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NFC Championship aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2016 – 11:18 pm

Larry Fitzgerald fought back tears.

The wide receiver has now played 12 NFL seasons. He doesn’t know exactly how many he has left – he has one year remaining on his contract – and at age 32, the end is much closer than the beginning. He also knows the NFL reality that coming as close as the Cardinals did to the Super Bowl, with the best team he’s ever been on, doesn’t necessarily happen more than once.

That’s why the pain was apparent on his face after Sunday night’s blowout loss in Carolina, a game that, frankly, the Cardinals never really were in. If the Cards had lost in a shootout, or a close game, Fitzgerald said, perhaps he could have dealt with it better, knowing the Cardinals at least made it a battle.

Instead, “we just didn’t have it today,” Fitzgerald said quietly. “And that really stings.”

Things will change. They always do in the offseason. Free agents will leave. New players will be signed and drafted. You hope that comes together. You hope that you can stay relatively injury-free, which the Cards – for the most part – were able to do this season. You hope that as a team you can build again, as the Cardinals have in each Arians’ season. Win totals have gone up and the postseason ladder has been climbed one rung at a time.

You hope. But as Fitz’s emotions explained, nothing is promised.

“The emotions are still so raw for me. So raw,” Fitzgerald said, when asked to assess 2015 as a whole. “In a couple days I might be able to have a little bit better answer for you. It really hurts.”

“Obviously,” Fitzgerald added, “I didn’t want it to end this way.”

— Carson Palmer stood up and answered the painful questions after the game. He took responsibility. He said “I” often and while there was plenty of things weren’t great on the rest of the team – the defense did not have its best game either – Palmer had to play well for the Cardinals to make the Super Bowl. He did not play well. He did not come close.

— While the Cardinals and Keim will continue to look for their quarterback of the future, Palmer is going to be the quarterback in 2016. He should be. He did not play well in the postseason but he was a deserving MVP candidate this year.

— Running back David Johnson was excellent, but it’s too bad the Cards got so far behind. He has definitely shown his future as the lead running back.

— The secondary as a whole was not good. Some of that was because of a lack of pressure on Cam Newton, but there were other mistakes. Justin Bethel was not the only player to get caught, but even Bruce Arians noted Bethel by name as someone who had a tough night. Arians added Bethel will get better. The Cardinals need him to.

— Among the free-agents-to-be are cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Rashad Johnson. Both emphasized how much they want to return. But we will see how that plays out. I expect the Cardinals to try and get a Tyrann Mathieu extension done at some point, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a cornerback taken in the draft.

— The Cardinals will pick 29th in the NFL draft. There will be only 31 first-round selections after the Patriots surrendered theirs during Deflategate.

— There are a lot of other things to talk about heading into the offseason. But with the Cardinals done, there is time to get to all of that.

FitzAfterNFCblog


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Inactives “normal,” so starters ready for Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2016 – 12:58 pm

The inactive list looks like it has the last few weeks, so it certainly seems like Bruce Arians will follow through with his comment that the Cardinals are playing this straight today. S Rashad Johnson and WR Michael Floyd are indeed active. In fact, every player who was questionable for the Cards Friday is active today.

The full inactive list:

— QB Matt Barkley

— CB Corey White

— LB Markus Golden (knee)

— LB Shaq Riddick

— T D.J. Humphries

— NT Xavier Williams

— DT Josh Mauro (calf)

The Seahawks are without starters T Russell Okung, G J.R. Sweezy, RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Luke Willson and S Kam Chancellor.

The bigger pre-game news was that the Cardinals watched former teammate Ryan Lindley throw a TD for the Colts:


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Rashad Johnson sitting out again, Ellington active

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2015 – 12:58 pm

Safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) will be inactive today, meaning the Cardinals’ secondary will be without two key members after Tyrann Mathieu was put on IR last week. The Cards are deep in the secondary, but those are two valuable pieces to be without. Running back Andre Ellington will play today for the first time since the game in San Francisco last month.

