It’s hard to get away from what is the main storyline for Sunday: Is Carson Palmer going to be the quarterback?
Coach Bruce Arians sounded pretty confident Friday talking about it and was in a pretty good mood too after practice. If the key starting QB had been hurt in this way under the old regime, playing or not, you could usually tell on the face of former coach Ken Whisenhunt. But Arians is a true believer in next man up – he was the same way with Andre Ellington’s injury on Thanksgiving – and he does have Drew Stanton, a man to whom Arians was prepared to start before the Palmer trade happened.
And again, Palmer may indeed be playing and the limited work all week comes down to making sure the vet was rested. I did think it was interesting that Arians made it clear that he thought the two interceptions Palmer threw had nothing to do with a sore elbow. And Palmer, who was hurt on his first drop-back in Philly, did throw for 302 yards and three touchdowns after that.
The Cards need Palmer. That’s no slight to Stanton but instead the acknowledgement that for whatever issues Palmer has had with turnovers this season, the offense has clicked a lot more of late and that is necessary going into a crucial game with the Rams Sunday.
– The Cardinals will have Andre Ellington back and that’s a huge deal. Pairing him with an improving Rashard Mendenhall means the Cardinals have a formidable tandem with which to run – meaning that whether you have Palmer and an iffy elbow or Stanton playing QB, the Cards have good options on offense upon which to lean.
– It’s been an eternity since the Cards went to St. Louis to play. “It’s funny to watch them on film,” Palmer said. “It seems so long ago.” What doesn’t seem so long ago was the loss incurred that day – because the eventual 27-24 decision in which the Cardinals led by 11 in the fourth quarter is hurting the team big right now in the playoff chase. The swing that would have happened in the overall, conference and division records would have been momentous.
– Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek scored three touchdowns last week against Arizona, and we know all about tight end issues against the Cards’ defense (remember St. Louis’ Jared Cook in Week One, getting it started?) There’s a give-and-take there, though.
“Going into a ballgame, you try to take away (LeSean) McCoy, try to take away (Desean) Jackson, try to take away (Riley) Cooper, and you try to maintain and limit what the tight ends can do,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “You don’t let the big three beat you. We accomplished that. The tight ends got loose for a couple balls inside the red zone. I think we need to play better red zone coverage. The 24-yard touchdown pass there was some technical issues we need to clean up. But going into the game, (tight end) was probably fourth on the totem pole.”
Said linebacker Daryl Washington on the tight end subject, “I think it’s a small adjustment. I don’t think it’s a major issue.”
– I don’t think there is any question that as good as Cook was the first time around, the Cardinals are going to want to make sure Tavon Austin and Chris Givens don’t break off big plays. So we’ll see how that develops when it comes to Cook.
– Speaking of Washington, remember, he didn’t play the first time these teams met. That would seem to be a major factor in the Cards’ favor.
– No one is going out on a limb here, but Eric Winston vs. Chris Long and Robert Quinn vs. Bradley Sowell matchups are probably the key to the game.
– Speaking of the offensive line, the Cardinals used Bobby Massie for 11 offensive snaps last week in Philly as a jumbo tight end in running packages. I don’t think Massie would ever be thrown a pass — “I’m athletic enough to do anything,” Massie said with a smile – but his presence has helped the running game.
“It’s a good thing getting a chance to play,” Massie said. “It’s better than standing on the sideline watching.”
Until Sunday …
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chris Long, Daryl Washington, Drew Stanton, Eric Winston, Rams, Rashard Mendenhall, Robert Quinn, Todd Bowles
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There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.
“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”
You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.
– There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.
– Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”
– The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.
– Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.
– Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.
– Yes, I used that on Twitter.
– Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?
– The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.
– It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.
– Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.
– Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”
It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bills, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Janoris Jenkins, Jermelle Cudjo, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Michael Adams, Rams, Ray Horton, Robert Quinn, Ron Wolfley, William Gay
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While everyone continues to wonder about how the first five picks of the draft will go — including me — this week could make an impact on the upper part of the round. Friday, Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is holding a private workout to show teams his knee surgery was minor and he indeed is ready to go and perform as the player who notched 16 sacks last season. The day before is North Carolina’s pro day, where teams can further scrutinize perhaps the biggest wild card that high in the draft — defensive end-who-can-be-a-linebacker Robert Quinn. Quinn (pictured below at the Scouting combine) didn’t play in 2010 after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA for improperly taking benefits from agents.
In 2009, Quinn had 11 sacks. He is athletic but raw and would have to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker if he played for the Cardinals. But he is a pass rusher to consider if Von Miller is indeed gone by pick No. 5 (The Cardinals will have multiple representatives at both Bowers’ and Carolina’s workouts).
Even if the Cards wouldn’t take them (Bowers doesn’t seem to fit the Cards’ scheme) they could be candidates to go in the top four, Bowers especially. That, of course, could change some things.
Tags: Da'Quan Bowers, draft, Robert Quinn, Von Miller
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