vikings were going to keep him had he taken a paycut. He didn’t so they cut him. But it’s not as if they were going to cut him outright. We’ll see what Boone got from the Cards, but Keim usually gets guys at this point at the price he wants. Boone knows the Cards well, having played against them for many years with the 49ers (and even last year while with the Vikings.) He had many a battle with Calais Campbell. Who knows, maybe he’ll battle Campbell again when the Jaguars come to town.
In the meantime, the Cards have shored up the offensive line, with Keim wanting to make sure if there are more OL injuries — like 2016 — the Cardinals are in the best position to weather such a storm.
Tags: Alex Boone, Calais Campbell, Evan Boehm, Evan Mathis, offensive line
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So the Cardinals get to open a stadium Saturday. It just isn’t their own. They’ve done that before, and I remember that day – even though it was in my previous life with the East Valley Tribune. It was just the preseason opener, but the Steelers were in town and a fanbase thirsty for an indoor stadium finally had one. The atmosphere was excellent.
In the Georgia Dome the Falcons didn’t have as bad of a situation as the Cardinals did in Sun Devil Stadium. The Falcons reached the Super Bowl last season in that building. But the first game in a new palace means something, preseason or not. Honestly, the Cardinals couldn’t really get a better final test before the regular season. (No starters are going to play in Denver.)
A lot has been said about the length of camp, but realistically, the Cardinals are always going to have long camps because they need to be inside. As Bruce Arians said, putting 90 players (plus, including interns, some 30 coaches) inside the practice bubble in Tempe doesn’t make sense. But part of camp next year sounds likely to include a week against another team, so that certainly would break up the monotony.
— Without a lot of David Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, it’s hard to really get a sense of what the Cardinals are going to have offensively no matter what happens in Atlanta. But no matter what Arians says, I do think that unit needs to have a couple of good drives early. Arians noted he’d like to see the pass protection be solid because the Cards struggled in that area in Atlanta last year.
— Speaking of the offensive line, here’s what offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said his message was to the unit about their responsibility for Carson Palmer: “Either you protect him or I’m not going to protect you.”
Added Goodwin, “We have to do a better job, because we know he makes us go. Without him, it’s an uphill battle.”
— Defensively, you want to see better linebacker play than last week. Hopefully, the cornerbacks not named Patrick Peterson face some tests as well.
— It was good to hear Arians say he doesn’t think defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will miss a regular-season game. The key will be that first day of practice following the Broncos preseason finale. You want Nkemdiche in the lineup, but, like Deone Bucannon, if he misses the opener to make sure he’s around the rest of the season, you want to be smart.
— In my opinion, some of the battles still going on up and down the depth chart: Backup running back, although I think Chris Johnson has the edge on Kerwynn Williams; Backup inside linebacker between Josh Bynes and Philip Wheeler; and the sixth wide receiver between Brittan Golden and Jeremy Ross, and with an outside shot to Aaron Dobson (because of his speed).
— Another battle still wide open is punter. Arians said neither Matt Wile nor Richie Leone has separated themselves, and Arians didn’t rule out looking elsewhere. One plus is the 90-man roster through the last preseason game. The Cards can evaluate both punters two more games.
Tags: Aaron Dobson, Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Falcons, Harold Goodwin, Jeremy Ross, Josh Bynes, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Wile, offensive line, Philip Wheeler, Richie Leone, Robert Nkemdiche
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D.J. Humphries was praised by both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians after his initial foray at left tackle Sunday. Looking at all of Humphries’ 71 snaps against the Falcons, the video seems to bear that out. Without knowing exactly what the play was designed to do or what the protection called for, there were only a few plays in which Humphries looked like he was beat and it caused a problem for Carson Palmer.
The first time, Dwight Freeney used a speed rush around the edge and pressured Palmer, although the ball was completed for a nine-yard pass on third-and-20. There were a couple two drives later, when the Falcons used a stunt from an inside rusher coming around the outside to get pressure, although Palmer still managed an eight-yard completion. Later that drive, Freeney’s spin move worked but Palmer had already thrown the pass.
