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Abraham active for Niners; Ryan Williams sits

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2013 – 12:56 pm

The final inactive list of the season contains no surprises. Linebacker John Abraham is active despite groin issues, as is safety Rashad Johnson. Running back Ryan Williams completes a season where he was healthy and inactive for every game — the only Card to not dress at least once. What the Cardinals do with Williams this offseason is one of the more intriguing storylines, even if it might not mean a lot the way the team has been built/run.

The Cardinals full inactive list:

– QB Ryan Lindley

– RB Ryan Williams

– LB Dontay Moch

– S Curtis Taylor

– T Nate Potter (G Earl Watford active with Daryn Colledge starting but battling sore back)

– TE Kory Sperry

– DE Ronald Talley


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Safeties in numbers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2013 – 10:38 am

Tony Jefferson said he normally gets nervous before games. For some reason, he didn’t feel that way Sunday in Seattle. Forget about the part that he was making his first NFL start, or that it was coming in a hard place to play against arguably the best team in the NFL. And it’s not like defensive coordinator Todd Bowles took it easy on Jefferson, playing the undrafted rookie all 52 defensive snaps.

It’s not like the Cards had much of a choice, given the season-ending knee injury to starting safety Tyrann Mathieu and the bad ankle sprain of backup Rashad Johnson. But Jefferson had a solid game (one that could have been even more exciting had the rules not said a missed field goal is dead once the ball hits the upright, since Jefferson grabbed it on the fly and went to return it.) More importantly, it could have given the Cardinals a little breathing room going into the offseason at the position.

Johnson, who could be ready to play this week, will be back next year. But Bell is older and a free agent, and there will remain a big unknown of how long Mathieu will be out rehabbing his torn ACL/LCL. If Jefferson can work out long term, even as just depth, speaks again to the job GM Steve Keim has done building the roster. “I did (like what I saw),” Bowles said of Jefferson. “He’s a tough tackler. He has some things to learn mentally and needs to be a little more vocal, but as far as a straight football player, he was pretty good last week.”

Said Jefferson, “I was just ready to get out there and hit somebody.”

With Mathieu’s rehab, Keim’s approach to the offseason in terms of safety will be altered from what it would have been. But to have Jefferson hold up against the Seahawks gives the Cardinals more options than they might have had.

JeffSafetiyUSE


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Fitz not practicing, but his return still expected

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2013 – 1:18 pm

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t practicing today because of his concussion but coach Bruce Arians continues to say he expects Fitz to be able to play Sunday, and quarterback Carson Palmer said the same. Palmer, in fact, said he thinks Fitzgerald will be able to practice Thursday. Fitzgerald has historically had good games against the Seahawks and his battles with cornerback Richard Sherman are always fun to watch. Going without Fitz in such an important game isn’t what the Cardinals want to do.

– It doesn’t look as good for safety Rashad Johnson (ankle), and everyone is talking about Tony Jefferson as if Jefferson will be starting. Tight end Rob Housler (groin) is also sitting out.

– Quote of the day from Arians, when asked if he will show the team video of last year’s 58-0 loss in Seattle. “No. It’s not our offense or our defense. Who gives a s***?”


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Fitzgerald must pass concussion protocol UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on December 16, 2013 – 12:47 pm

No surprise that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, after suffering a concussion last night in Tennessee, will go through the concussion protocol this week to determine if he can play Sunday in Seattle. That decision won’t be finalized until later in the week. Fitz did pass the tests needed to at least leave the stadium and fly home with the team last night “but that’s still a long way to go from being cleared.” Never know what each day will bring in regard to head injuries.

UPDATE: On his weekly Westwood One radio segment before Monday Night Football, Fitzgerald talked about passing his initial concussion test today. “I feel better than I did yesterday,” Fitzgerald said. He talked about the concussion protocol, saying Monday he saw an independent neurologist who tested Fitzgerald to compare his score to the baseline score Fitzgerald took on the same test in the spring, to make sure Fitzgerald was at the same level.

“Those tests came back positive,” Fitzgerald said. “I was right where I needed to be. (Tuesday) I will see another independent neurologist to get another independent look and at that point it’ll be how I feel going through the week. But right now I’m feeling good and I’m going to get some rest today, some rest tomorrow and get back to work for a big game against Seattle.”

That’s not the only injury concern though. While coach Bruce Arians said quarterback Carson Palmer has a low-grade high ankle sprain and running back Andre Ellington has a thigh bruise and both should be fine, safety Rashad Johnson suffered a bad high-ankle sprain and that’s a major concern. High ankle sprains are usually bad news and mean missed time, and the Cards are already down Tyrann Mathieu. If Johnson is out, rookie Tony Jefferson would be the starting free safety and his backup would be the inexperienced Curtis Taylor.

Arians said Jefferson played well when he stepped in the lineup after Johnson got hurt. “I’m concerned we lost both our safeties the last two weeks and we are down to a rookie,” Arians said. “But it’s Week 15 or 16, whatever the heck it is. (Tony) is not really a rookie anymore. Curtis hasn’t played yet so if he’s out there, I’ll be a little worried because the dropoff from Tyrann and Rashad.”

