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Pro Bowl, Rashad Johnson and some Friday notes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2014 – 3:26 pm

Do the Cardinals have a Pro Bowl player?

I’m not saying the Cardinals don’t have any players talented enough to make it. But usually, in seasons where your team is 11-3, there are at least a couple of locks. You would be hard-pressed to come up with any locks for the Cardinals. Offensively, the production hasn’t been consistent enough to see anyone getting a major push. Defensively, there are possibilities, but it’ll be interesting to see how many can find a way in, at least before guys start dropping out.

In the latest Pro Bowl voting numbers this week, it was interesting to see that safety Rashad Johnson — who I do agree has had a very good season for this team — has found his way into the top 10 among safeties. Johnson is eighth, and judging by those who keep tweeting that they want him to get even more votes, maybe Johnson can climb the ladder.

In fact, it’s only the secondary that is represented for the Cardinals right now, at least among the top 10 vote-getters at their positions. Patrick Peterson is eighth and Antonio Cromartie 10th among cornerbacks, while cornerback Justin Bethel is ninth among special teamers.

If you want to vote for the Pro Bowl, click here.

Now for some housekeeping items as the week comes to a close and the Cards get a mini-bye:

– Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali was fined $16,357 for hitting Cardinals QB Drew Stanton low in last week’s game. You remember the play, the one where it looked then for a split-second Stanton was lost for a long time. There have been a couple of those. Cardinals defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was fined the same amount for roughing Chiefs QB Alex Smith.

Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman, who decked wide receiver Smokey Brown by what looked like it might have been a possible helmet-to-helmet, was not fined. He wasn’t flagged for that play either.

– Bruce Arians wasn’t backing down from his comment after Thursday’s game, when he said “I love it when nobody says you’re going to have a chance to win. There’s an 11-3 team and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.” Many took it as a shot to the Rams — and obviously, it wasn’t a compliment — but I took it more as a jab against the media picking against the Cardinals in the game rather than the Rams themselves.

Not that it really matters. Asked why he made such a comment, Arians responded simply, “I just tried to state the facts.”

Cory Harkey, Rashad Johnson


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Peterson always on an island

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2014 – 5:06 pm

You know the story at this point: Last week, on a conference call with Atlanta reporters, Patrick Peterson talked about matching up with Falcons receiver Julio Jones. During the game, Jones — covered almost always by Peterson — had 10 catches for a career-high 189 yards.

To Peterson’s credit, he talked about it afterward. Bruce Arians said he didn’t have an issue with Peterson saying things ahead of time, but that Peterson has to back it up.

Peterson’s key quotes from last week: “He won a couple battles, I won a couple battles. But I think for the most part I won the majority of those battles. (Jones is) an incredible athlete. Love the battle and the competition between us. It just brings out the best in both of us.”

Also: “Me feeling I’m the best corner in the league, I want the team’s No. 1 receiver, period. That’s where you get the opportunity to gain the respect from your peers and be recognized as one of the best and one of the greats after you are done with the game. That’s the kind of pressure I like to have for myself and as a team.”

Peterson wasn’t thrilled with how the game turned out. He clearly wasn’t happy with how his comments were portrayed when he talked about it Monday.

“Honestly, I say that every single week so I don’t know how they took it out of context,” Peterson said. “All I said was, by me considering myself the best, you want to go against the other’s team’s best receiver. My answer is not going to change week in, week out, because I am a competitor. That’s what I want. But if they took it out of context that I called him out, so be it. They wanted a little, I guess, George Foreman-Ali type thing going on but it was nothing like that. I respect Julio. I’ve been going against Julio since college so I would never call him out. I have that respect for him. For them to say I called him out, that’s totally baloney, but it is what it is.”

There are a couple of points to be made here. One, Peterson isn’t wrong. He consistently will talk about battling the other team’s best guy. He just did it with Calvin Johnson — “We’ll give the fans a great show and hopefully they’ll have their popcorn ready.” And he isn’t wrong in saying that earning respect from peers and being recognized as a good player comes from such matchups.

But he also has to know that everything he says and does, which was already dissected at a high level given his draft status and subsequent Pro Bowls, only carries more scrutiny once he signed his new contract. Bruce Arians even talked about it when Peterson inked the deal: “When you are a five-star player, you better play five-star. … He wants to be the best. And he’s going to be covering the best every week so he could get embarrassed real quick.”

