In the grand scheme, it doesn’t mean a ton, because playing time is what it is — Bruce Arians said again Monday “We have so many starters, it’s not just the 11 that come out of the huddle,” meaning that a key part of a sub-package is still a starter in his eyes — but rookie Tyrann Mathieu was officially moved up the depth chart at free safety this week to starter. It’s not like it came out of nowhere, since Mathieu started and then played almost every snap against Atlanta over veteran Rashad Johnson and both Mathieu and Johnson already acknowledged the shift. This is less about Johnson, whom Arians continues to praise not only for his play but his leadership, and more about the burgeoning stardom of Mathieu.
Mathieu has been impressive to say the least. He was named the NFL defensive rookie of the month for October. He has been a playmaker. He is (in my opinion, at least, and in many others) the best tackler this team has, which was one of those areas of concern given his size. Johnson is still going to get plenty of playing time, with Mathieu probably moving around and inside in sub-packages (which the Cards are in more than base defense most games anyway) and Johnson playing safety.
“From an ability standpoint we knew what we were getting,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “It was up to Tyrann to make a commitment to his personal life and to come to work every day, compete, grow and get better. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young man with that so far. Again, that’s a day-to-day thing. We count on him to come in and get better, and once he can achieve that … the first day he is here, he is able to move on to the second day, and that’s all we can ask for in the future.”
No, he’s not on the Pro Bowl ballot — time for a write-in campaign? — but Mathieu is playing like a first-round pick. Which he probably would have been without his off-field baggage. And now, he’s the starter. Probably for good.
Tags: Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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This isn’t going to be lengthy, not with the bye weekend here and time off embraced. But here at the halfway point, I was trying to consider team MVP candidates from either side of the ball. Defensively, there are choices. Linebacker Daryl Washington may have only played four games, but he’s quickly shown why he is so important and he’s in the mix. Defensive end Calais Campbell has been outstanding, and I think given the matchups he is faced with each week, cornerback Patrick Peterson has been pretty good too. Veterans Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett have been solid as well.
Offensively, though, um, I’m not sure there is one. I guess you’d go with Andre Ellington at this point, even though he hasn’t gotten the ball a ton. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t made enough of an impact in that regard, it doesn’t seem. Neither has Michael Floyd. I will say, I am very, very interested to see if this offense can make some steps forward in the second half of the season (especially with the schedule upcoming) or if they just are who they are.
– Congrats to Ellington, by the way, for winning the NFL’s Fed Ex Ground player of the week award, voted on by the fans.
– Tyrann Mathieu has been outstanding, and we don’t need national awards to prove it. Yes, I think the safety has a chance to win defensive rookie of the year. He already is making the move to displace Rashad Johnson as a starter. I’ll be curious to know if that stays the same against Houston. Another thing the first half has shown me: Mathieu is a great tackler. Not good, great. He’s the best tackler on the team (and no, Tyrann, I’m not just talking pound-for-pound). That’s been the most impressive part of his game for me.
– Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin can quip with the best of them, and the de facto offensive line coach was talking about that unit when he mentioned left tackle Bradley Sowell. “He didn’t give up a sack, thank God.” There was a little sarcasm there for all the Sowell questions he gets, and some truth too. But Profootballfocus.com not only graded Sowell with having his best game against Atlanta last week in not giving up a sack, PFF said Sowell didn’t even allow a QB pressure.
– Both Fitzgerald and Floyd rank high on PFF’s drop-rate list, so that’s good. They just have to see more catchable passes.
– Amazing. A future opponent loses another good player, with the news today Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is suspended indefinitely for violating the substance-abuse policy. Blackmon had already been suspended the first four games of the season. What a waste.
– OK, that’s enough. Back to the regular season next week. And in the meantime, here’s a very cool slow-motion capture of that rumblin’, stumblin’ run of Stepfan Taylor against the Falcons. The play gained 15 yards, and he earned every one of them.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bradley Sowell, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Harold Goodwin, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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At 4-4 at the bye, Bruce Arians would have liked another win or two at this point, but .500 will work for now. The main news from Monday’s day-after-a-win-and-before-a-limited-week of practice was still Andre Ellington and the way Arians will juggle those running backs when Rashard Mendenhall comes back healthy from his toe injury. (That’s assumed to be the next game, but who really knows at this point.)
