That first possession – the one the Bills had – went pretty well. A three-and-out, a Kevin Minter sack, and the Bills fans were already itchy in their seats.
But as the fruitless possessions for the Cardinals’ offense piled up, the defense couldn’t match. For a chunk of the game, it felt like many of the East Coast games of Cardinals yesteryear. This was a team that, frankly, hadn’t been part of the Bruce Arians era. At all. Even the NFC Championship game felt like an overwhelming performance by a better team. This just felt like the Cardinals never got into sync.
It’s certainly not where you want to be three games into the season. Carson Palmer and Michael Floyd still don’t seem to be on the same page. The run defense slipped hard, especially when the Cards all but predicted LeSean McCoy and, as a scrambler, Tyrod Taylor, were going to be the key to the Bills’ offense.
Now comes two straight NFC West games in what will be a five-day window. They are crucial, against two teams you expected to find behind you in the division standings. They won’t be if the Cardinals don’t find consistency.
— Not a lot of good in the game. But the Patrick Peterson one-handed interception was an incredible athletic feat.
— Speaking of incredible athletic plays, Tyrann Mathieu made one to force that fumble. If he could have only picked it up. He would’ve scored a touchdown. It could’ve been a one-score game with eight minutes left.
— There are – obviously – some decisions coming on the special teams front. Punter Drew Butler was clearly limping every time he was on the field and when he was headed to the locker room. It would seem likely they’ll need someone to at least fill in a week. The long snapper issue isn’t about injury. The Cardinals never had to worry about the position for the longest time. Mike Leach was as close to perfect as you could get. Kam Canaday is struggling. Arians had already acknowledged it. And with that position, it’s tough to wait out growing pains.
— As they did in the first two games, both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden got a sack. They each have three sacks in three games.
— The Cardinals had no turnovers. Now they have five, including four straight interceptions by Palmer to end the game.
— Painful stat of the day: Beginning with the first drive of the game, when the Bills set the Cards up with a punt and the Cardinals began at the Bills’ 36 and went nowhere, the Cardinals got to the Buffalo 36 or closer seven times but only scored twice.
Then again, most of the stats ended up painful.
Tags: Bills, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, Drew Butler, Kam Canaday, LeSean McCoy, Markus Golden, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyrod Taylor
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Justin Bethel came flying down the field on the Cardinals’ second punt of the game and lit up return man Adam Humphries after a one-yard return, Bethel’s helmet flying off and Bethel emotionally jumping up and celebrating. Last week, Bruce Arians said Bethel had to decide if he wanted to play. This week? “He looked like Justin,” Arians said.
“It felt good to get back to my regular self, especially when it comes to special teams,” Bethel said. “I definitely felt I was myself, playing at the level I should be playing.”
Bethel might’ve been talking about everyone. The Cardinals had an off Week 1. You can talk about being overconfident or overhyped or too anxious or whatever, but the Cards clearly put that game in the rear view Sunday (Jimmy Garoppolo clearly showed this week it wasn’t a fluke of a game either, before he got hurt against the Dolphins.) It’s a week-to-week thing, and the Cards have to go cross country this week to play an early kickoff game in Buffalo. But for now, the ship has been righted. Pretty emphatically.
— Bethel said he predicted he’d have three special teams tackles in the game, and he had three tackles.
— Training camp MVP Jaron Brown was excellent Sunday. He had a huge 27-yard reception on third-and-10 that helped spark a touchdown drive (Michael Floyd’s one-yard TD catch) and, of course, hauled in the 51-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left in the first half. With Floyd’s future in Arizona uncertain because of upcoming free-agent status, Brown (who will be an unrestricted free agent himself) is an intriguing option.
“All his catches seem to be in the biggest time of the game,” fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald said.
— Bruce Arians wasn’t happy that David Johnson ran the wrong route in the end zone, not only possibly costing the Cardinals a TD pass but nearly costing Carson Palmer an interception when Brent Grimes dropped the ball. Palmer, however, was forgiving of his star back. “He had just run like 90 yards and broke a bunch of tackles,” Palmer said. Close — it was right after Johnson’s awesome 58-yard catch-and-run into the red zone. “I was tired from just jogging down.”
— The Cardinals, after forcing five turnovers Sunday, are now a plus-7 after two games and have yet to turn the ball over. It won’t last — not like that — but it’s impressive.
