Carson Palmer was asked why the Cardinals are so confident right now.
“We are confident because we are good,” the quarterback said. “And we know it.”
It was a matter-of-fact statement. Palmer followed up by saying he didn’t think it was being cocky, or a false confidence. In this case, the Cardinals are simply a good football team. They’ve been building to this point for a couple of years, GM Steve Keim has filled in some of the weak spots, and this is the year to really push.
The Cards are only three games in, but they know that. They are playing the best defense they’ve seen to date on Sunday when the Rams visit, but they know that and are prepared. After Sunday, they have six of their next eight games on the road, so a 4-0 start would be, while not necessary, at least important. They know that too.
— If one of the big storylines for Sunday is how the Cardinals protect Palmer, it doesn’t sound like max protection – keeping everyone in to block save for a couple of receivers down the field – is a legit option.
“It’s not a lot of who we are,” Palmer said. “We get into big personnel groups to run the ball, not to try and fake you out and take shots with one or two receivers. We will take shots with five receivers in the game.”
— This is one of those games that feels like, as long as the Cardinals don’t hurt themselves with bad turnovers or bad blocking, they will be fine. Even last year, when the Rams had a great defense and Palmer was knocked from the game, the Cardinals still won because of defensive pressure and timely offense. Since Bruce Arians arrived, it’s hard to beat the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
— Mike Iupati is back. He’ll start Sunday, and Arians finally has the offensive line – although it’s funny, it wasn’t the original projected line. Remember, by the time Iupati signed, center Lyle Sendlein had been released. Still, it’ll be good to get the team’s premier free agent on the field, in a game you know the Cards want to run.
— The Cardinals’ five- and six-defensive back packages would seem to come in handy against an offense that struggles to run the ball yet whose passing game seems to rely more of short passes and runs.
— Through three games: Larry Fitzgerald, five touchdowns. St. Louis Rams offense, four touchdowns.
— This is the best three-game start of Fitzgerald’s distinguished career, by the way: 23 catches, 333 yards and those five scores. In all three categories.
— Left tackle Jared Veldheer committed three early penalties last week, including a hold that wiped out a 44-yard bomb to Michael Floyd.
“We can’t have penalties, especially Jared, that’s unlike him,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin admitted. “It’s just refreshing as a coach to be able to yell at him because other times you don’t get opportunities.”
— Anyone worried about punter Drew Butler? (That’s rhetorical, because I hear from plenty of you.) Guess who isn’t: Arians.
“He’s been kicking well,” Arians said. “Had the one bad kick but he’s been doing a good job kicking inside the 20, which is what we want him to do.”
— The lack of Rams’ offense would seem to bode well for the Cards in this regard: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 20-2 when the opponent scores 20 or fewer points.
— Although the Cardinals don’t officially announce sellouts anymore (no need, since the NFL no longer blacks out games locally), this will be 97-for-97 in terms of sellouts of Cardinals games at University of Phoenix Stadium.
— This will be a great test for the Cards’ huge red-zone start. So far, the Cards are 11-for-12 in the red zone, and the only “miss” was a field goal at the end of the first half last week in which the Cards had a first down at the San Francisco 4-yard line.
— The Cardinals will wear their black jerseys Sunday. And it’s their Breast Cancer Awareness game too, so black-and-white with pink accents. In case you need to color coordinate.
See you Sunday.
Tags: black uniforms, Carson Palmer, Drew Butler, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Rams, sellout
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Bruce Arians mentioned early in training camp he would have liked to have a joint practice with another team in training camp, to break up the monotony and to raise the level of practice that inevitably comes with going against another team rather than teammates. Given how averse Arians is to training camp fights, however, maybe it’s good that the Cardinals never did work that out.
The Rams-Cowboys joint practice donnybrook Tuesday was just the latest in joint practice battles. The Redskins and Texans got into it earlier this month and last training camp, it was the Cowboys and Raiders. The two this month were bad enough that the joint practices were called off and the teams went to practice on separate fields.
It would be interesting to see what Arians would do if his players got into a training camp tussle with another team. He’s made no bones about it happening with his own team — last summer’s Darnell Dockett/Bradley Sowell laps and then a separate abrupt end to practice underscored the head coach’s feelings on the subject. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree either. Todd Bowles made the Jets run because of a practice fight recently.)