Peterson could stop talking, but that isn’t Peterson either — he wants to be challenged, and that’s one way he does it, by challenging himself. Peterson is often on an island out on the field. He’s on an island off it too, that island where Richard Sherman lives, where people are paying attention. There’s no getting away from that.

PPislandUSE

 


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Keim: “We have two options”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2014 – 8:18 am

Sunday’s game in a microcosm, said General Manager Steve Keim, came down to that 55-yard Steven Jackson run just a couple of plays into the game. It should have been for about five or six yards. Instead, Jackson rumbled all the way inside the Arizona 5-yard line, and Keim wasn’t thrilled to see how he got there.

“The 55-yard run says it all, particularly the way we played all day,” Keim said during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “A combination of poor fundamentals and bottom line, want-to. It should have been a six-yard run, and you had a couple guys come up, bounce off him, not wrap up and use proper fundamentals, and you had a couple guys who didn’t look like they wanted any part of it. Which is disappointing.

“We have two options. We can feel sorry for ourselves and make excuses about being decimated by injuries, or we can come out swinging.”

– Keim didn’t have any injury updates. To recap: Running back Andre Ellington suffered a hip injury (Bruce Arians called it a hip pointer) but didn’t think it was serious. Safety Tyrann Mathieu broke his left thumb and was wearing a cast after the game. Right guard Paul Fanaika suffered a high-ankle sprain.

– Keim thought the run game wasn’t good enough (no surprise). He thought the pass protection was above average, but he reiterated a familiar refrain on quarterback Drew Stanton, that ball placement and accuracy must improve (although he noted receivers don’t always run the right routes or run to the right depth, which impacts passing woes as well.) The Cards definitely can’t afford a play such as Michael Floyd’s fumble when the offense looks like it’s moving.

As for waiting for Stanton, the Cardinals need him to play better. They can’t afford to wait for Stanton to gain experience. There is also the reality of the situation and a reason Carson Palmer is the normal starter. “He’s got to make throws when he has to,” Keim said. “In the NFL, some of these tight-window throws not many guys can make. That’s exactly why there is a supply-and-demand at the position. It’s hard to find elite quarterbacks. … But it’s not just Drew.”

– Keim called the play of guard Jonathan Cooper a “bright spot.” “He knocked some rust off,” Keim said, and while Cooper still needs to tighten up technically, “he finally looks like the guy we drafted in terms of quickness and movement. He looked, compared to the other four offensive linemen we had out there, like he was playing at a different speed. He looked very explosive.”

Not surprisingly, Keim said he expects to see a lot more of Cooper, but with Fanaika’s injury, that may have been a given anyway.

– Keim said Patrick Peterson’s issues covering Julio Jones came down to the same issues of making sure he was technically sound, an area that Keim has previously talked about wanting to be more consistent from his cornerback. As for Peterson’s talk earlier in the week about winning a matchup with Jones, “You hate to take away a guy’s swagger,” Keim said, “but at the same time he’s got to compete and he’s got to produce.”


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Some rough Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2014 – 8:29 pm

Everything Sunday was supposed to be for the Cardinals – everything the Cards needed it to be – it wasn’t. Bruce Arians called the loss to the Falcons disappointing, lots of players called it disappointing, but more importantly, they were asking themselves why it happened the way it did when they simply couldn’t afford such a performance.

“We didn’t wake up,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It was like we were asleep the whole game. We’ve just got to do better, man. Do what got us here, as far as hitting people in the mouth, just playing hungry, playing nasty – play like we are one of the top teams in the league, which we supposedly were until these last two games. We’ve just got to wake back up and get back on this winning train.”

The offense wasn’t good, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But from the time that Steven Jackson – Steven Jackson? – reeled off a 55-yard run on the game’s first possession, it was the defense that simply didn’t do enough Sunday. No, the offense didn’t do enough either, but this year, with this team, the defense is held to the higher standard. The defense will be what takes the Cardinals however far they will go.

Jackson gained 101 yards. The Cardinals never give up 100 yards to a running back. Julio Jones put Patrick Peterson on blast to the tune of a career-high 189 yards, and Harry Douglas added 116 himself – you know, as long as Roddy White was hurt, why not?

The last time the Cardinals gave up at least 100 yards in a game to a running back and two receivers? Way (way) back on Nov. 12, 2000, when Robert Smith rushed for 117 yards, Cris Carter had 119 yards receiving and Randy Moss has 104 for the Vikings. Of course, that was for a bad, bad Cardinals team that went through a midseason coaching change. This was by a defense that not only is better, but when it is playing well is one of the best in the league.

