One of the friends and family of Frostee Rucker that will be at the game Sunday in Los Angeles will be his first football coach. Rucker was 6 at the time. He later ended up playing at USC, and so will be back at the Los Angeles Coliseum playing for the first time since college.
“It’s almost like full circle in a sense,” Rucker said.
The season will come to an end as well. Can’t say it’s full circle, since at the beginning expectations were so high and here we are, on the final day of practice and it’s not even January. That certainly wasn’t the plan back in August. The mood was good this week, I’m sure in part because of the win in Seattle. They’d like to finish off with the revenge win against the Rams. “You build your team to win in the division,” coach Bruce Arians said, and, despite all the ups and downs, if the Cardinals win Sunday, they will have gone 4-1-1 in the NFC West.
That’s a record that Arians admitted, had he known before the season, he’d have assumed they would have won the division.
— Here’s another stat (oh, those sometimes misleading stats) that also would’ve made you think they could’ve (would’ve?) won the division: There are only three teams in the NFL ranked in the top 10 in offense and defense. The Cardinals (eighth in offense, third in defense) are one of them. The others? Playoff-bound New England and Pittsburgh.
— The Cardinals have not lost an NFC West road game since 2014. They’ve won five straight heading into this one.
— It’s amazing to think the Cardinals will be starting their fifth different right guard Sunday. It’s gone Evan Mathis to Earl Watford to John Wetzel to Earl Watford to Taylor Boggs and now to Evan Boehm.
— For those wondering, I had a chance to ask Carson Palmer about the late slant pass to J.J. Nelson. It indeed was an audible.
— The crazy stat of the week: Running back David Johnson is averaging 10.7 yards per catch (77 receptions). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is averaging 9.6 yards per catch (102 receptions). Yes, Fitz has more catches, but you’d never think a running back would be ahead of a receiver.
— Speaking of Fitzgerald, Arians said he would not lobby the veteran wide receiver to return in 2017. “It’s up to Larry,” Arians said of Fitzgerald playing another year. “I’ve got my fingers crossed. Hopefully he will come back but that’s strictly up to him.”
— Arians does have other business with Fitz, though. On Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning field goal last week, Fitz celebrated with the coach a bit too hard. The jumping bear hug hurt Arians’ right shoulder, and he admitted Friday it still hurts. What did the MRI show? “Haven’t taken one yet,” Arians said with a chuckle. “I don’t even want to know.”
There could still be a price to pay, though.
“If I can’t play golf this year (in the offseason), I’ll be driving one of those real nice cars,” Arians added with a grin.
— The in-flux offensive line, whatever its shortcomings, has allowed only two sacks total the last two games.
“Proud of them,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “That’s what I told them Wednesday. Just proud of them.”
— Palmer doesn’t like sitting out Wednesday practice but he never really fought it either. The Cardinals put a lot of time and effort into the sports science of workload, hits and repetitions — led by assistant strength coach Anthony Piroli — to judge such things. Palmer’s Wednesday work is part of that science.
“There’s reason for it,” Palmer said. “There’s data behind it. It’s amazing the stuff that they keep track of and the information that you get back from that. It makes sense. I see why they do it, and like I said, they’re paid professionals. That’s their job and that’s their role, and you don’t have a choice but to listen.”
— Congrats to Johnson for being named MVP by the Arizona chapter of the PWFA. Same for Kevin Minter for taking the “Good Guy” award for his dealing with the media. Truth be told, there are a bunch of guys that could win the Good Guy award — Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson, Tony Jefferson, D.J. Humphries, Tyrann Mathieu and A.Q. Shipley immediately come to mind, and that’s not a total list — but the truth is, we have a very good locker room when it comes to this part of the job.
— Another season (almost) done. That’s 17 in the books for me. Where does the time go?
Tags: Anthony Piroli, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Evan Boehm, Evan Mathis, Frostee Rucker, Harold Goodwin, John Wetzel, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC West, Patriots, Rams, Steelers, Taylor Boggs
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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he got “a couple calls” Wednesday from around the league from “GMs and coaches” asking about Michael Floyd now that Floyd had been released.