And while there are plenty that feel there is good that can come out of a camp scrap — ask Ron Wolfley — there is tangible evidence the downside is too great. The Cardinals know about injuries. Back in 2003, guard Leonard Davis broke his hand punching defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. (Amazingly, my story at the time is still floating around on the internet.) That’s never good.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Darnell Dockett, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Leonard Davis, Rams, Redskins, Texans, Todd Bowles, training camp
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Yes, training camp starts today (hopefully you can check out our redesigned homepage and our training camp page.) But before we get off and running, how about a quick glance at the Cardinals’ opponents for the 2016 season — which, as you know, the league has determined 14 of the 16 regular-season games already.
— New Orleans Saints
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— New England Patriots
— New York Jets
— NFC East team that finishes in same divisional spot as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— St. Louis Rams (assuming the Rams are still in St. Louis)
— Carolina Panthers
— Atlanta Falcons
— Buffalo Bills
— Miami Dolphins
— NFC North team that finishes in same divisional spot as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— St. Louis Rams (even more important to see if Rams are still in St. Louis)
Tags: 49ers, Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, opponents, Panthers, Patriots, Rams, Saints, Seahawks
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The health of Carson Palmer is the linchpin to the Cardinals’ 2015 season. No one is disputing that, which is why it’s been so important for Palmer to get back on the field and why his full return in minicamp generated the headlines it did. It also (obviously) would make an impact on the NFC West race. Right after the season, Bruce Arians was asked about battling Seattle going forward.
“I’d like to play them with a first-string quarterback,” Arians said. “We beat them with our first-string quarterback. We didn’t get the chance to play them this year with our first-string quarterback.”
The fact is, the Cardinals hardly got any play from Palmer against their division rivals. Because of the schedule and thanks to the shoulder injury that cut down Palmer’s season early before the knee got him late, Palmer played a little more than three of a possible 24 quarters against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks. That’s a tough way to maneuver through a difficult division. (The Cardinals ended up going 3-3 in six division games, rallying behind a Drew Stanton TD pass to beat the Rams in the one game Palmer did get to play.)
Palmer plans to change that in 2015, of course. While he only got six starts last season, Palmer was healthy in 2013, not only starting every game but taking every snap. If he can manage that again — or at least come close to it, since taking every single snap doesn’t necessarily have to happen — it’ll give the Cards even footing in the NFC West.
Tags: 49ers, Carson Palmer, NFC West, Rams, Seahawks
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The tweet came from SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend, with host and former NFL QB Jim Miller saying that it is the Cardinals with the best offensive line in the NFC West. (His partner, Pat Kirwan, has the Cardinals second behind Seattle.) My first reaction, which I tweeted, was that I couldn’t remember the last time someone held the Cardinals’ offensive line in such high regard. It makes sense, with the Cardinals’ big free-agent purchase the past two offseasons being offensive linemen (Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati) in addition to a No. 1 draft pick (Jonathan Cooper.)
Veldheer was asked about being compared — on both the offensive and defensive line — to the Seahawks, and the tackle was pretty blunt.
“I think they’re both solid lines, but I’d take our guys any day over those guys,” Veldheer said. “That’s part of the fun part, too, getting that rivalry going, wanting to puff your chest out more than the guy across the line from you.”
In terms of the division’s offensive lines, the reality is the bar has dropped some. The Seahawks traded their center Max Unger to get tight end Jimmy Graham, who may help in catching the ball but won’t much as a blocker. The Rams have added defensive linemen aplenty of late but seem to have ignored the need on the offensive line. The 49ers lost one of their better lineman when Iupati came to Arizona. As for the Cardinals, they have upgraded. You can see why someone would consider them the best unit in the division. But as always, it’s difficult to tell much of anything on the offensive line in the offseason. What is done in the offseason isn’t enough of football to be sure the line will translate once the games actually start.
Then again, it’s better to be thought of as the best this time of year than the alternative.
Tags: 49ers, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Mike Iupati, NFC West, offensive line, Rams, Seahawks
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The Rams pulled a mild surprise with the 10th pick of the draft tonight, taking Georgia running back Todd Gurley — considered by most the top back in the draft and a potential star. If Gurley, who isn’t even 21 years old yet, pans out it’s going to be a tough matchup twice a year for the Cardinals. Then again, the Rams still don’t have much of an offensive line. In the short-term, Gurley is coming off an ACL injury and while he said he is hoping to be ready for training camp, the chances he is at full speed Oct. 4 when the Cardinals host the Rams in Week 4 seems unlikely. Their second 2015 matchup, in St. Louis Dec. 6, could be a different story. The draft hasn’t been chaotic as expected thus far through 12 picks. No trades, Marcus Mariota goes to Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans.