Arians didn’t say anything Monday that would set in concrete Ellington would stay the starter at running back. He didn’t say anything that would set in concrete Mendenhall would stay the starter either. He reiterated that Ellington would get the touches they had planned for him to get (he had 17 Sunday on 33 snaps, and that’s about what the Cardinals would like to do each week) and that if Mendenhall plays, he would take the work back from rookie Stepfan Taylor, who had 14 carries Sunday.
“We’ll see how that plays out when (Rashard) comes back,” Arians said, later adding, “I’ll evaluate it when he comes back but I’m sure he will resume his role, as long as he’s full-speed.”
What did the performances of Ellington and Taylor say to Arians Sunday? “It basically reiterated what I said, we have a good group of running backs,” Arians said. “Ryan (Williams) can play too. I knew we did. I don’t think you can have enough of them, because in a wink, they can all be gone.”
Arians did say Ellington needs to improve his pass blocking “to stay out there” and improve his patience as a runner.
– Ellington’s 7.74 yards per rush is tops in the NFL for anyone with at least 40 carries.
– Arians said Bobby Massie did well in his turns at right tackle (21 snaps, and graded positively according to profootballfocus.com). The Cards will continue to try and get him snaps, but because he plays just one position, his active status could change depending on injuries.
– The Cardinals were healthy coming out of the game, which sets them up well for the bye and recovery time, Arians said.
– Tyrann Mathieu started at safety with Rashad Johnson coming off the bench, grabbing two interceptions. Arians said that could continue but he wouldn’t commit to it.
– Arians said he doesn’t mind QB Carson Palmer having just 18 pass attempts when the team is running the way it was. But the Cards did just have 54 offensive snaps, and he wanted the third-down conversion rate to be better than 3-for-10 — and more plays would have likely meant a few more passes.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Rashad Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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Some newsy quick hitters after Bruce Arians addressed the media today, the day after Daryl Washington’s return-to-action party:
– Arians sees Andre Ellington’s role at 30 to 35 plays a game. But that might top it out. Arians said he doesn’t see Ellington’s body type to hold up with a much heavier workload, and he emphasized Ellington will continue to get work as both running back and receiver.
– Stepfan Taylor is doing a “great job” on special teams. Ryan Williams, as we have said ourselves many times, doesn’t play special teams, Arians said. So Williams isn’t going to be active. I think that changes if there is an injury, but in the meantime, Williams will stay inactive, it looks like.
– The only injury from Sunday was a hamstring problem for linebacker Kenny Demens, which will likely sideline him this week, Arians said. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) and safety Rashad Johnson (finger) should return this week, the coach added. Arians said he didn’t want Johnson playing with a big “mitt” of a cast, but Johnson should be down to a small splint this week.
– He said Andre Roberts was playing inside early in the season when he was effective, and when tight end Rob Housler came back, Roberts went outside and became less effective. It’s something the coaches will look at.
– As far as Housler, he’s a “work in progress” Arians said. “He’s not on the same page as Carson (Palmer),” Arians added.
– Arians said there would be no change in the schedule to prepare for next week’s short week, which features a trip to San Francisco for Sunday and then a home game against Seattle a week from Thursday. The Cards won’t worry about Seattle until after San Francisco, Arians said.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Demens, Rashad Johnson, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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Injuries will keep safety Rashad Johnson (finger) and linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) sidelined today, as both were included on the Cardinals’ inactive list. One non-change, even with the trade of Levi Brown — Bruce Arians will still have eight offensive linemen active. Earl Watford — who has been running second unit left guard — will be up and available for the first time today.