— Don’t forget coming back out to University of Phoenix Stadium tomorrow for the weekly “Monday Nights at the Big Red Brew Haus” event. This week, running back David Johnson will be in the haus.
— Patrick Peterson’s first interception of the season, on a long bomb try from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans, had to make Fitzgerald proud. Peterson ended up behind Evans and then expertly kept his body up against Evans, cleanly squeezing Evans until the ball got over the 6-foot-5 Evans’ hands and into Peterson’s.
Of course, later Peterson could have had a second pick, but he dropped it. On the drive, the Bucs eventually scored on a TD pass to Evans over Peterson. “Usually when you drop an interception, bad s*** happens,” Arians said.
— Linebacker Chandler Jones got a sack in the waning moments, but he had a very quiet night. The Cardinals will need more QB pressure from him going forward.
— Arians wasn’t thrilled kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point. I’m not sure of the snap on the play, but a later snap on another Cat Man kick looked a little low. Rookie Kam Canaday is going to be watched carefully after his opening game.
— After two games, no defender is playing better on the Cardinals than safety Tony Jefferson. He too is going to be a free agent after the season. Not sure what will happen with him, but he’s played excellent football.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Jaron Brown, Justin Bethel, Kam Canaday, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Tony Jefferson
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Practice over for the week and the players going off to leave for the day, Bruce Arians said during his Friday media meeting he hoped the Cardinals would do a better job of mental preparation between then and kickoff Sunday against the Buccaneers. Asked what he could do in that regard, Arians didn’t hesitate.
“That’s their job, not mine,” he said. “I’ve already prepared them. That’s their homework.”
A little while later, linebacker Kevin Minter chuckled when that message was relayed. “He told you exactly what he told us,” Minter said. “Almost verbatim.”
“He has a point though,” Minter said. The linebacker said the practices last week — like this week — were excellent. Something got lost before kickoff in Week 1. Maybe it had to do with the emotions of the moment, with a Sunday night game, and the Patriots, and 9/11, and the season starting. “Not making excuses, but we had to calm it back down,” Minter said.
“You get hit in the mouth like that, you better calm down,” Minter said.
Guess we’ll find out Sunday.
— So much is on the defense this week. They know they didn’t play as the should’ve last week (I’ve got the “10-for-16” burned in my brain at this point.) They face a much more dangerous passing offense in terms of explosion. They still have to find a way to go with work-in-progress Brandon Williams at cornerback. Can’t let Doug Martin get outside, but I think the Cards can handle the run game. Can they slow down Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson down the field? A couple of those TDs last week in Atlanta weren’t about bad coverage — it was Jameis Winston throwing to a tall receiver and that receiver making an incredible catch.
— The GMs in this game, Steve Keim and Jason Licht, are close friends. Wonder if there has been any trash-talking this week.
— It’ll probably be a week or two before new cornerback Tharold Simon is active for a game, but Arians said Marcus Cooper, the corner acquired in a trade a couple weeks ago, will “get action” this week. I assume that means on defense. Cooper played five special teams snaps against New England.
— The last time the Cardinals played the Bucs, it was in Tampa in 2013, the back end of a week away from Arizona. The Cardinals pulled out a late win against an inferior team because Patrick Peterson made two interceptions in the last four minutes of the game. (Why rookie QB Mike Glennon, in his first start, was throwing at that point no one knows.)
Peterson said he had forgotten about the circumstances until assistant athletic trainer Chad Cook brought it up. “Didn’t know that was in the last four minutes of the game,” Peterson said. “So that was pretty clutch.”
— Larry Fitzgerald now has 100 career touchdowns after his last one against the Pats. Fitz was asked where that TD ranks for him.
“Ranks 97 behind Jerry Rice,” Fitzgerald said. “So that puts it in perspective for me to keep working.”
As good as Fitz is, I don’t think he’s catching Rice.
— I think John Brown will be better this week than last. Not sure if he just needed a game to get the rust off, but I think you’ll see some Smoke this time. And I think the Cardinals need him.
— Peterson said the Cardinals will “definitely” bounce back after last week. “I’m not guaranteeing a win, but there is a different energy,” Peterson said. “I can feel the sense of urgency. … Good teams don’t lose twice (in a row).”
