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Missing Jaron: Offensive issues in a nutshell

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2014 – 10:42 am

On the season, Jaron Brown has one reception for six yards, and given the weapons ahead of him — Fitzgerald, Floyd, Ellington, Smokey Brown, even John Carlson — that’s not a surprise. But Jaron is, through no fault of his own, the tangible proof for coach Bruce Arians that the Cardinals’ offense isn’t playing well enough.

Talking about his frustration and inability for the Cards to score more touchdowns — it’s nice Chandler Catanzaro is 14-for-14 on field goals, but still — Arians said the first thing he thinks of is two targets of Jaron Brown.

“That’s 100 yards and two touchdowns in just two plays we’re leaving on the field,” Arians said. “We’ve got to start hitting those plays, and it’s not just him.”

It wasn’t quite 100 yards Brown would have had, but it was certainly two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter against the 49ers, Brown was wide open behind the defender on a 45-yard bomb, and quarterback Drew Stanton simply led Brown too far (as you can see below). Against Washington last weekend, Carson Palmer again had Brown open deep on what would have been a 35-yard score in the fourth quarter. The pass was pretty much on target — although a little longer throw might have done the trick — as defensive back E.J. Biggers barely knocked it away. In both cases, touchdowns would have crushed the opponent. In both cases, the games remained close. Certainly, Brown wouldn’t mind an extra 2-80-2 on the stat line.

“We haven’t even begun to scratch how good we can be,” Arians said. “Again, Carson being off a month, the timing … there are a lot of excuses you can make. None are accepted.”

BadOffense


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Keim: Working on Peterson’s focus, intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2014 – 8:13 am

In his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports, General Manager Steve Keim noted that while he still has “100 percent faith” in the physical tools of cornerback Patrick Peterson, he still sees Peterson losing focus and/or intensity at times during a game. “I promise you, that’s something (defensive coordinator) Todd Bowles and defensive backs coach Kevin Ross will clean up.”

Peterson got beat by DeSean Jackson for a 64-yard slant-and-run touchdown Sunday, although it looked like Peterson should’ve had safety help from Tyrann Mathieu to at least make it a much shorter gain. It looked like Peterson was on Pierre Garcon on the Redskins’ final TD pass to Garcon late in the game too. It’s impossible to be perfect as a cornerback in today’s NFL — every guy is going to give up scores — but Keim reiterated he thinks Peterson has just scratched the surface of his talent and can be much better.

“I know Pat is a competitor, I know he’s a pro and I know he’ll work at it,” Keim said. “I also have a tremendous amount of faith and respect for our coaching staff. … No one in the league has (Peterson’s) physical tools. Now it is up to Pat from a mental standpoint, and a focus and an intensity standpoint, to become the best. And that’s on him. I think he’s the kind of competitor, at 24 years of age, that he’s going to grow and continue to get better. But there are times when he has plays you’d like to have back.”

Keim also said Peterson isn’t 100 percent healthy either, dealing with a sore ankle. Plus, as Keim acknowledged, the lack of a great edge pass rush by the Cardinals also can leave the secondary out to dry at times. That too does not help Peterson, who is often going against the most talented receiver on the other team.

“If you play 70 snaps and 65 of them are excellent and five you get exposed, you can’t hide,” Keim said. “But we have high expectations out of of Pat and so do the fans. We expect him to play at a high level and I think he’ll get things cleaned up in the next few weeks.”

– Keim was happy with the win, although he said after watching the video, the Cardinals “didn’t play particularly well.”

– He, like most, were thrilled with the play of Carson Palmer considering the circumstances. Keim said he could tell Palmer didn’t have 100 percent velocity, but had a great pocket presence in his first game back.

– Keim was concerned with run defense coming into the game (he wasn’t the only one) but but felt the Cards “stepped up to the challenge.” The Redskins only had 72 rushing yards.

– He praised a few young players, linebacker Alex Okafor in particular, but also defensive lineman Ed Stinson and safety Deone Bucannon.

 PPforblog


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QB normalcy in Redskins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2014 – 8:07 pm

Late in the game Sunday, with the Cardinals trying to run the clock nursing a three-point lead, Carson Palmer thought it would be a good idea to call his own number on a bootleg. And he convinced Bruce Arians of that.

“I let them talk me into keeping that damn ball on third down, and I never should have done that one,” Arians said.