– Arians said he didn’t think the pass defense’s problem was as much about bad secondary play as much as poor pass rush against the Titans.


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Titans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2013 – 10:13 pm

Somehow, it turned into 2009 again. It shouldn’t have, not with the Cardinals having built a 34-17 lead and holding that lead with less than four minutes to play, but I’ll say this, the Titans kept going and Ryan Fitzpatrick looked damn good.

So, like 2009, when the Titans drove 99 yards to score on the final play of the game and rip one away from the Cards, there the Titans were, heading for the same end zone, facing a chance to score a touchdown and rip a win away from the Cards. Sure, it would just be temporarily since overtime was coming (and there was a moment there where the Titans looked like they were contemplating going for two and ending it one way or the other), but it still hurt.

The Cardinals prevailed, though, leaving Tennessee with a win that keeps their playoff hopes alive. That life span is shrinking though. The other results the Cards really could have used across the league did not happen Sunday. So the monumental task of winning in Seattle is now saddled with the realization that the Cards are going to need a sequence of events to unfold to make the postseason regardless of what they do.

– Because I’ve found on Twitter some confusion, here’s the deal: The Niners have already clinched the tiebreak over the Cardinals because of a better record in the division, regardless of the outcome of the team’s Week 17 contest. The way the tiebreaks work, a three-way tie – say between the Cards, Niners and Panthers – first checks to see if there are two of the teams in the same division. Because the Niners and Cards are, that tie is broken first, and as we already know, the Niners win that tiebreak. Cardinals are out. Which is why any tie involving the Niners is playoff death.

– Just as an FYI, I’m not interested in debating whether that’s fair or not. That’s the tiebreak procedure. It is what it is.

CLARIFYING: The three-way tiebreak does get only the first spot determined. Which does eliminate Arizona. But head-to-head between Carolina and SF is Carolina because the Panthers won head-to-head. So Carolina would be the No. 5 seed, leaving SF tied with Arizona for the No. 6. We know how that turns out. So again, a three-way tie between those teams leaves the Cards out (and by the same breakdown, the same goes for a three-way tie between SF, AZ and NO.)

– Lost a bit in the end of that thriller were the injuries to Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington. Fitz got a concussion when he was hit trying to recover the final onside kick. Ellington left with a thigh bruise. Ellington was fantastic running (7.1 yards a carry) or receiving (21.8 yards per catch on four catches). The Cardinals need both of them healthy and ready in order to beat the Seahawks.

– Spare me the comments that Fitzgerald shouldn’t be out there for an onside kick. It’s called the “hands” team for a reason. You want the guys with the best hands grabbing the ball.

– Justin Bethel did not get a hand on the shanked 50-yard Rob Bironas field goal attempt. “Unfortunately I didn’t,” Bethel said. “If he would have kicked it (straight) I probably would have blocked it.”

– But it is easy to make the argument that without Bethel’s hard push from the right, Bironas would not have kicked the ball like he did.

“A miss is a miss,” Bethel said. “It’s as good as a block so I’ll take it.”

Antoine Cason with a hero game. Two important interceptions, and he recovered Jay Feely’s “mortar” pooch kickoff to start the second half. Great kick by Feely by the way, and great timing by special teams coordinator Amos Jones to call it there.

– Ryan Fitzpatrick with 402 yards passing? Yeesh.

– The Cardinals had no penalties in the first half. Then they got four on the Titans’ 16-play touchdown drive to begin the second half — two of which negated third-down stops – and the Cards were not happy. They cooled down a bit postgame (winning tends to do that) but didn’t forget.

“There were some weird things that happened,” QB Carson Palmer said. “Some weird things that weren’t called in this game. I don’t know what the penalty, as far as who had more penalties. I’m pretty sure we had more penalties than they did. It was just a weird game, kind of an eerie game like that.”

Said S Rashad Johnson (who was ticked off after his penalty for an illegal hit of a receiver near the goal line and screamed at the officials), “No matter what happened out there, what calls were made, we were going to go home with that win. It just shows the maturity of this ballclub and how much we’ve grown through the year.”

– Ellington led the Cardinals in rushing (71 yards) and receiving (89 yards). The last guy to do that? Running back Marcel Shipp in December of 2002, when he had 79 yards rushing and 79 receiving in St. Louis against the Rams.

– Palmer surpassed three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in career passing yards: Troy Aikman, Y.A. Tittle and Steve Young. Palmer now has 33,154 yards passing, 27th in NFL history.

– The Cardinals just keep winning.


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Rashad Johnson was a little excited after the win

Posted by since1898 on December 9, 2013 – 3:05 pm

JOHNSONGIF


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Alabama alum Rashad Johnson loses an Iron Bowl bet to Jerraud Powers

Posted by since1898 on December 4, 2013 – 10:06 am

BACK TO #since1898


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Mathieu rises to starter

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2013 – 12:35 pm

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.


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Friday before the bye

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2013 – 12:59 pm

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.


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The plan for Ellington, Mendenhall

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2013 – 1:21 pm

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.


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