Bring on the Bucs.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Buccaneers, Doug Martin, Jason Licht, John Brown, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Cooper, Mike Evans, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Tharold Simon, Vincent Jackson
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It doesn’t get much more simple in the game of football than tackling. And the Cardinals didn’t do it well enough against the Patriots to open the season. Blame the lack of work in the preseason, blame a practice environment in the NFL that doesn’t really allow pros to practice true tackling. But it has to get better. Truth be told, I believe that even with everything else staying the same from that night, even with the Brandon Williams mistake and uneven offensive play, that if the Cards had tackled better, they would have won.
“The tackling overall was an issue for us,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “There were runs that got out on us that if we made the tackle on first hit … we had them at about 95 yards after contact and that’s too much. We haven’t had that in a while around here.”
Patrick Peterson missed a tackle on a third down that was notable (although the Patriots were already in field-goal range and the way Gostkowski was kicking, were going to get the field goal they eventually made anyway. It burned time but in the end I’m not sure that made a difference.) Tyrann Mathieu missed a couple tackles. Deone Bucannon did not play the way he was capable. Bettcher and coach Bruce Arians talked about a loss of leverage in getting in the right spots and that happened too often — the Cards losing the edge. Even Justin Bethel missed a couple of tackles on special teams.
On a night when the Cards played some zone with the idea that you tackle and keep a team short of the sticks, wayward tackling doesn’t work out all that well. “We were kind of rusty on our tackling,” said safety Tony Jefferson, who was one of the players who didn’t look that way.
I’d expect it to be different this week, given the emphasis the Cards have had. It’s crucial that it improves.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Deone Bucannon, James Bettcher, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Tyrann Mathieu
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Jameis Winston hasn’t yet played the Cardinals in his career. But he has played football at their practice facility.
The Buccaneers’ quarterback, who will be at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday, was in Tempe in March as one of the celebrity QBs for Kurt Warner’s annual charity flag football event. Cardinals Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Stanton and Patrick Peterson were also QBs for their own teams.
“I can take so much from those guys, just seeing their true passion and love for the game,” Winston said. “I really enjoyed Kurt Warner’s event, because it was football. It was flag football. You reach so many people. You gave men the opportunity to play with guys that they never thought they would ever play with. That was just great. That really helped me out.
Winston got a chance to mingle with the other players, speaking with Palmer (pictured below) before the event got started, and interacting with veterans like Fitzgerald and Peterson. “I’m trying to learn and hopefully be like them one day,” Winston said.
About Winston, Palmer told Tampa reporters “I love his game” and said he’s played like a veteran already.
That day in March, Winston wanted to win the tournament — the final came down to the teams of Warner and, coincidentally, the quarterback for the Cardinals’ opponent next week, Tyrod Taylor — and you could see it during the day-long affair. At one point during a break, when most teams were, you know, taking a break, Winston had his team on the field working on plays while coaching them up.
“I don’t really discriminate,” Winston said. “I don’t care if I was playing against three-year-olds.”
Tags: Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Tyrod Taylor
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Before training camp got underway, I posted 10 of the top questions facing the Cardinals — Part I and Part II — as they began their season. Now that the games that count are here, were those questions answered? Let’s take a brief look:
— Can Carson Palmer do it again? Clearly this isn’t something that could be answered yet. The preseason had some rough moments. But Palmer is unflinching and so is his coach and his teammates. The confidence is there that the quarterback will be just fine.
— Who is the starting center? It’s A.Q. Shipley, and it was never really even close. Rookie Evan Boehm is getting better, but he doesn’t look like he’s close to usurping Shipley. And the Cardinals never looked on the street for another option. It’s possible that could change, but Shipley is entrenched for now.
— Will D.J. Humphries become the right tackle? Yep. Again, never really was a question once it was all said and done. There was no real competition, and to Humphries’ credit, he improved as camp went on. In my opinion, while he won’t be perfect, Humphries should be fine.
— How much will David Johnson carry the offense? Again, we’ll only know once the games start, but it’s hard to think he won’t be the anchor to how this all goes down. Looked good in camp and the preseason.
— How important was it to keep every single skill player? This matters when there was worry about the offense. The idea is that they know each other well. So hopefully, even though Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown played little in the preseason, they know what to do. And the other skill vets like Jaron Brown showed why it’s good to have their knowledge too.
