Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was blunt talking about rookie running back David Johnson.
“He could be special,” Goodwin said. “Very special.”
That’s an easy conclusion to reach after three touchdowns on just nine NFL touches, including a 55-yard touchdown reception and a 108-yard kickoff return. One thing coaches and teammates love about him isn’t his talent – although, yes, they love his talent – but his ability to be humble. Of course, he does have to absorb some grief.
“I don’t believe no one in this locker room is really reading their press clippings,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Well, maybe David. David is probably reading his.” Mathieu chuckled. “I’d be reading them too.”
Johnson chuckled himself when he heard Mathieu’s comments. “It was a little harder this week,” Johnson said, “but the coaches made sure I stayed grounded, and the players around me reminded me it’s a long season.”
It is going to be a long season. That’s why almost everyone around the Cardinals followed Bruce Arians’ lead this week in brushing off the 2-0 start. Playing the 49ers Sunday is both a step up in opponent and a foray into the NFC West, and the Cards understand both cannot be underestimated.
— No word on the offensive line as of yet. The fact Mike Iupati still has not been able to practice fully any one day has to raise a red flag, but we’ll see if he’s able to go against his former team Sunday. As for right tackle, Arians said Bobby Massie is better at pass protection and Earl Watford is better in run blocking. He’s also noted Watford has given up too many quarterback hits. The Cards like to the throw the ball. We’ll see if that impacts the decision.
— The 49ers are a grind-it-out team. That makes sense because a) they have a talented running back in Carlos Hyde and b) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, while he has made strides as a passer, still isn’t someone you’ll lean on the majority of the time.
Then there is Kaepernick’s ability to run himself, which will force the Cardinals to be on top of things while he scrambles around back there.
“From an awareness standpoint, I think our guys have to know that any down, any distance, he could tuck the ball and run with it,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
— Goodwin, talking about the Bears game Thursday: “Last week there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with in terms of hitting the quarterback, a couple of shots he took. (Carson Palmer) is going to get hit. We just have to minimize it.”
Friday, Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee was fined $17,363 for his low hit on Palmer on the flea-flicker touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. McPhee was flagged for a personal foul on the play.
Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson was also fined $17,363 for his hit to the helmet of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Johnson did not draw a flag on the play.
— Don’t forget Adrian Wilson will be inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game. What was behind Wilson growing into one of the best players in franchise history? Take a look back at my “Making of A-Dub” piece from 2010.
— Bettcher said the defensive line has a “great rotation” right now, and that includes some snaps for Calais Campbell at nose tackle. In reality, the Cards don’t really use a true nose tackle – Xavier Williams has been inactive, and starter Rodney Gunter (whom Bettcher said is doing well) is more like a Campbell. Again, the Cards were going for versatile on the line this season.
— Campbell makes it on Sports Science.
— Will Larry Fitzgerald go off again this week? Who knows? Arians is always coming up with different things. Even Fitz knows things can change.
“Coach Arians is like a mad scientist,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s always finding ways to get guys involved, to create mismatches for his playmakers.”
— Anquan Boldin gets another chance at his former team. He’s said in the past playing the Cardinals is just another game, but frankly, I don’t believe him. Q is too intense along those lines to have it be otherwise.
“He’s a physical receiver,” Mathieu said. “He’s 100 percent for 4 quarters. I’ll be matched up with him so I have to bring my big boy pads.”
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Carson Palmer, Coline Kaepernick, David Johnson, Harold Goodwin, Jay Cutler, Pernell McPhee, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Larry Fitzgerald was walking on the sideline having just come off the field after scoring his third touchdown Sunday when he looked my way – I was down there, about 30 feet away – and yelled at me. I looked at him, and he yelled at me, “Working on my legacy.”
It was a reference to his comment he made to me a couple of weeks ago, when I talked to him right before the season for (yes, shameless plug – so click here!) a story about him and his legacy. Since then, Fitz has played two games, leads the Cardinals in catches (14) and yards (199) and now touchdowns (3, all coming against the Bears, and one more than he had all of last season.) The trust is there between he and Carson Palmer. It took a while to make it click, and there were some injuries that got in the way, but this is the kind of production he was having last season in that happy place he and Palmer found post-shoulder/pre-ACL problems.