Along with Johnson and Brinkley, the rest of the inactive list has familiar names:
– QB Ryan Lindley
– RB Ryan Williams
– WR Kerry Taylor
– T Bobby Massie
– TE D.C. Jefferson
Tags: Earl Watford, inactives, Jasper Brinkley, Panthers, Rashad Johnson
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Safety Rashad Johnson was not cleared by doctors to play with his severed fingertip so he will not be active today against the Bucs. As expected, Tyrann Mathieu will start in his place.
No Johnson is a blow especially to a special teams unit that was already missing Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho. Special teams was a spot where the Cardinals had been consistent. We will have to see how the unit can respond. You figure rookie Tony Jefferson will also take a bigger role all the way around. The fact the Buccaneers probably will run the ball more with a rookie quarterback lends itself to the play of vet safety Yeremiah Bell, too (although the Cards must tackle better than they have.)
The rest of the inactive list comes as no surprise. Nose tackle Dan Williams (father’s death) and linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) were already out. The others sitting:
– QB Ryan Lindley
– RB Ryan Williams
– T Bobby Massie
– G Earl Watford
For the Buccaneers, QB Josh Freeman, benched this week, is inactive. Wide receivers Mike Williams (ankle) and Vincent Jackson (ribs) are active.
Tags: Buccaneers, inactives, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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The Cardinals have played the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay just once in the past 16 years, a forgettable 2007 17-10 loss in which, among other things, the Cards began to start leaving for East Coast trips on Fridays (after looking sluggish following a Saturday arrival in Tampa) and Larry Fitzgerald inexplicably stepped out of bounds on a long catch-and-run that seemed like it should have gone for a touchdown.
That, of course, doesn’t even include the last time the Cards played in Raymond James Stadium, which didn’t include the Buccaneers but did include Bruce Arians on the other sideline.
“I don’t have any good memories from this stadium at all,” Fitzgerald said.
The Cardinals desperately need to change that up this time around. It couldn’t be lined up any better. The team stayed in Florida for the week, to prep for the early start/humidity/weather. The Buccaneers decided to start a rookie quarterback – a third-round pick, no less – and will probably inactivate the only QB on the roster who has ever had any success in the NFL (and who played well against the Cards in 2010 in Arizona.) Fitzgerald is back healthy. The Bucs are 0-3 in the first place.
There seems like a giant chasm between a 2-2 record and a 1-3 record.
– Fitzgerald was talking – again, like he has the past couple of years – about what the problems were of the offense. Fitz obliged the best he could, and then was asked if he ever tired of saying the same things. Fitz smiled.
“I can give you clichés all day,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got them in my back pocket. I’m not going to give you any bulletin board material. I’m going to keep it classy.”
– Some of the issues aren’t new. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin reiterated the need to protect Carson Palmer better, and if that happens, the offense flow from there. Once again, Goodwin was asked about extra blocking help on the edge, especially for left tackle Levi Brown.
“There’s only so many things you can do in a game based on what we do,” Goodwin said. “We are going to go empty. We are going to do play-action pass. Obviously he’s got to get the job done. Otherwise I’ll be in there.”
– The reality is that most teams have protection issues these days. Look around the league. That doesn’t excuse problems Brown or anyone else have, but few teams are satisfied. It can change week to week too. As for sacks, the goal is “get the number down,” Goodwin said. “You are going to give up sacks, it’s the nature of the beast. We just have to do a better job getting in front of those guys, try and slow them down.”
– If the equation is a) the Bucs’ top two receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson are questionable with injuries and b) the Bucs are starting rookie Mike Glennon at quarterback and c) the Bucs have a solid run game with Doug Martin in the backfield, well, that all should equal some obvious offensive tendencies. That run defense we saw through the first two-and-three-quarter games – before the Saints game went sideways – is what the Cards need in Tampa.
– Looking back at that 2007 game, the seven-point loss – the Bucs had the ball for more than 43 minutes. How is that even possible in a 17-10 game? I’m sure the Bucs want to possess the ball again like that. The best thing the Cards could do is have another opening drive like the one in New Orleans. With Glennon and not Drew Brees, the affect would be much greater.