Adversity has come to visit, linebacker Larry Foote said. With four games left – including the last three within the division – the Cardinals have to figure out how to overcome. It starts on defense.

– Stanton did seem to find a little bit of a groove after a very slow start. But the Cards kill themselves over and over. A Michael Floyd fumble here. A Ted Larsen holding penalty there. An incomplete bomb to Ted Ginn on third-and-2. The first thing Stanton talked about after the game was converting third downs, of which the Cards did only once Sunday.

– Andre Ellington said he’ll be OK after his hip pointer – he said it was a different injury than the one he has been dealing with – but the run game didn’t help again. Falling behind so big so early didn’t help, but Ellington and backup Marion Grice combined for just 10 rushing attempts, for just 35 yards.

– There were too many important players standing out of uniform on the sideline during the game – Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham – to not make you think if all the injuries are starting to catch up to this team.

– The Cardinals do get linebacker Matt Shaughnessy back this week and he can play against the Chiefs. That isn’t a small thing.

– Jaron Brown had his best game, with a team-best seven catches for 75 yards in Fitz’s absence, and absorbed one wicked blow late as he was tackled. Brown was fine with that, he said. He wasn’t fine with the ball that glanced off his hands early in the game, which turned into the Falcons’ first interception. The pass looked too high from Stanton, but to that Brown shrugged off.

“That catch I should have made,” he said. “It hit my hands. Those tips are something we can’t have.”

– Lyle Sendlein, who used to be an offensive captain before Carson Palmer took a foothold in the locker room, is wearing the “C” on his uniform again now that Palmer is out for the season.

– With the high-ankle sprain of Paul Fanaika, it sure looks like Jonathan Cooper will be in the lineup as a starting guard for a little while at least. Even before Fanaika got hurt, Cooper was swapping series with Ted Larsen at left guard. It looked like the effort to reintroduce him into the lineup had begun.

– Arians said he didn’t challenge the 41-yard catch by Julio Jones in the second half – the one in which numerous fans mentioned to me on Twitter Jones only got one foot down – because the coaches upstairs never saw a replay. Peterson was called for holding on the play, but a challenge could have saved the Cards 36 yards if the catch had been negated.

– The punt team nearly was burned on a 70-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester. But Hester was called for a facemask while trying to straight-arm punter Drew Butler, and then the Falcons were flagged for another 15-yard penalty for complaining about that call. Cost the Falcons four points in the end (Atlanta later got a field goal). Hester afterward insisted it was a bad call.

– That’s it from 30,000 feet. The Cardinals go back to work tomorrow, trying desperately to right what’s wrong.

AfterBruceuse

 


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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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Both Peterson, Cro crack Pro Bowl top 10

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2014 – 10:23 am

In the most recent results of the ongoing Pro Bowl voting, both of the Cardinals’ starting cornerbacks show up among the top 10 for their position. Patrick Peterson is seventh among cornerbacks, while Antonio Cromartie appears 10th on the list. It is good to see Cromartie there because he has played at a high level all season.

Peterson and Cro aren’t the only Cardinals in the top 10. Andre Ellington is eighth among running backs. Chandler Catanzaro is ninth among kickers. And Justin Bethel is eighth among special teamers.

Alas, Calais Campbell is still not in the top 10, despite having a Pro Bowl-type season (although as he said previously, he’d rather not play if it means the Cards are preparing for the Super Bowl.)

You can vote for the Pro Bowl here.

ProBowlPPCroyse


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Keim: Cards didn’t match intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2014 – 8:23 am

GM Steve Keim said he as a tendency to be a pessimist, and in some ways, his job is inherently so as the man in charge of trying to upgrade the team — even when they are 9-2. Sometimes, Keim said during his weekly appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, he said he can think “the sky is falling.”

The sky isn’t falling after a lone loss following six straight wins, of course, but now it’s about curtailing that losing streak. To make sure it’s not a streak. Ron Wolfley made a cogent point following the interview too, noting that a GM and a coach probably see the video through a different prism given their jobs. But Keim and Bruce Arians could certainly agree on one main point after Sunday’s Seattle loss: “In a hostile environment, you have to match their level of intensity in all three phases,” Keim said. “We certainly didn’t do that in two.” Offense and special teams didn’t do nearly enough.