So, Palmer was asked, let’s get this straight: You hurt your shoulder, way back in the season opener, running the ball – and then Sunday, in your first game back, you talked Arians into letting you run the ball?

“That’s one way to put it,” Palmer said, to laughs. “I won’t say that. But you did.”

“I was talking (Bruce) into a lot of stuff,” Palmer said. “I was just excited to be out there.”

– It was easy to joke around after a win. After the debacle that was the Denver trip – a defensive breakdown and injuries galore – Sunday was the ultimate cheerup. Palmer was back as starting QB. The defense, while it had a couple breakdowns, held up decently. And then there was the cheer that reverberated around University of Phoenix Stadium late when the Cowboys’ win in Seattle was announced.

(Suddenly that trip to Dallas looks very, very difficult. But that’s a topic for another day.)

– The Cardinals’ play was far from perfect, with 14 penalties (yikes), an offense that couldn’t put the ball in the end zone even though the Redskins seemed to almost want them to be there, and a defense that had a couple of breakdowns. But these two weeks were about beating teams they should beat, and that’s one down. One trip to Oakland to go.

– Palmer said he “isn’t out of the woods” yet. The Cards will continue to approach this nerve deal cautiously. But he was no worse for wear after Sunday’s game. Call it a positive step.

– The play of the day for Palmer wasn’t the TD pass to Michael Floyd or the laser he completed to Smokey Brown for a first down, but the flip he somehow made to running back Robert Hughes on third-and-2 for seven yards. It kept alive a field-goal drive early in the fourth quarter, and it should have been a sack. Multiple Redskins were hanging all over Palmer, and frankly, I’m shocked they didn’t call it in the grasp.

“I should have gotten the ball out quicker,” Palmer said. “That’s kind of one of those things I’m talking about. I need to practice.”

Instead, he ended up with a I’m-a-warrior-type highlight.

– Great sign to see Alex Okafor with two sacks. If he can end up being a guy who can consistently pressure the passer, it would be a Godsend to this team.

– Tyrann Mathieu admitted he is “not really comfortable” with the knee brace he has to wear. “But I have to be comfortable with it, so I play these mind games with myself and tell myself I’m comfortable with it,” Mathieu said.

– Mathieu picked up the Andre Roberts fumble and starting running around in an old-school Honey Badger kind of way (which included holding the ball awfully loosely around the field …) but eventually decided discretion was the better part of valor. Why wouldn’t he, when he acknowledged he had some flashbacks to the punt return against the Rams – in which he was running around trying to make something happen – before he was caught and his knee was turned into spaghetti.

“No question,” Mathieu said. “Made two people miss and then I said time to get down. Very reminiscent of last year. Very.”

– Patrick Peterson got beat on DeSean Jackson’s 64-yard slant-and-run touchdown. Mathieu looked like he could have been over the top. Mathieu said the Cards “kind of messed up our coverage a little bit.” Plus, Mathieu said he took a “horrible angle” toward Jackson, costing him a chance at the tackle.

– Always nice to see Fitz get to the end zone. I’m guessing Fitz was the most happy about it.

– How many games can this team go without throwing an interception? No turnovers. Again.

– Speaking of turnovers, I was thinking to myself late in the third quarter the defense really needed to force one. Then came the questionable Roberts fumble – I could have sworn he was down, referee Ed Hochuli said after the game there was not conclusive evidence to overturn the fumble call – and then three straight picks. All in the last 13 minutes. All due respect to Rashad Johnson, but Jerraud Powers’ pick was the thing of beauty. He hid as the Redskins tried a wide receiver screen and popped out of nowhere to steal the pass.

– That’s enough for tonight. I can’t say the quarterback won’t be a story this week – Palmer gets to face his former team – but we are done with the QB-or-not-QB drama. Thankfully.

AfterRedskinsBLOG


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QB-less, it’s Friday before the Redskins

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 4:21 pm

One year with Carson Palmer taking every snap, and it’s easy to forget what it can be like with quarterback uncertainty. Then a week like this happens and the memories all come crashing back. No one is saying this is like 2012 all over again, when Ken Whisenhunt, scrambling for a quarterback, kept mixing and matching. In fact, even that team never really had a situation like Bruce Arians is facing now, when injuries have precluded him from naming a starter here on Friday.