“I told them my honest opinion of him, that I think he’ll be a great pickup for whoever,” Fitzgerald said. “You’ve got a young guy who is hungry, who is eager to make plays in a contract year, has a chip on his shoulder now — not that he didn’t already have one — and I hope he makes a big playoff run.”
UPDATE: The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.
As for Floyd being released in the first place, Fitzgerald said he sees Floyd as a family member.
“I can’t give you my true feeling because people might get upset with what I really feel,” Fitzgerald said. “But Mike is like my brother. I’ve known him since he was 13 years old, we come from the same place. I love him dearly. Like any other family member, I never turn my back on him no matter what. I”m going to support him.”
Fitzgerald said he saw Floyd Wednesday and would be seeing him again today.
“It’s important during these times to support people when they are going through some stuff,” Fitzgerald said.
He also took issue with some descriptions of Floyd. “Contrary to reports, Mike was never an immature guy,” Fitzgerald said. “He had his incident in college, but we all make mistakes … Mike is a good young man. He’s someone I highly respect and care about deeply. I just hope he finds himself in a situation he is happy with and he has a long and prosperous career.”
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patriots
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The Cardinals moved on from Michael Floyd quickly after his arrest for suspicion of DUI, and maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The team’s president is, after all, the chairman of the NFL’s conduct committee, and Michael Bidwill has strong feelings on off-field conduct. The circumstances had morphed for Floyd from the beginning of the season, when it was likely the free-agent-to-be was looking for a long-term contract that was probably going to be too rich for the Cards’ budget, to now, when he struggled every step of the way and had undercut his own open market — even before Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s incident.
But that part is over now. As for some of the details of the aftermath:
— This is the kind of thing that shakes up a team. “Obviously, this whole year has been kind of rough,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “And then seeing stuff like that happen, I think we’re all shocked and kind of in disbelief. We’ve got three games left to play so we’ve got to stay focused.”
— Yes, had the Cardinals carried Floyd through the end of the season and let him leave as a free agent, he likely would have figured in the equation for comp draft picks in 2018. But it isn’t a one-for-one thing. A team’s entire free-agent haul is compared (through a super secret formula based on the new contract and production) to what free agents were lost, and then the picks are distributed. With Floyd’s play this season, it was highly likely he was going to sign a relatively cheap, one-year contract anyway for 2017, in an attempt to rehab his value on the market and then try again in 2018.
Would he have been a comp pick factor? Probably. But it’ll be hard to tell how much.
— If Floyd is picked up on waivers, which we will know soon, he’s due $1.2 million. If not, he’ll be available as a free agent. UPDATE: The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.
— Carson Palmer was asked directly if he thought Floyd — who also had a DUI in college — had a problem. Palmer, who had already noted Floyd was a friend, quickly said no. He does face a possible suspension of a couple of games next season from the league.
— Where to now for the receiving corps these last three games? Coach Bruce Arians said Smokey Brown can “hopefully” get more snaps this week. J.J. Nelson has played better, but he still has to show he can do it consistently. Brittan Golden, you’re going to get some time. And this, more than any other reason, is why David Johnson may be a 1,000×2 guy after all.
— This was probable even if Floyd wasn’t released, because like I said I didn’t expect his return, but the Cardinals will have to look seriously at drafting a bigger receiver now. Floyd won’t be around and Larry Fitzgerald’s status has reached year-to-year.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patriots, Tyrann Mathieu
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Injuries undercut Jonathan Cooper in Arizona, and they have already undercut his brief stay in New England.
The Cardinals’ 2013 No. 1 pick, part of the trade that brought linebacker Chandler Jones to the Cardinals this past offseason, was released Saturday by the Patriots. Cooper hurt his foot at the outset of training camp and just came off the injury report this week. He never was able to get back into the mix for playing time after initially working as a starter in the offseason.