Humphries did whiff on Freeney on a play right before halftime, but it was the pass to J.J. Nelson to set up the late field goal. There was one more play late in the game in which it looked like there was an offensive line miscommunication, and a blitzer was allowed to come off the edge free.
Generally, though, Humphries did his job. He did not allow a sack.
Arians was asked if Humphries could end up as the long-term left tackle. Certainly he figures to be there the rest of this season. Beyond, when Jared Veldheer comes back? That is an excellent question. It’s not like the idea of Veldheer at right tackle is far-fetched. He is making “left-tackle money,” but as long as Humphries is on his rookie deal, the Cardinals will be paying the same regardless of what side each is on. Humphries is a natural left tackle too.
But Veldheer has played left tackle virtually his whole career, and Humphries did prep all offseason through Veldheer’s trip to IR playing the right side. There are pros and cons to both situations. Arians’ response was that it was a wait-and-see approach. It’ll definitely be something to watch as the offseason workouts unfold.
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Jared Veldheer, offensive line
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For a few minutes, it was exactly how Bruce Arians wanted it to be all along.
Carson Palmer, with a clean pocket, threw perfect chunk passes off play-action. David Johnson picked up six yards running just falling forward. The Cardinals scored a touchdown on the first possession for the first time this season. Arians was thrilled.
“I take a lot of pride in that stat of scoring first,” Arians said.
The Cards couldn’t get a stop, though. They couldn’t get a stop all game when they really, really needed one. I take that back, they did to begin the second half – but then the offense had a three-and-out in their lone full possession of the third quarter.
That’s frustrating, Arians and everyone else asked about it will say. But that’s expected. There isn’t any one part of the game (unless you go with David Johnson himself as a part of the game) that has been excellent.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters, the one-time Falcon, shook his head at the lack of consistency. He was talking about the defense, and there is certainly reason to look at the defense that way. But the offense and special teams haven’t been able to find any either. That’s why they can shred a defense for an easy 75-yard drive to start, and have just 109 yards total in the second half.
“We’re 4-and-6, that’s our reality,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “We’re too talented to be under .500.”
— Arians is beside himself about the receiving problems. Smokey Brown gets hurt again. Michael Floyd drew a pause and an “I don’t know” from the coach, after a game in which he could have made a huge fourth-down catch and he did not. Floyd’s season will go down as one of the greatest mysteries in recent Cardinals history.
— Arians said the Cardinals used more maximum protection on pass plays Sunday than any time since he has been coach. The group was not perfect, but I did think they held up – at least until the end when the Falcons figured a pass was coming every down. I fully expect that group – from left tackle over, Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Wetzel, John – to remain the starting five.
“I really would like to see it on film, just to critique the small stuff,” Humphries said. “But I felt the way stuff was shuffled around and the wat we had to pull together in a short time, it was a good outing. But it wasn’t good enough. Clearly.”
— Mathieu talked again about accountability in the locker room. I don’t know if he has things in particular he is thinking of or if he just feels like, when you are losing, people need to go under the microscope. It may be the latter, because he said in the same breath they have to stick together. That will be tested these last five games.
— Patrick Peterson hurt his knee. He said he got kicked by the cleat of Julio Jones on D.J. Swearinger’s interception. We’ll see what that means for him this week, although he said it was “painful.”
— Swearinger’s reputation earned him that interception he made. Jones beat Patrick Peterson on the in-route but Jones was staring straight at Swearinger as Jones made his way across the middle. That moment of lost concentration – and that knowledge Swearinger lights up receivers going across the middle – caused the bobble and Swearinger was gift-wrapped an INT.
— Unfortunately, Swearinger couldn’t hold on to the interception later, which would have stalled a Falcons’ TD drive. But the way it went Sunday, that might’ve been a band-aid. Not sure the Cards could’ve stopped the Falcons enough.
— Well, the Cards and Peterson didn’t let Jones beat them. So …
— The series of plays before halftime was a well-executed as anything the Cardinals have done this season. The loss buries the plays, but after the Swearinger interception, the Cards had just 25 seconds at their own 37. A 17-yard pass to J.J. Nelson that may or may not have been incomplete. Rushing to the line to run a play and make sure it wasn’t reviewed. Then Palmer hit Fitz, who in one motion slid to catch a 10-yard pass and called timeout, using only four seconds of the five left and allowing Chandler Catanzaro to boot the 54-yard field goal.