Realistically, both Carson Palmer and his funky shoulder and Drew Stanton, coming off a concussion, have injuries that could “go away” and then rear up again on Sunday morning. As of Friday afternoon, both guys are taking tests to see where they are in their recovery. It’s looked good up until this point, but it makes sense caution is the buzzword in this instance.

I will not be surprised if any of the three is behind center for the Cardinals’ first snap Sunday. There is still an eternity until 1:25 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE: Multiple reports Friday night said Stanton passed his concussion test. That does not necessarily mean Stanton would start.

– If Logan Thomas does have to play? Larry Fitzgerald has one word: “Patience.”

“Got to be patient,” Fitz said. “Just try to make plays for them. Nothing more soothing for a young person than when you make a play and kind of be a security blanket.”

– Speaking of Fitz, he said he’s not thinking of his slow start. Of course he’s going to say that out loud. Of course I think he’s thinking about it. He’s a guy who wants to get to the Hall of Fame. A season playing out like this is not helping that cause.

– With everything going on around the quarterbacks and the injuries and the like, there’s been no room to mention the return of wide receiver Andre Roberts to University of Phoenix Stadium. Roberts signed with the Redskins as a free agent after four seasons in Arizona. “If something happens to Pierre (Garcon) or DeSean (Jackson), we feel just as good as him outside as our first or second guy,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Really like him. Good kid, too.”

Roberts thought he was going to Washington to be the No. 2 behind Garcon. Then Jackson was acquired, and Roberts was stuck as the No. 3 guy again, exactly the situation he was trying to escape in Arizona.

– Last week’s offensive stats, thanks to needing to play the raw Thomas, were probably an outlier. But the Cardinals went just 3-for-16 on third downs last week. It was awful. That cannot happen. This defense needs time to rest on the sideline.

– Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin wasn’t thrilled with the run game last week. It’ll be more important if Thomas has to start, but even if Palmer or Stanton plays, the Cards need more on the ground.

“I don’t care who is playing quarterback,” Goodwin said. “We didn’t do a very good job last week. You’d get a positive run and then all of sudden you’d get minus-two on the next play.

“It’s going to take some of the pressure off (Logan) if he plays. Have to get positive yards on first and second downs. We had 12 runs of two (yards) or less. Not close to being good enough.”

– The Cardinals haven’t run enough, Arians said. Asked about getting more carries for Stepfan Taylor or even working Marion Grice, Arians said the Cards need to be more effective on the ground in the first place and then see where Andre Ellington is physically. Because at this point, Ellington is the man, Arians said. Ellington had 16 of the Cardinals’ 19 rushing attempts in Denver.

“(Andre) felt very, very fresh out there,” Arians said. “And if he’s fresh, he’s staying in.”

– Stanton and Redskins starting QB Kirk Cousins have a good relationship. Cousins was an incoming freshman at Michigan State at the same time Stanton was just leaving as QB. “Went out to dinner with him a couple of times when he was in school, talked with him on the phone and via text,” Stanton said. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who tries to tell him how to do everything.”

Said Cousins, “I’ve always looked up to him as a guy who had a lot of success at Michigan State and then as a high draft pick as somebody I could follow in the footsteps of,” Cousins said.

– The Redskins have beaten the Cardinals eight times in a row. The last Cardinals’ win? The game that might’ve clinched University of Phoenix Stadium.

– Hard to believe that before the Cardinals interviewed Arians for the head coaching job, they interviewed Gruden. Two things I remember from that day, when Gruden met with the media. If you closed your eyes, there were definitely times he sound like his brother Jon, and he didn’t exactly come across like he was super excited about the job. Now he’s got the Washington job and he’ll be on the opposite sideline.

Now, who he’ll be trying to defend as the Cardinals’ quarterback … well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

ThomasFriBeforeUSE


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Cards’ run defense must hold up

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 10:26 am

Before Calais Campbell got hurt a couple of plays into the second half of last weekend’s game in Denver, the Broncos had exactly four rushing yards. On seven attempts. With Campbell out of the game, the Broncos got 88 yards rushing on 21 tries.

There were, of course, other factors. The defense eventually got tired in the fourth quarter because the Cardinals could not generate any offense and stay on the field. But make no mistake, Campbell is an important part of the run defense. So too is Matt Shaughnessy, who was playing hurt in Denver and now is out a couple months with a knee injury. How the Cardinals deal with the loss of Campbell and Shaughnessy and hold up against the run, in my opinion, is the linchpin of keeping this season together as the Cardinals deal with all their injury-related setbacks.