It’d be easy to say the Cardinals “won” the Jones trade, although the Patriots dealt Jones for many more reasons than to get Cooper. They needed salary cap room, and they knew they weren’t going to be able to bring back Jones — who will be a free agent — after this season. The Patriots also flipped the pick during the draft to the Saints to get an extra third- and fourth-round pick, and took guard Joe Thuney — who, unlike Cooper, is starting — and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
But the Cardinals definitely came out ahead with the trade from their perspective. Jones has been solid, with four sacks in five games, and played very well against the 49ers. The Cards currently lead the NFL in total sacks. It was worth the loss of a late second-round pick, and the reality was the Cardinals were ready to move on from Cooper.
It’s too bad for Cooper. He was playing well in the preseason of 2013 before he broke his leg. After that, he was never the same, and could never stay healthy anyway. I know some will ask about bringing him back given the injuries to the current guards, but Coop hasn’t stayed healthy thus far. Don’t see the Cardinals going through that availability problem again. UPDATE: Cooper was claimed off waivers by the Browns.
Tags: Chandler Jones, Jonathan Cooper, Patriots
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The Cardinals were better defensively against the Buccaneers — NFL.com’s NextGenStats had them blitzing more than 43 percent of the snaps, highest in the league, against Tampa Bay — and Bruce Arians was happy about that. The Cardinals played a lot of zone the previous week against the Patriots, and Arians wasn’t happy about that. Especially since it was his call.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said last week the breakdowns “start with me.” But the defense was better in Week 2, Arians said, because “I got out of it.”
“I got too involved in the New England (defensive) gameplan,” Arians said on Sirius XM NFL radio. “That’s not my forte. Bettch took a bullet for playing more zone than we normally play. I had a lot to do with that. It was my mistake. We were playing our style of defense (against Tampa).”
Here’s a guess the Cardinals will stay aggressive defensively. Arians certainly didn’t sound like he’d be delving back too deep into the defensive gameplan anytime soon.
“It’s happened once and it didn’t go too well,” Arians said.
Tags: Bruce Arians, James Bettcher, Patriots
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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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Steve Keim was blunt.
“It’s ‘The-sky-is-falling’ Monday and we have to use that as a chip on our shoulder to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the Cardinals General Manager said during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7.
The sentiment summed up Sunday night’s loss to New England. Keim didn’t see a whole lot that everyone else didn’t, but had the reaction that many fans are feeling. Asked if there was such a thing as a good loss, Keim didn’t hesitate. “Not when you are playing a backup quarterback missing some playmakers, and it’s a home game.” It was not the way the Cardinals or Keim planned on starting the season, and you could hear it in his voice.
“You wake up Monday morning angry, disappointed, embarrassed and that’s the way we all should feel,” Keim said.
— On special teams, Keim said they were “very disappointing, in every area.” It was a rough night. In addition to the missed field goal, the Cards could not make the kickoff returns work and Drew Butler didn’t punt well.
— Keim said the defensive play, especially on third downs, was “very frustrating.” He wasn’t particularly surprised it was hard to pressure Jimmy Garoppolo because of three-step drops, but “the cushion that we played with, the isolations that they got with some of their inside slot receivers on safeties and the lack of leverage, the inability to tackle in space, those were all extremely disappointing.”
— Two of the three sacks Carson Palmer absorbed were coverage sacks, Keim said, and overall, Keim thought the offensive line play was OK. Too many times Palmer and his receivers weren’t on the same page, and in the first half specifically the offense wasn’t in sync.
— “More than anything, we did not tackle well” on defense, Keim said.
— Safety Tyrann Mathieu needs to knock the rust off. Keim said he doesn’t think Mathieu’s knee is an issue. As for cornerback Brandon Williams, “there were some mistakes he made that were very, very critical to the game.” Keim likened Williams’ play to an offensive lineman who holds up the vast majority of plays but gives up a couple of key sacks.
— So the Cardinals, for so many a favorite to make the Super Bowl, are 0-1. “The thing is, I don’t place hype on our team,” Keim said. “My job is to try and produce the best roster that I can and I know we have a talented bunch. At the same time, if they don’t play to their level, we’re going to have disappointment. That’s what happened (Sunday). We have to regroup.”