The full inactives list:

— QB Matt Barkley

— CB Corey White

— LB Shaq Riddick

— S Rashad Johnson (ankle)

— T D.J. Humphries

— NT Xavier Williams

— DT Josh Mauro (calf)


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Mathieu done for season — but it happens

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2015 – 3:17 pm

It is unquestionably a harsh reality the Cardinals and Tyrann Mathieu were officially handed Monday, with the news Mathieu had torn his ACL and was done for the year. Mathieu has had a fantastic season. They will miss him on the field. But what struck me is how personal this is, for Bruce Arians and players. This cuts them, because Mathieu is such a great person. This is ground that has been covered many times, but it makes sense why people want to root for this guy. He has a charisma that few have. He is genuine. Add in the fact he can play football, and it resonates. I’m not afraid to say he’s one of my favorite guys to cover in my 16 years around this team.

This is why the news is extra painful.

“Luckily we have the next couple of days off to let this emotionally sink in,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “Not so much not having our guy to play in the playoffs, but our hearts go out to him because of everything he’s been through and how hard he has worked to get back to this point and having the season he’s having.”

As for on the field, the Cardinals have to find a way to make due defensively without Mathieu. You can’t replace the playmaking ability. That’s innate. You do have — assuming no more serious injuries — depth, however. Johnson should be back from his ankle injury. Jerraud Powers plays more slot. Justin Bethel gets on the field. And new safety D.J. Swearinger plays more with Tony Jefferson.

Also part of the equation: This happens. Take a look around the top teams. Almost all have lost at least one significant player, if not for the season, for an extended period of time.

— Seahawks: TE Jimmy Graham, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Thomas Rawls

— Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin

— Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell

— Packers: WR Jordy Nelson

— Bengals: QB Andy Dalton

— Patriots: WR Julian Edelman, every decent running back they had

— Broncos: LT Ryan Clady, QB Peyton Manning (yes, I understand you can quibble with the Peyton pick.)

The point is it’s the living example of that well-worn quote coaches and some players have been saying for years: “The other team isn’t going to feel sorry for us.” The other teams have their own personnel losses. It’s the business.

Tyrann Mathieu, Nelson Agholor


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Rashad Johnson to sit out; Ellington too

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2015 – 4:59 pm

The Cardinals will be without their coach on the field tonight. Safety Rashad Johnson, who didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury, is inactive for the game against the Eagles. What will be interesting now is how the Cardinals account for that — Tony Jefferson is officially being listed as the starter in Johnson’s place.

Running back Andre Ellington (toe) isn’t going to play either.

The full inactive list:

— QB Matt Barkley

— RB Andre Ellington (toe)

— S Rashad Johnson (ankle)

— LB Shaq Riddick

— T D.J. Humphries

— DT Cory Redding (ankle)

—  NT Xavier Williams


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Palmer leads Cards’ final Pro Bowl list

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2015 – 11:45 am

Quarterback Carson Palmer was the top vote-getter for the Cardinals now that the public part of Pro Bowl voting has ended. Palmer got the fourth most votes of any player — 514,967, to be specific — and was also fourth overall in the NFL, since QBs all finished ahead of him (Brady, Newton, Dalton).

Free safety Tyrann Mathieu dropped a spot to third at his position, but Frostee Rucker made a late surge to get into the top 10. In all, 11 Cardinals were ranked in the top 10 in votes at their respective positions. Players and coaches vote later this week league-wide to come up with the final Pro Bowl tallies/roster, and they get announced Dec. 22.

The full Cardinals’ list:

— QB Carson Palmer fourth

— RB Chris Johnson eighth

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth (with an impressive 410,095 votes)

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth, Frostee Rucker seventh

— CB Patrick Peterson fifth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh, Deone Bucannon 10th

— FS Tyrann Mathieu third

— Special teams Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBLOG

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Mathieu, Palmer lead way for Pro Bowl votes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2015 – 11:20 am

With the Pro Bowl fan voting winding down (it ends Dec. 15, and you can vote by going to azcardinals.com/probowl), seven Cardinals are in the top five in their position, led still by free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is second only to Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (although Coleman has him by 50,000 votes right now.)

Quarterback Carson Palmer remains among the top 10 in overall vote getters at seventh overall (although he’s behind Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman?) The MVP candidate is fifth among quarterbacks. Here’s the full list of the 11 Cardinals who are in the top 10 for Pro Bowl voting at their positions.

— QB Carson Palmer fifth

— RB Chris Johnson seventh

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth

— CB Patrick Peterson fourth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh and Deone Bucannon ninth

— FS Tyrann Mathieu second

— Kick returner David Johnson 10th

— Special teamer Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBlog


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Rams aftermath, with No. 2 on the mind

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2015 – 6:40 pm

Short weeks are just that. Short.