– Keim said he thought the offensive line needs to be more physical. Other that acknowledging a comment that right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t have his best game, Keim wasn’t specific on the offensive line but instead talking about them as a group. The entire offense has to play “in better unison” in the run game. The protection could have been better too.

– It was hard to evaluate QB Drew Stanton because the run game gave him no help, Keim said, but it wasn’t Stanton’s best game, noting Stanton’s inaccuracy at times.

– There was a miscommunication between cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Rashad Johnson on the early 48-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, Keim said.

– Keim said he thought new defensive end Josh Mauro stood out (so did I). The rookie out of Stanford has long been on the Cardinals’ radar. Keim said the Cardinals tried to sign Mauro as an undrafted rookie back in May, but he decided to go to the Steelers. When the Steelers cut him at the end of the preseason, the Cards again tried to sign Mauro to their practice squad, but Mauro chose to stay with Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Finally, the Cards decided to sign Mauro off the Steelers’ PS to the active roster.

– Here’s why the sky isn’t really falling for Keim: “The thing that gives me confidence is men in that locker room and that coaching staff.”

 


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Keim: It’s about being proactive and aggressive

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2014 – 8:09 am

General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have a whole lot of newsy things to say during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, but that’s probably a good thing. He did talk a little bit about giving the contract extension to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — who just happened to have his unit play excellent in the first game since signing.

Keim said Bowles had obviously earned it. But bigger picture, Keim said the mindset he and the new football staff had when being hired was that with every decision “we wanted to be proactive and we wanted to be aggressive, to change the culture.” That means locking up quality assistants. Keim reiterated that it won’t (and can’t) stop Bowles from taking a head coaching job after the season. But, Keim added, in talking with Bowles on the subject, “I know it will take a special opportunity for him to leave us.”

Other quick hits from Keim:

– Asked to pick one player who stood out against the Lions, Keim didn’t hesitate in naming cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson’s play has no doubt jumped over the past three games. Now we get Richard Sherman week!

– Keim raved about the physical nature of safety Deone Bucannon’s play. I know there was one early running play, when the Cards were in nickel and Bucannon just shot the gap to make a tackle for loss. An excellent effort.

– With two more sacks, linebacker Alex Okafor has “brought a pass rush we’re desperately seeking,” Keim said. Keim added Okafor has “probably missed four or five” more sacks the last few games on technique errors that he should clean up.

– The pass protection was excellent, Keim said, and he praised the interior of the offensive line for their play against a stellar defensive front. That was a big deal after the microscope was on the interior for the last week.

– Keim noted Larry Fitzgerald was able to come back and play after his knee was “dinged up” and said overall injury-wise, “on the surface it seemed like we came out OK.”


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Cards pop up in Pro Bowl votes – but not Campbell

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2014 – 10:30 am

Four Cardinals have appeared among the top 10 at their positions in the first release of Pro Bowl voting this season. Andre Ellington is ninth among running backs (ahead of LeSean McCoy at No. 10), Patrick Peterson is sixth among cornerbacks, Justin Bethel is seventh for special teamers, and rookie Chandler Catanzaro is fifth among kickers.

No Fitz, although he’s just now starting to round into form, and no Antonio Cromartie, who is playing well. And no Calais Campbell.

I know Campbell missed two games and doesn’t have eye-popping numbers. But he was a star against the Rams last week, and at this point in his career, it would be a shame if he didn’t get more attention as a Pro Bowl candidate. Not that Campbell really is thinking about it.

“This time of year I don’t pay too much attention to it,” Campbell said. “I just want to do what it takes to win the game, and typically that means (I) play well. Pro Bowl comes with playing well. … I hope I get to avoid playing in the Pro Bowl because we are playing in the Super Bowl. That’s my ultimate goal. But you do want recognition when you are playing well.”

Of course, then Campbell downplays how he has done, noting his missed games and the knee that isn’t going to be quite right all season, even as he plays at a high level.

“I just can’t wait to be healthy so I can try to take over a game,” Campbell said. “We need a big play, and I want to be able to dig deep and come up with the big play.”

To vote for the Pro Bowl, click here or go to http://www.azcardinals.com/fan-zone/official-2015-pro-bowl.html.

CampbellSackDanceUSE


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Congrats Patrick Peterson, NFC Defensive Player of the Week

Posted by since1898 on November 12, 2014 – 10:54 am

PETERSON-POTW-SQUARE

BACK TO #since1898


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