— David Johnson is still a work in progress, but he looked excellent again Sunday, and not just because of the 108-yard kickoff return. His 13-yard touchdown run was nice as well, so patient before hitting the right hole. It’s hard not to see Johnson getting much more work sooner rather than later, although Chris Johnson was fine (20 carries, 72 yards.) David Johnson, with 42 yards on five carries, just looks like a star waiting to happen.
— Smokey Brown didn’t have gaudy numbers – five catches for 45 yards – but he had two other plays that generated 80 yards in pass interference penalties. Both were near catches. Palmer slightly underthrew one, when Brown had Kyle Fuller beat. But Brown has gotten better at coming back through the defender even if the play won’t be there, forcing the defender to interfere because he’s not looking back at the ball.
— The kings of efficiency: The Cardinals have made seven trips to the red zone this season. They have scored touchdowns on all seven.
— The Cardinals did not allow a sack against the Bears Sunday, after not allowing one against the Saints in the season opener. Since sacks were made an official stat in 1982, it marks only the fourth time the Cardinals have gone at least two games without a sack. The last time was the final two games of the 2007 season.
— Bruce Arians took the blame on the Palmer interception right before the half. It was an amazing play by linebacker Jared Allen, who leaped in the air on the quick wide receiver screen to bat the ball up and then pick it off.
“I got a little greedy,” Arians said. “We wanted to put a nail in that one. I jinxed him. I told him the screen is going to be wide open. Do not let them tip it.”
Allen tipped it. Arians said he called the same play for wide receiver Eric Moulds “32 years ago” and the same thing happened. “It was a flashback, ‘Oh (expletive).”
— An exhausted Frostee Rucker talked about the defense finding itself after a couple of leaky moments early. One couldn’t be avoided, the veteran defensive end said – the zone-read runs of quarterback Jay Cutler, before Cutler got hurt.
“If Jay Cutler is going to keep the ball, you can’t account for a guy like that,” Rucker said. “You don’t think the opposing team would risk getting their guy hurt. If those are going to be the plays to beat us, they’re going to get that.”
— The Cardinals again averaged more than four yards a carry. The running game wasn’t great, but it was enough.
— There were no sacks on Palmer, but he was hit more than the Cards would want, including the flag-inducing low hit by Pernell McPhee that always gives everyone pause. But Palmer is going to have to absorb some of that. That’s Arians’ offense, and that’s playing quarterback.
Signing off from 30,000 feet.
Tags: Bears, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Frostee Rucker, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Pernell McPhee
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It’s the first day that teams can officially speak to the agents of free-agents-to-be, and as always, there’s plenty of early info floating around about certain players and certain teams. It does not mean anyone is locked in to signing anywhere, and certainly, there is the possibility agents are leaking interest publicly to drive their client’s market price up. With those caveats, the Cardinals were mentioned in a couple places thus far:
— Trent Cole, who would be a linebacker/pass rusher and who was cut by the Eagles already (and could sign at any time) has been making multiple visits, but the Cardinals are reportedly among the teams interested.
— Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is “leaning toward” the Cards, according to Rand Getlin. Weatherspoon, who would be a nice addition as an inside linebacker, has had it rough injury-wise of late — he missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and played only seven games in 2013. If healthy, however, it’d upgrade the front seven. The Cards liked Weatherspoon coming out in 2010.
— The same reporter who broke Darnell Dockett’s release is saying the Cards have interest in Ravens UFA Pernell McPhee as a Dockett replacement. Not sure if McPhee would be a linebacker or defensive end for the Cardinals, given his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame (although the Cardinals already have Alex Okafor and Matt Shaughnessy as linebackers at that size.)
— Perhaps interest in Bears DT Stephen Paea.
Again, free agents can’t even set up visits before Tuesday, and the Cards would have guys take physicals before they’d ever sign them. So there will be speculation like this for a couple of days. In the meantime, we see what is thrown out there as teams and players maneuver for the best deals possible.
— Last thing. I (surprisingly) have gotten multiple questions about Reggie Wayne. Yes, I know he played with Bruce Arians. But why would the Cardinals do that? Makes zero sense. They have their elder statesman receiver in Fitz. Arians said walking in the door he wanted to turn Fitz into what he turned Wayne into in Indy — so why would the Cards need another one of those guys? Plus, you wouldn’t want someone blocking the development of Floyd and the Browns, nor do you want someone else who would be unhappy if he wasn’t getting the ball.
Tags: Alex Okafor, free agency, Matt Shaughnessy, Pernell McPhee, Reggie Wayne, Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Paea, Trent Cole
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