“I’m going to watch Minnesota (tape) on the way home,” Carson Palmer said, after the Cardinals’ win against the Rams. “We’ve got a three-hour flight, whatever it is (technically, two hours and 48 minutes). I’ll get a good jump on them tonight, but there is no celebration. We did what we expected to do. We’ve got to move on.”

Palmer is right. The Cardinals did what they were supposed to do in St. Louis: Beat up a struggling team that, simply put, has no offense to speak of. Their building was half-empty, a crowd dulled by losing and anger toward an owner who wants to move them to Los Angeles.

On the plane ride home, the Cardinals got to watch the Panthers pull out a win in New Orleans, and their possibility of running down the NFC’s No. 1 seed continued to fade. But now the Cardinals are in control of the No. 2 seed, holding a two-game edge on the Packers/Vikings. They can put the Vikings (who were hammered at home by the Seahawks Sunday) out of their misery Thursday night.

There is a lot left here. Games against the Eagles, who won in New England, and the Packers, in a game that could still mean something for the No. 2 seed, and the Seahawks (…. the Seahawks.) But the Cards control what happens to them. That’s all you can ask.

— It would’ve been nice if David Johnson could have gained 100 yards. He came up a yard short. But he was excellent Sunday. Catching the ball, blocking – his blitz pickups, while not perfect, were solid, and that was a big concern for the rookie – and running.

— Johnson was going to come out of the game to give the other backs work right around the time he fumbled, Bruce Arians said. He wasn’t benched for the fumble. In fact, Arians brushed off the fumbles of both Johnson and Kerwynn Williams, saying it was something that will happen with young players.

— Nevertheless, you would’ve liked for Johnson to get through his first start without a fumble.

— The defense made Todd Gurley their mission. One tiny slip, but otherwise, mission accomplished. And the Cardinals have allowed the last two teams (Niners, Rams) to convert just 1-of-21 third downs. Scary good.

— The Cardinals had four drives of at least 80 yards. Carson Palmer quietly had a very good game. It may be tough to displace Cam Newton and Tom Brady in the MVP race, but Palmer deserves to be in the discussion.

— It will be under the radar, but that was a Hall of Fame-type catch by Michael Floyd to gain 30 yards to convert the first third down during the 98-yard drive. I’m not saying Floyd is a Hall of Famer, but that was a manly play. That’s why the Cardinals took him 12th 13th overall in 2012.

— That last 68-yard bomb to Smokey Brown? I’m guessing his hamstring is pretty OK (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards keep him limited in practice, just in case.)

— Safety Rashad Johnson gets interception No. 5, leading the team, on great recognition on a deep route. Like Justin Bethel, Johnson was/is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Bethel got paid. Johnson is hoping he will too.

— Speaking of Bethel, he held up fine starting in place of Jerraud Powers, but there were a couple of times he lost track of the ball and that’s something I’m sure he’ll be working on.

— Three days of prep (and practice will likely be very little actual full-speed practice, if any). Then the Vikings — another game with meaning. The best part of December.

Marcus Roberson, Rodney McLeod, Kerwynn Williams


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11 Cards still top 10 in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2015 – 12:19 pm

The Cardinals continue to do well in Pro Bowl voting (which you can do yourself by clicking here or going to azcardinals.com/probowl. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has dropped out of the overall top 10, but quarterback Carson Palmer remains there, seventh overall and the fifth quarterback. Fitzgerald is now fourth among wide receivers, behind Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.

The top Cardinal at a position remains free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is still second among his position, 14,000 votes or so behind Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (the Panthers have a fanbase dedicated to the voting; they rank high at most positions.) The other Cardinals ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions:

— RB Chris Johnson is fifth.

— Mike Iupati fell to sixth among guards.

— DT Calais Campbell is fifth.

— CB Patrick Peterson is fourth.

— Rashad Johnson is sixth and Deone Bucannon is eighth among strong safeties.

— David Johnson is 10th among kick returners.

— Justin Bethel is fourth for special teamers.

Pro Bowl voting continues through Dec. 15.

ProBowlVotePP


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An early look at the free-agents-to-be

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2015 – 11:31 am

With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.

UNRESTRICTED-TO-BE

CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley

RESTRICTED-TO-BE
WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson

(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)

Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.

As for the unrestricted guys …

It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.

Freeagentgresham


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