Tags: Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, Drew Butler, Patriots, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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No way around it: That one hurt. You can say over and over that it’s the Patriots and Bill Belichick is the arguably the best coach in NFL history, and I do think the Cardinals worked hard this week on avoiding overconfidence, invoking last year’s painful loss in Pittsburgh. Still, losing to the Brady-less (and Gronk-less) Pats would be easier to take if the Cardinals played well and they were outplayed. It didn’t feel that way, though. Losing on a missed field goal actually seemed apropos for the evening. Close, but not enough. The Cards looked off in all three phases.
The last time they lost an opener at home, it was a disappointing outing against the 49ers in 2009. The Cards won 10 games that season. We’ll see how this one plays out.
— Would Mike Leach have delivered a better snap on the final field goal? Probably. But I will say this, I have big-time respect for Kam Canaday, a rookie from Portland State who hasn’t had many chances to be interviewed period but who stood there in front of a flood of cameras and reporters answering questions about a play he’d rather soon forget. He’s in the NFL and it comes with the job, but still, he manned up.
(And props to Chandler Catanzaro too, not only for doing the same but also saying publicly it wasn’t the rookie’s fault.)
— It’s too bad the field goal was missed because a win would have been one of those epic, Fitz-put-us-on-his-back victories. On a day the retirement thing came up again to boot. The vet was spectacular when they needed him.
— Speaking of which, if you get a chance, watch again Fitz’s 21-yard catch on the Cards’ final drive. Down on the field near where Fitz caught it, I have no idea how he did. The ball was on him before he got his head all the way around — it seemed to surprise him how quick it was there — yet he unbelievably snagged the pass and turned it into a 21-yard gain.
— Rough debut for rookie cornerback Brandon Williams, who blew a coverage on a touchdown and had a couple other mistakes. Justin Bethel, dealing with the sore foot, only played special teams I believe. You have to wonder if Bethel getting healthy or newcomer Marcus Cooper getting more practice will change the lineup at any point.
— Bruce Arians said J.J. Nelson could have returned with his shoulder injury. We will see. But there was Jaron Brown making a clutch catch at the end, setting up the final field-goal attempt. He’s there when the Cardinals need him.
— David Johnson looked pretty darn good.
— The defense, overall, didn’t. Or at least, it didn’t look like everyone expected. The Patriots had 363 total yards and converted 10 of 16 third-downs, and it was that last drive that was the killer. The Cards get the lead and then allow Jimmy Garoppolo to convert a 3rd-and-15 from his own 20? Can’t happen. Especially for a 32-yard gain. A stop there, and it’s hard not to think the Cards would’ve been in great shape even only up one with 8 minutes left.
“Back to the lab,” linebacker Kevin Minter said.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Chandler Catanzaro, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kam Canaday, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Cooper, Mike Leach, Patriots
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The last time the Cardinals played the Patriots, the Patriots had Tom Brady, and Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez when that was someone you wanted. The Cardinals had Kevin Kolb at quarterback, Ryan Williams at running back, and Quentin Groves was a key linebacker. The game was in New England. And the Cardinals won.
It was improbable yes, and took a no-way-to-predict Stephen Gostkowski 42-yard field-goal miss to make happen, but it did. (We won’t reminisce about the 2008 New England trip, the time before that the Cards had played the Patriots.)
But if the Cards can knock off a Brady-Gronk Pats team in New England, what about a Brady-less-perhaps Gronk-less Patriots in Arizona, against a much stronger Cardinals’ roster Sunday night? We’ll see. If there is any coach that can make an inexperienced Jimmy Garappolo work at QB, it’s Bill Belichick. The Patriots are still strong, although they are missing some key components.
Still, if you are as good as the Cardinals should be, this is a game you should win, at home. Really no way around that. And there is no question this team is better than that 2012 squad, despite that win in New England en route to a 4-0 start. (Yes, they finished 5-11. We all know how that ended.)