It seems unlikely RB Melvin Gordon lasts until the Cards at 24 now that Gurley is gone. Not with as many teams figuring to consider backs. Not that it matters — I thought all along it was unlikely the Cards went running back in round one anyway. (UPDATE: Gordon to the Chargers at No. 15, who traded up with the 49ers.)
Tags: draft, Rams, Todd Gurley
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In a division where keeping up with the Joneses is important just to have a chance at the playoffs — and goodness knows the Seahawks have been the Joneses for a couple of seasons now — the Cardinals feel like they have made strides to compete with Seattle. Their free agent class filled holes in the front seven of the defense and on the interior of the offensive line. More importantly, their quarterback is doing well in rehab. The Seahawks, meanwhile, added arguably the most dangerous tight end in the NFL. The Rams bolstered their defensive line with Nick Fairley and think they have upgraded at quarterback with Nick Foles (at least, he should be healthy enough to play.)
Then there are the 49ers, who have gone through one rough offseason, which started when they moved on from successful coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Niners got the shocking news young linebacker Chris Borland decided to leave the game instead of risking his long-term health to play. Borland was supposed to be the guy who filled in for Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who retired because his oft-injured feet ended his hopes for a comeback. Defensive lineman Justin Smith likely will retire. Then they allowed multiple free agents to leave, like running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati (who came to Arizona), linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. They probably won’t bring back Michael Crabtree either.
Now, the Niners have added some pieces. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Darnell Dockett. Lions running back Reggie Bush (although he may be beyond his productive years.) But the way things have gone, it’ll be tough for the 49ers to right the decline they went through in 2014. That comes with the QB caveat all teams have — if Colin Kaepernick emerges as a star, that covers most issues.
While it could be considered the “offseason from hell,” the Cardinals did have one of recent vintage that they could put up in any argument. It’s tough to forget the offseason after 2009. In case you have forgotten, a refresher: quarterback Kurt Warner retired, safety Antrel Rolle was released for cap reasons (and subsequently signed with the Giants), linebacker Karlos Dansby left as a free agent and Anquan Boldin was traded. All were still playing at high/Pro Bowl levels. Those were a gut punch of transactions that eventually took out a coaching staff and brought the Cardinals to the Bruce Arians/Steve Keim era.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Chris Borland, Chris Culliver, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Skuta, Darnell Dockett, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, NFC West, Patrick Willis, Perrish Cox, Rams, Reggie Bush, Seahawks, Torrey Smith
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UPDATE: Thursday morning, Dockett signed with the 49ers.
It sounded good when it came over Twitter a little after 6 a.m. Arizona time. Adam Schefter reported that Darnell Dockett’s decision on a new team would come at some point today.
Former Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett expected to decide today between 49ers and Cardinals, though Rams and Seahawks also interested.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2015
It hasn’t happened, at least not yet. #DockettWatch2015 is ongoing. ESPN’s Jim Trotter, who has a good relationship with Dockett, said this afternoon it’s still possible Dockett takes another visit or two. Don’t know if that means the Rams and Seahawks — why wouldn’t he just cover the whole NFC West, right? — or elsewhere. No, I don’t know which way he is leaning, although you’d think if someone had really wowed him with an offer, he’d probably have taken it. It would also seem to me the Cardinals’ offer — reportedly $2.5 million for 2015, plus incentives — would at least be competitive to whatever else he has heard.
Could this stretch into Friday? Saturday? Maybe. You’d think some decision would come down by the start of next week, though, because free agency will start and other players will hit the market. Dockett’s early release leverage will be gone. And usually, teams will start moving on from (most) players if they haven’t gotten an answer. If you need a defensive lineman and are in on Dockett and he hasn’t committed, it’s probably necessary to go to Plan B.
Tags: 49ers, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Rams, Seahawks
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Yes, Drew Stanton is hurt, and yes, there is a fear this could be a serious thing – ACL? – to take yet another quarterback away from the Cardinals.
But first, let’s talk about what the Cardinals did Thursday night (the Cards’ first Thursday win since 1948, albeit only with a handful of Thursday opportunities over the years), on a short week. They won on the road without a touchdown for the first time since 1935, and became the first team in the NFL to win without a touchdown since the Ravens did in in Detroit Dec. 16, 2013.