Yes, I’m looking for silver linings.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Corey Peters, D.J. Humphries, D.J. Swearinger, Falcons, J.J. Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, offensive line, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals will have both wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) on the field today against the Falcons. The Mathieu news wasn’t unexpected. Floyd worked out for head athletic trainer Tom Reed before the game and looked OK. It makes the inactive list one devoid of big names, unless you want to count first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche, who has been there more often than not this season.
One other player active today is guard Earl Watford, among reports there could be changes on the offensive line today. We’ll see of D.J. Humphries gets a chance to play left tackle and/or Ulrick John plays right tackle. If there are changes now, it would seem to be production-based, since everyone is active. UPDATE: And the changes have been implemented, based on pre-game warmup. Humphries is the left tackle, Mike Iupati the left guard, A.Q. Shipley still at center, John Wetzel at right guard and John at right tackle.
The full inactive list:
— WR Marquis Bundy
— S Christian Bryant
— LB Sio Moore
— G Cole Toner
— DT Olsen Pierre
— DT Robert Nkemdiche
— DT Ed Stinson
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Falcons, inactives, Michael Floyd, offensive line, Tyrann Mathieu, Ulrick John
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Before we get to GM Steve Keim on this Monday morning, this one is going to hurt. If there was a time you were going to win in Pittsburgh, it was Sunday, when Ben Roethlisberger is out and the left tackle gets hurt early in the game and the defense is missing a couple of starting linebackers and a starting cornerback. This might end up more painful than the Rams game (although in the end, that may not be true, since the Rams game was a) at home and b) within the division.) That’s two close games in which the Cardinals had the chance to pull out in the fourth quarter — games the Cards won all last year — and didn’t do enough on either side of the ball.
As for Keim during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7:
— The GM said he is happy with the Cardinals’ toughness. What he wants to see is “improved focus.”
“These guys are confident, they have some swagger, they play physical,” Keim said. “But when you lose focus, when you void run lanes or break down in coverage or you miss a protection, it can really change the outcome of the game. To me it’s the focus that needs to be improved.”
— Keim, like his players, lamented the Steelers game because he felt the Cardinals beat themselves. Keim deferred to Bruce Arians on why the Cards didn’t run more, but he said he thought Arians wanted to exploit mismatches against the Steelers’ secondary, which the Cards did a healthy part of the day — they just again bogged down in the red zone (and Carson Palmer made one very poor decision.)
— His offensive line assessment: The tackles did OK. Guard Mike Iupati was better than the previous weeks. Guard Jonathan Cooper and center Lyle Sendlein were up and down.
— Keim on the stay at The Greenbrier: “I think it was definitely a success.” He said the ability to adjust to the time change was a big deal. (As an aside, I will not be surprised if the Cardinals end up back in West Virginia at some point in the future. Not sure when, but someday.)
Tags: Carson Palmer, Greenbrier, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Iupati, offensive line, Steelers, Steve Keim
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There is no real wood here at my desk – not sure exactly what it’s made of, actually – so there isn’t anything on which to knock. Normally, no biggie, although I’m going to go all mentioning-the-no-hitter-in-the-seventh-inning and say it: The Cardinals are really, really healthy. Four games into the season, and they are about as healthy as an NFL team can ever be.
Bruce Arians noted it when he said, thanks to the impending return of wide receiver J.J. Nelson from a shoulder injury, that the Cardinals will have “seven healthy scratches” Sunday in Detroit for the inactive list. When has that ever happened?
Arians admitted there will be tough decisions on who sits. If Nelson plays, you figure that’ll send Brittan Golden back to the bench. But with Andre Ellington back, someone else needs out, and it’s unlikely to be a running back. The inactive list will indeed be interesting to see – but again, it’s a good problem to have.
— The Cardinals have a long week ahead, staying in West Virginia to practice at The Greenbrier, which is where the New Orleans Saints hold their training camp. First comes the game against the Lions though, a team that’s 0-4 yet have the Cardinals talking all week about how dangerous they are.