If the Cardinals can continue to play like a top-five run defense — and they are fifth right now — they will stay in games. Certainly, the next stretch of the schedule will test that. The Redskins have Alfred Morris. The Eagles have Shady McCoy. And the Cowboys have the leading rusher in the NFL in DeMarco Murray. Getting Campbell back sooner rather than later will help, but there no way to know right now exactly when that will be. At this point, the Cards can’t afford to wait for reinforcements anyway. They must perform with who they have.

RunDefenseBLOG


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Back on 9/11

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2014 – 10:17 am

It’s hard to believe, but before the Houston Texans came along and there were 31 NFL teams, there was a bye every week — including opening weekend. In 2001, that team that had to sit out the NFL’s first week of play was the Arizona Cardinals. So that “bye” week — if you can call it that, since the Cardinals last played a meaningless fourth preseason game and were mostly just waiting — came and went slowly, and the players were ready to get going with a road game against NFC East rival Washington coming up Sunday.

Back in those days, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis met with the media daily, including the players’ off day of Tuesday, so I — working for the East Valley Tribune — was still going to be headed over to the Cards’ facility. But I was woke up a little early by my wife, who had flipped on the TV in our bedroom a little after 6 a.m. and said, “I think you want to see this.”

And on the screen, the World Trade Center, both towers, were already billowing smoke.

I ended up going over to the Cardinals’ complex earlier than I normally would’ve, because you just wanted to be around people at that point. By then, the Pentagon had been hit and you start thinking that the hotel you are going to be staying at in just a couple of days is only a couple train stops down from the Pentagon and what the hell is happening in the world? I sat staring at the TV screen in the media relations office, and at one point, Pat Tillman sat down beside me just shaking his head, and I couldn’t help but try and get a comment about the Cardinals-Redskins game that was to be played.

“The importance of football ranks zero,” Tillman said, and of course he was right. That day, so much was left unknown, but it was quickly determined that the games that weekend would be postponed and frankly, with a 2-year-old at home, flying toward all that chaos wasn’t something I really wanted to do — not that it mattered, after all air travel was grounded for the time being.

The Cardinals didn’t play a regular-season game until Denver visited the following weekend. I remember going to New York to play the Giants in December for a Saturday game, and heading out on Friday night with cohorts Kent Somers, Scott Bordow and Pedro Gomez. By the time dinner was over, it was 11:30, and we drove over to Ground Zero. For December, the weather was surprisingly mild, and I remember coming around the corner and being much closer than you’d expect to the crash site. Workers even at that hour continued to plug away at the wreckage, pieces of the bottom of the building still pointing haphazardly in the air around so much debris, the floodlights giving the whole area an eerie glow. Just outside the gates were the leftovers of all the makeshift staging areas from the disaster, hundreds of “Have you seen me?” posters still hanging from those who had hoped against hoped they hadn’t lost someone in the towers.

A few weeks later the Cardinals played their makeup game in Washington, and I ended up at the same hotel and I took the train to the Pentagon stop, seeing the damage and thinking how — the previous year — it had been so easy to walk near the Pentagon to see it up close and how that was never happening again.

Now, the Cardinals find themselves going to New York this week again, a couple of days after the anniversary. In 2005, the Cards played in New York on 9/11, which was memorable. I haven’t had a trip to New York — including one with my family — without visiting the area, and this time will be no different. Today, there are always a flood of memories that come rushing back from a day, and a time, that will always resonate.

TillmanSept11blog


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Cardinals among top 50 valued sports teams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2014 – 9:54 am

Forbes came out with another list ranking the (estimated) value of sports teams, in this case, the world’s 50 most valuable franchises. The Cardinals make the list at No. 40, with an estimated worth of $961 million. Only the Raiders and Jaguars don’t make the top 50 list among NFL teams, meaning that even though it is top-heavy with soccer clubs (the top three are soccer, a major nod to the global fan base the sport produces) the list still provides context of how powerful the NFL — which dominates the United States — remains.

The top team is the soccer club Real Madrid, valued at $3.44 billion. The top non-soccer franchise is the New York Yankees, worth $2.5 billion, at No. 4. The top NFL team is at No. 5, with the Dallas Cowboys coming in at $2.3 billion. The Patriots, Redskins and Giants are also in the top 10.