— The Providence Journal reported that Gronkowski was among a couple of questionable injured players — including former Cardinals guard Jonathan Cooper — who did not fly with the team to Arizona Friday. It’s been pointed out that the Patriots have in the past and could still fly them to Arizona Saturday. But short of a private plane, you’d think it’d be easier to fly banged-up players on a big charter and let their bodies get used to the new surroundings for a day. Officially questionable, could Gronk miss this game too? It’d be a huge break for the Cardinals, for sure.
UPDATE: Gronkowski, Cooper and tackle Nate Solder have all been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game. That’s huge news.
— The story all through camp is whether newbies D.J. Humphries at right tackle and Brandon Williams at cornerback can hold up as starters. We’ll see. Humphries noted today that vet Evan Mathis is set to give him an adjustment if he messes up. Meanwhile, Kyle Odegard writes about why Williams is driven to make this NFL thing work even when people wonder about his late move to cornerback. (Hint: They are 7 and 2 years old.)
— New Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones said he didn’t have much insight he could deliver to his new team about his old team.
“One thing I do know about the Patriots, they will try to expose certain weaknesses,” Jones said. “That’s what they do. They study our weaknesses or who is the weak link on the team and they will try to expose it. that’s one thing you have to look out for.”
— Jones is going to have to play a big role. Don’t know how much the Patriots will let him get off in the pass rush, but this is the guy the Cards have been yearning for and he’s going to have a heck of a spotlight right out of the blocks.
— Great line about starting center A.Q. Shipley from offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin, who emphasized he has a lot of confidence in Shipley: “He knows about being told he’s short, he’s fat, he’s chubby and he’s got short arms, so he’s always trying to prove everybody wrong.”
— In case you missed the first Cardinals Underground podcast of the regular season, here it is.
— What to expect from Tyrann Mathieu? Everyone, from players to coaches, talk about how the Badger is back to being the Badger. But when Mathieu talks, there is definitely a pump-the-brakes aspect to his comments. I know Mathieu was disappointed with how he played the last time he returned from a (much worse) ACL injury. He’s made no secret of that. Maybe he’s just trying to temper expectations, especially his own. But I expect Mathieu to be able to play just fine, thank you.
— The parking lots open at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, for those asking.
— The past is the past, but under Bruce Arians, the Cardinals are 25-5 outside of the NFC West and 10-2 against AFC teams. The AFC East, of which the Patriots are part of and the Cards face this season, is the lone division the Cardinals have not played under Arians.
Here we go. Safe to say this is the most anticipated season for the Cardinals since they arrived in Arizona (2009, when the Cards were coming off the Super Bowl, was close, but no one thought that team was as good as this team.) See you Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Jimmy Garappolo, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals never played at home in Week 1 of the NFL season during their 18 seasons at Sun Devil Stadium. Sunday night will be the seventh time in 11 seasons at University of Phoenix Stadium that the Cardinals have hosted a Week 1 game. With the Patriots coming to town for “Sunday Night Football,” it makes a difference.
The Cards have won six straight home openers and have won 10 straight home games in September. It’s interesting to note that the last time the Cardinals lost at home in September was back in 2009, when the reigning NFC Champions lost not once but twice.
You remember that season, right? The Cards lost their opener, at home, to a lesser 49ers team. A couple of weeks later, Peyton Manning and the Colts blew them out of the building. The Cardinals were 1-2, everyone asked “What’s wrong?” — and then they got to 10-5 before shutting it down in the regular-season finale against the Packers.
Since then, the Cards’ home opener has been in Week 1 four times (wins over Carolina in Cam’s first start in 2011, Seattle in Russell Wilson’s first start in 2012, San Diego on “Monday Night Football” in 2014 and New Orleans last year), Week 2 once (beating Detroit in 2013) and Week 3 once (beating Oakland in 2010.)
You can argue, easily, that the Patriots represent the best team the Cardinals have hosted in the home opener in that span (although the 2012 Seahawks turned out to be pretty good). But the Cardinals have made that first home game advantageous.
Tags: 49ers, Chargers, Colts, Panthers, Patriots, Saints, Seahawks, University of Phoenix stadium
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