“You forget they have Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, the cat from Nebraska,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “This is a talented team. They are a few plays from being almost undefeated. Last week, I feel they got cheated (in Seattle). I wouldn’t sleep on the Lions. I know we’re not.”
— “The cat from Nebraska” is running back Ameer Abdullah, who has flashed some talent despite the Lions’ struggles running the ball. Arians said how much he liked Abdullah coming out, and he was in consideration by the Cardinals at draft time. Things would be different with Abdullah instead of David Johnson, although the way Johnson has played, I don’t think the Cardinals would want to make any swaps.
— Speaking of running backs, the trio is back together and healthy. How will it play out? Ellington isn’t sure, exactly.
“Coach doesn’t really share too many of his thoughts,” Ellington said. “So we’ll see.”
Ellington said he’d play his role. The guess is that Chris Johnson starts, and Ellington splits time (I don’t think CJ gets the vast bulk of the work, but like Ellington said, we’ll see.) David Johnson will do something, you’d figure. But it’s nice to have options.
— A big reason the Cardinals are running the ball so well – and they really are at this point – is the offensive line. Yes, there are things to improve with communication and such, but the line overall has been better. Profootballfocus.com ranks the Cardinals after four games as the 11th-best line in the NFL. That hasn’t happened in recent memory. And to think, Mike Iupati has a game underneath him and the Lions are missing their defensive tackles.
— Arians said he will “wait and see” who does punt returns Sunday. If Nelson is healthy, does he get it back from Patrick Peterson? Nelson did muff his last punt catch attempt. But given Peterson’s defensive importance, I would think it’ll be Nelson’s duty sooner rather than later.
— After the craziness of the end of the Lions-Seahawks game and the fact Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright didn’t know the batted ball rule (and nearly cost his team a dramatic win because of it), Arians said coaching assistant Wes Goodwin (no relation to OC Harold) goes through every game each week to “find something crazy” so it can be a teaching moment for the Cardinals.
Goodwin took over the job from James Bettcher, when Bettcher was elevated to defensive coordinator. The team goes over the plays every Thursday morning, teaching as best as possible.
— For the record, Arians said he knew the batted ball play was a penalty as it happened, which would have made for an interesting moment had he been coaching the Lions.
“It would have been a hell of a fight on that sideline,” Arians quipped.
— Left tackle Jared Veldheer, a Michigan native, is playing in his home state for the first time in his career. Veldheer estimated he attended three or four games at Ford Field growing up, and not surprisingly, he’s expecting a pretty large group of his family and friends at the game Sunday. He shrugged off the idea it’d make him nervous.
“I think it’s better,” Veldheer said. “It fuels me. It’s fun to be able to have guys you played college football with in the stands, high school football with, friends. That stuff is cool to me.”
— A big matchup, considering a) Patrick Peterson has played so well and b) Calvin Johnson has done little for a struggling Lions’ offense: P2 versus Megatron.
— A final statistical note: The Cardinals have only had four three-and-out possessions this season. And they had none in their lone loss last week.
The Motor City awaits.
Tags: Ameer Abdullah, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Calvin Johnson, Greenbrier, J.J. Nelson, James Bettcher, Jared Veldheer, K.J. Wright, Kevin Minter, Lions, offensive line, Patrick Peterson, Wes Goodwin
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Bruce Arians admitted he has an “pretty good idea” who will start at right tackle for the Cardinals Sunday. But he isn’t saying who. Arians declined to name his starting offensive line Friday. “We’ll wait and see what is best,” he said when it came to whether Mike Iupati is going to be able to go at left guard and whether right tackle is manned by Bobby Massie or Earl Watford.
Whoever starts at right tackle is the right tackle. There will not be any switching “unless it’s a problem,” Arians said. Iupati is officially listed as questionable, and he has yet to practice fully since returning to the field. The Cards may end up erring on the side of caution with him Sunday.
One minor upset: Running back Andre Ellington (knee) was limited in practice and Arians is calling him a game-day decision. There’s no need to rush him back, Arians acknowledged, but if he is ready to play he’ll play, because he provides a skillset David Johnson and Chris Johnson do not have. Ellington is listed officially as doubtful.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Earl Watford, Mike Iupati, offensive line
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