— Who will be the cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson? Brandon Williams, almost by default, because of the injuries to Justin Bethel and Mike Jenkins. The rookie will get tested early and often. He had a strong start to camp and then slowed a bit, and his work is going to be under the microscope.
— What will be the impact of Chandler Jones? More TBD, but you have to love how he looked during camp.
— How is the health of the Honey Badger? Healthy enough that he’ll start and is expected to be full go against the Patriots. We’ll see how Tyrann Mathieu looks compared to all-pro-pre-ACL-tear Badger of 2015.
— Can Robert Nkemdiche play a big role right away? Maybe not a big role, not after missing a chunk of camp with an ankle sprain. But he’ll definitely play a role.
— What is Larry Fitzgerald’s future? You never know what he’ll do after the season, but at least the Cardinals made sure, if he plays in 2017, it’ll be in Arizona.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s an early edition of a “Before” post, but later today I will put up my guesstimate at the final 53-man roster — at least the one the Cardinals figure to have without knowing who is cut from other teams and who the Cards might try to claim on waivers or sign. Before then, there is a game to play.
It’s a different kind of game, since most starters won’t even be dressed. This game is about precious few rosters spots and the push to at least be asked on the practice squad (or trying to impress 31 other teams to pick someone up). Bruce Arians estimated the Cardinals have about 12 players fighting for about four spots. Impossible to know what we are talking about, but here are some of the positions/players that could be in that conversation:
Offensive line: Earl Watford as tackle/G Cole Toner/C Evan Boehm/T John Wetzel. Watford figures to make this team because he’s so versatile. And Toner has made a strong push to stay after seeming to be a long shot when camp opened. Boehm, as a fourth-round pick, will stick, but can he keep pushing to see if he gets playing time. Here’s the question: Can Watford show something at tackle so that, at least for now, he can back up there?
Secondary: CB Cariel Brooks/CB Harlan Miller/CB Ronald Zamort/S Matthias Farley. It was telling when Arians, asked about the cornerbacks beyond Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams at this point, only mentioned Brooks, who has put himself in a good place for the 53 especially given the Mike Jenkins injury. Can another cornerback step up? At safety, the Cards already have so many in play (Branch, Mathieu, Swearinger, Jefferson, Christian).
ILB: Chris Clemons/Lamar Louis/Donald Butler/Alani Fua/Gabe Martin. Technically, Clemons is listed as a safety but he’s basically been Deone Bucannon’s “moneybacker” backup. Do the Cards stick with the vet? Or is the youth of say, Martin make sense. Lamar Louis has been very good on special teams too. For these guys, special teams may be the place to watch.
There are others, but with everything done over the summer and camp and three preseason games, most decisions have already been made.
— The Broncos have already announced that their No. 1 pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, will play the entire game Thursday. He’s their QB of the future. It’s something interesting even for Cardinals fans — and you wonder, had Lynch fallen to No. 29, if the Cards would have grabbed him.
— Arians isn’t sure cutting down the preseason will help the teams. Yes, injuries can happen, but he said doesn’t think two preseason games is enough to prep a team for the season.
“I think you have to build your roster, and the only way to build it is see these kids play,” Arians said. “The fourth preseason game is not for your starters. It’s for those guys who you build your roster on, build your practice squad on, the guys who need that week of work and that game. You’ll need them in November and December.”
— Arians isn’t worried about the leadership/knowledge lost in the secondary with the departures of Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson have worked to fill that void. “All those guys making all the checks,” Arians said. “And with that, they’re not leaning on somebody. They used to lean on Rashad, so they wouldn’t study as hard.”
— Mathieu and John “Smokey” Brown have been cleared to play, but honestly, I’ll be surprised if either does play. As for Justin Bethel, with a sore foot, does he give it a try? He may just rest too. Arians said Bethel will have to play with a sore foot all season, but Bethel had already said he had to play with soreness last year as well.
— Final cuts won’t be announced until the weekend (they are due at 1 p.m. Arizona time Saturday). Until then, let’s finish up the preseason.