Among NFC West teams, the San Francisco 49ers ($1.224 billion) are 20th, the Seattle Seahawks ($1.081 billion) are 28th, and the St. Louis Rams ($875 million and hoping for a new stadium, which would boost their value) are 45th.

Forbesuse


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Soon, Veldheer should be left tackle

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2014 – 3:30 pm

No, nothing is official. Free agent left tackle Jared Veldheer is not officially signed, instead headed here for an visit that will allow the Cardinals medical staff to check him out and for General Manager Steve Keim, team president Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians — among others — to talk to the guy face to face. But multiple reports not only have Veldheer agreeing to a contract with the Cardinals but also details of a five-year deal. The main numbers are $17 million guaranteed and a $6.5 million bonus, and if true (and assuming Veldheer is the solid left tackle everyone expects) Keim once again weaved his magic for a reasonable deal that would be cheaper than the other top tackles on the market. All for a 6-foot-8, 320-pound behemoth who turns 27 in June.

Here is a contract breakdown (already) of Veldheer’s deal, courtesy of overthecap.com.

I don’t think there is any question quarterback Carson Palmer — who played with and was protected by Veldheer in Oakland — endorsed his former teammate. Bruce Arians has said the Cards get input on players from players once in a while. And there is no question Veldheer was an intriguing possibility because of his age and price tag. If all goes right in the visit (and there is no reason it shouldn’t) Veldheer should be holding a press conference sometime Wednesday. Certainly Veldheer is confident. Not only did he tweet a goodbye to Raider fans, but he also changed his Twitter description and avatar:

VeldheerTwitterUSE

– In case you missed it, wide receiver Andre Roberts is headed to Washington on a four-year deal that reportedly has $8 million guaranteed. The wide receiver market hasn’t exactly opened with a bang like the tackle or defensive back positions have, so Roberts looks like he came out way ahead. Good for him. He’ll get a better opportunity to catch passes in Washington than he would have here behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.


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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:

HOME

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

AWAY

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


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Horton’s Norv Turner connection

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2013 – 2:41 pm

First, a disclaimer: I have zero idea whom Ray Horton — if he were hired as Cardinals’ head coach — would hire as his offensive assistants, including coordinator. Horton said he knows who he would have on his staff, but alas, he isn’t sharing those names. This next anecdote, then, might just be an interesting story and nothing more.

But, for those asking, Horton not only has a strong connection with former Chargers head coach-and-pretty-good-offensive-coordinator Norv Turner, but a memorable moment too. Horton was finishing his playing days as a defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and 1992, which were the first two of Turner’s three seasons as OC for the juggernaut Cowboys back in the day.

Horton explained their relationship, which I chronicled back in a story when Horton arrived in Arizona in 2011:

The greatest compliment Horton said he ever received came from Norv Turner, who was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys during Horton’s playing days in Dallas. As Horton’s NFL career came to a close, Turner – who figured to get a head coaching opportunity soon – asked Horton to be on his staff, whenever that might be.

Horton was perplexed. He talked to a lot of coaches in Dallas, but they were defensive coaches, given Horton’s position. He hadn’t interacted with Turner nearly enough to produce an invitation to work for him. Turner told him he wanted Horton because all the Dallas defensive coaches spoke so highly of him – and that willingness from Turner sticks with Horton to this day.

When Turner ended up as the Washington Redskins head coach in 1994, he indeed brought Horton aboard. Horton was on Turner’s staff for three seasons as a assistant defensive backs coach and defensive assistant before he was plucked to be defensive backs coach in Cincinnati. So yes, there is definitely a connection with Horton and Turner. Does that mean Horton would reach out to Turner to be OC? Again, no way to know. But it wouldn’t be a shock given their history.

– More updates on the general manager front. I’d expect in-house candidate Steve Keim to be interviewed this week. Keim is also reportedly going to interview for the GM jobs in both San Diego and Jacksonville. Tim Graham also reported that the Cardinals will interview Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown — he’s held his post for five years — for the GM job. The Rooney Rule also governs general manager searches, and Brown would fulfill that requirement for the Cards. Coincidentally, Brown, like Keim, played football at North Carolina State (although Keim was gone by the time Brown arrived there.) UPDATE: The Brown interview has been confirmed.


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