– Martin, whose nickname in college was the “Muscle Hamster” – a nickname Martin clearly hated – played at Boise State. His tackle was current Cardinal Nate Potter, and at one point, there was a story going around that Potter gave him the nickname. Martin said that wasn’t the case.
“He actually didn’t call me the nickname, and that’s why I like him,” Martin said.
– How the Cards deal with the loss of their starting linebackers is going to be a major storyline. It isn’t as if Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho were dominant, but they were starters for a reason. And they clearly will be missed on special teams, which has been the one spot that’s been pretty consistent up until this point. What you have to wonder about is the coverage skills of the outside guys on the roster. Shaughnessy, Abraham and Moch are all pass rushers first.
– It’s been a crazy week with the finger issue of Rashad Johnson, all the way to the very real possibility he will play Sunday. That just is unreal to me.
– The team will bus from Sarasota to Tampa tomorrow afternoon. Two-game road trips in the NFL – true road trips, not road games on back-to-back weekends – are rare. We’ll see if the Cards can come up with a split.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Dontay Moch, Doug Martin, Harold Goodwin, John Abraham, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashad Johnson
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The Cardinals finished their final full practice of the week today. After that rocky start to the week, with a practice that could have been poor Wednesday because of the rain and the near-flooded field (pictures here) but went, by all accounts, pretty well. The sun came out Thursday (with the IMG fields remarkably dry 24 hours later) and the Cards got in all their necessary work for Sunday’s game against the Bucs.
“The adversity kind of helped make it more focused,” coach Bruce Arians said. “It was something we needed this week.”
We’ll have a “Friday Before” post in a bit, but here are a couple of quick notes:
– S Rashad Johnson was limited in practice today and will be questionable for the game. Arians sure made it sound like he would play, although Johnson said he and the team will still check it out Saturday. He tried to work a cast that would give a couple fingers freedom, but it was determined it wasn’t going to work, so if he does play, he will do so with a big ball cast on his left hand. Arians said he’d be a backup and play special teams.
– Are the Cards ready for the humidity? Sure, Arians said, deadpanning, “I think we had seven IVs yesterday. It was about what we needed.”
– Arians said Wednesday the linebackers would be Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham and the young guys would fill in behind them. But Arians was a little less detailed Friday talking about who would start at outside linebacker, with heat and weather conditions playing factors as well.
“Depend on the packages,” Arians said. “Todd has a number of different packages. There could be any number of mix and match scenarios.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, linebackers, Rashad Johnson
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Bruce Arians was asked yesterday if there was any update on the status of safety Rashad Johnson.
“No,” before a smile crept across his face, “but if you want to be on TV, hang around him.”
Certainly, Johnson’s presence has been ubiquitous (there’s my 10-cent word for the day) ever since he lost his fingertip Sunday in New Orleans. The season-ending injuries to three linebackers will hurt the Cardinals more in the long run, but Johnson’s injury is the one that has captured the imagination across the sports world. ESPN is coming to Florida today to talk to him, he’s been on The Dan Patrick Show and is going on Jim Rome and the topic hasn’t faded on that ESPN or NFL Network even has the days have gone by.
(And yes, we on the social media side have fanned the flames, particularly with the now infamous foam finger. That was originally meant just to have a chuckle among ourselves, but we decided it was pretty good and thought, let’s share it. Before anyone gets too upset, I ran it past Rashad ahead of time. He said he was cool with it, so we let the world in.)
Still, what Johnson wants is to get back on the field. He sat out practice yesterday but he had the finger checked out again last night and hopped on a stationary bike to see how it felt when he got the blood pumping. He said he felt good, which was a good sign. Arians said all along Jonson was day-to-day, and Johnson already said he’d prep as if he was going to play. It’s been suggested to me the other stuff about #thefinger — the hashtag did trend at one point — could be a distraction, but I don’t see that being the case for Johnson. If you’re going to lose a piece of flesh, I figure you deserve your 15 minutes if you want it. And when he is cleared to play again, I’m sure he will be ready.
Tags: Rashad Johnson
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— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 24, 2013
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, NFL, Rashad Johnson, Twitter
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