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Bruce Arians, Cariel Brooks, Chris Clemons, Cole Toner, Donald Butler, Earl Watford, Evan Boehm, Gabe Martin, Harlan Miller, John Brown, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Lamar Louis, Matthias Farley, Patrick Peterson, Paxton Lynch, Ronald Zamort, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Earlier this week, Tyrann Mathieu talked about being “mindful” of his health, weighing it against whether playing in the preseason was important enough to trump where he was in his rehab. The reality is, for many starters, playing in the preseason simply doesn’t overrule health (right, Tony Romo?)
There is no official “not-expected-to-play” list but three key Cardinals — Mathieu, CB Patrick Peterson and WR Larry Fitzgerald — all are in street clothes and not in uniform and they won’t be playing today. Mathieu, of course, is coming back from his ACL tear. Fitzgerald has been dealing with a minor MCL sprain and said this week he just wants to be ready for Sept. 11 against the Patriots. Fitzgerald was out in early warmups — helmet on, which is rare for any player at that time of the pregame — catching passes, and was moving around fine. This feels precautionary.
Not sure what Peterson’s issue is, if any. He did have his foot/ankle taped during Friday’s final practice so perhaps that is a factor, although he looked OK. In any case, it opens the door for the three cornerbacks battling for the other starting job — Brandon Williams, Mike Jenkins and Justin Bethel — to get important work. It’s unknown how much Bethel will play coming off PUP. Jenkins has yet to play in a preseason game himself because of his broken hand.
WR John “Smokey” Brown, coming back slowly from his concussion, also isn’t dressed, as is RB Kerwynn Williams. Not sure of his injury, although he was watched carefully by RB coach Stump Mitchell and trainers Tom Reed and Chad Cook early before the game.
Tags: John Brown, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Texans, Tyrann Mathieu
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Andre Ellington is now listed as the top kickoff and punt returner on the depth chart. The kickoff part isn’t that surprising. The punt return part is, since a) Ellington has never really done it and b) it wasn’t really a consideration when camp started. But Ellington, who finally got a chance to return one in a game in San Diego, is going to have the opportunity.
We’ll see how comfortable Ellington can get back there. This possibility has been building since the day Chris Johnson re-signed. When the three top running backs were healthy last season, David Johnson was returning kickoffs and there was a reason to have all three active on game days. Now that David Johnson is going to be the main back, he won’t be returning kickoffs — so to have all three active, someone has to play special teams. That’s not Chris Johnson. So you try and see what Ellington can do as the dual return man. (You don’t really want Patrick Peterson returning punts anymore either.)
Watching him in practice, Ellington looks very much like a work in progress. But Bruce Arians is right — if Ellington does get his hands on a punt, he’s the kind of player that fits such a return perfectly, getting the ball in space on what essentially is an extended stretch running play, in which Ellington can use his burst to blow up the field.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Patrick Peterson, special teams, training camp
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The No. 2 cornerback for the Cardinals remains a work in progress.
Justin Bethel came off the PUP list this week but still isn’t ready to practice. Mike Jenkins finally returned to practice this week, although the surgery for a broken bone in his hand means he has to wear a cast. Meanwhile, rookie Brandon Williams remains the starter and still figures to be the best bet to be starting Sept. 11 even with his growing pains.
That’s why Williams should’ve benefited big from a couple of practices against the Chargers, to work against different receivers than just the Cardinals and to see different looks. Williams got a healthy dose of Amari Cooper last week and now Keenan Allen — who has been a tough cover in practice — was this week.
“(Brandon) is a guy who were are going to lean on in the season so we want to see how he was living, how he was going to respond when the ball is coming his way,” all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Not to toot my own horn, but after the year I had last year, if there is a rookie defensive back, nine times out of 10 they’re going to pick on the young pup. So (cornerbacks) coach (Kevin) Ross wanted to throw him into the fire and to see how he would respond.”
Peterson is right, of course. Whomever is playing across from Peterson will be targeted often. Look at what happened to Bethel late last season. That’s not going to change in 2016, whether it is Williams or Bethel or someone else.
“I can only imagine how tough it is getting 13, 14 targets a game,” Peterson said. “That’s tough for anyone. biggest thing is keeping the confidence up and relying on the technique. You are prepared for the moment, it’s just about taking what you learned on the practice field to the game. That’s the biggest thing for young cornerbacks.”
Tags: Amari Cooper, Brandon Williams, Chargers, Justin Bethel, Keenan Allen, Kevin Ross, Mike Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, training camp
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