They’ve won 11 games for the first time as a franchise in 39 years. They’ve all but made the playoffs, unless the Eagles and Cowboys conspire for a backbreaking tie (Not gonna happen.) It’s been an amazing run even as the body shots accumulate, and if Bruce Arians doesn’t win another coach of the year award, I’ll be truly surprised.
(If the Cardinals manage to beat the Seahawks a week from Sunday, you might as well engrave his name on it that evening.)
That’s why there were so many laughs and smiles coming off the field Thursday night. This isn’t how you’d draw up a Super Bowl team, not losing all these guys. But the Cards have won in spite of all of it anyway. To paraphrase a former Cardinal great, it’s hard to win in the NFL. (I’m leaving off the expletive at the end.)
— OK, spinning this forward: Is Stanton done? We will see. No one is saying one way or the other, at least not at 1:45 a.m. on this plane ride home. But let’s assume, for the moment, Stanton won’t be available. That means Ryan Lindley, I’d think.
Arians made it clear Logan Thomas isn’t ready yet. And no, Lindley doesn’t have a great track record after his disastrous 2012 rookie stretch – when, like Thomas, he shouldn’t have been playing – but at least he has played. He was gone until Carson Palmer blew out his ACL, a cut so that the prospect of Thomas could be kept, and that’s why he was third-string when he returned. But it always made more sense that, if the Cards had to turn to the backup’s backup, that guy would probably be Lindley.
— As my cohort Kent Somers tweeted, Arians is going to talk about how much confidence he has in Lindley. Because that’s what B.A. does, especially with QBs. If that’s the guy who is playing, he’s going to have Arians’ full support.
— I expect the Cards to sign a third QB, maybe bring back Dennis Dixon. But for those on Twitter tonight (at 1 a.m. Arizona time on a Friday? Don’t you people have to work in a few hours?) asking about who the Cards are going to get, I don’t see any earthly way it’s someone who they plan to play. These are the cards these Cards have been dealt. The top two QBs could be done. You gotta make it work.
— Amazing that Antonio Cromartie thought he ruptured his Achilles five days ago, and not only played Thursday night but did it without looking like he was ever hurt.
— They take a lot of heat, but Arians was right, special teams was excellent. Chandler Catanzaro drilled his field goals. Drew Butler, after a horrible first punt, was great the rest of the night, constantly pinning the Rams deep, with help from his coverage units. (Long snapper Mike Leach with the awesome downing of the ball around the 5.) Six punts were downed inside the 20 out of eight. Ted Ginn broke off a 42-yard punt return. A very nice night for special teams coordinator Amos Jones’ guys.
— Quiet MVP from Thursday: Left tackle Jared Veldheer. Not only led a great night for the offensive line, but jumped on that late Kerwynn Williams fumble that could have changed the game.
— Frostee Rucker caused all kinds of havoc in the backfield. He’s been quietly great the past few games.
— Another guy causing backfield havoc was … cornerback Jerraud Powers? Yep. He was the blitzer a lot of the night. One delayed blitz was timed perfect and he drilled Shaun Hill late in the first half. It caused an incompletion and was a split second from causing a fumble. On the Rams’ last legit drive, his blitz on fourth down and leap allowed him to knock down Hill’s pass.
“I had some guys in my group texts, (former teammate) Antoine Bethea and a couple other guys, saying, ‘Who do you think you are? Dwight Freeney?’ ” Powers said. “I’m like, ‘Nah.’ ”
— So the last three times the Cardinals have played the Rams they have lost Tyrann Mathieu to an ACL tear, Palmer to an ACL tear and now, maybe Stanton has a serious injury? Unreal.
— Williams looked like the real deal again. Didn’t get 100 yards splitting time with Stepfan Taylor, but he averaged five yards on 15 carries and a couple of times was one defender away from breaking a TD run.
— The Cards are (probably) in the playoffs. They have more than a week to prep for the NFC West-deciding home game against Seattle. That will be an event on “Sunday Night Football.” It’d be nice if somehow, Stanton is OK.
“Obviously we’d like a full deck of cards, no pun intended,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
If not, there will probably be a shrug of the collective shoulders. Why should the end-all, be-all NFC West showdown be any different than the rest of the season?
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dennis Dixon, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Jared Veldheer, Jerraud Powers, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Logan Thomas, Rams, Ryan Lindley, Tyrann Mathieu
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