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Defensive opportunity, Friday before the Colts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2017 – 4:21 pm

So it was a week about the Cardinals’ offense and the struggles last week and the injuries they already have endured just one game into the season. This is a defense that is healthy – save for the nearing-a-return-but-not-yet Deone Bucannon – and about to face a Colts’ offense Sunday that scored only nine points in Los Angeles last week, has a quarterback crisis and a decimated offensive line.

It’s the kind of offense a defense can get after pretty hard, especially one like the Cardinals, which may be asked to shoulder a bigger load going forward.

“You’d be crazy if you thought like that,” linebacker Markus Golden said. “This is the NFL, man. That’s the real part about it. If you think like that, I don’t even want you on my team. That’s how I feel about it.

“It ain’t like we’re a super-team. We’re like them. We lost last week and we’re trying to get back on the winning side.”

The Cardinals get it. They get the position they are in, what they face after injuries. Anyone concerned about a trap game – which to me can’t be, no matter how rough the Colts looked, because of where the Cards are – shouldn’t be.

“We understand it’s the NFL,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “The Rams’ defense is tough on everybody. We don’t really look at that. If you look at it that way you’ll probably lose some respect for those guys (on the Colts).”

This was always going to be a big game. Bruce Arians back in Indy and all that. It was supposed to be Andrew Luck vs. Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, a clash of two playoff hopefuls. The Colts are anything but, thanks in large part to Luck’s injury. The Cards want to make sure their hopes aren’t dashed so soon themselves.

— Players like Golden and Mathieu were all saying Jacoby Brissett would be the QB they face, which was what had been reported by multiple outlets. Colts coach Chuck Pagano would not name a starter Friday, however, and Bruce Arians took his friend at his word.

“We’ll see who steps into that huddle,” Arians said. “Chuck hasn’t said s*** yet.”

— Given all the offensive shuffling, it’s almost lost that Robert Nkemdiche will be getting a chance to play. He’ll have a chance to go against undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond, who is playing center with Ryan Kelly injured. If Nkemdiche can show a little of what he showed in the preseason, that’d be a nice start. Given everything he’s been through, he needs a good game in this situation.

— Not much more to say about Palmer this week. The injuries around him do not help. This is why you sign an Alex Boone, to fill in for Iupati. You hope John Wetzel plays better. Offensive line play across the league is not been great. The Cards are not alone. But they have to make it a little better for Palmer, and Palmer has to be a lot better.

— The blocking also has to be better for the running game, which didn’t produce much even before Johnson got hurt. Andre Ellington/Kerwynn Williams was the 2014 running tandem once Jonathan Dwyer was released, so it’s not unfamiliar. The Cards leaned on the defense that season a lot (Palmer only played six games because of injuries) but you need some production on the ground. Where Chris Johnson fits in — especially after Arians said Elijhaa Penny will have an offensive role — is anyone’s guess.

— We will see how much of a role Chad Williams actually has on offense with Smoke out. Still, the pass catching will probably come down more to Fitz, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson, with Andre Ellington out of the backfield. Nelson actually has eight touchdowns in his last 10 games (Thanks for the stat, Whiz!) He can’t be dropping bombs like he did last week, but Nelson has gotten better with Carson Palmer and as a deep threat, the Cards need him. Badly.

— Speaking of potential pass catchers, curious to see if Ifeanyi Momah can be a factor. Every time he plays in the preseason, he seems to have a few receptions. Now, with Jermaine Gresham missing practice all week, he’s got a chance to be involved. We talk “Next Man Up,” but the next men up understand more people fret about those injured than are comforted by who is stepping in.

“It almost can be a chip on the shoulder sometimes, but honestly, I just try to do the best I can every day,” Momah said. “It was a good experience for me, first game of the preseason, starters didn’t play and I got to play into the second half. From that game, I was able to build off that, someone who can fill in.”

Ring of Honor member Roy Green is being inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame tonight.

— Speaking of former Cardinals, this came out last week, but if you have not seen it, it is a well-produced mini-documentary into the free-agent decision of Calais Campbell when he left the Cards in the spring. It’s worth a watch.

— I’ll leave you with this: Defensive coordinator James Bettcher grew up in a small town (Lakeville) in Indiana, and told a story this week about the first time he went to an NFL game when he was a kid.

“I remember Pops took me to my first Colts game, one of my best friends and his dad,” Bettcher said. “It was in the RCA Dome and like I said, from a small town of extremely hardworking people and to be able to go to a game like that was something special. Then you see the size of the stadium and you think, ‘Wow, how could I ever be down on the sideline?’

“To think now how fortunate I am to be a coach in the National Football League. It means something to me to work with the players I work with here and how fortunate I am to be a Cardinal. Maybe that’s what I get out of (this trip). To reflect back.”

See you in Indy.


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Friday before the (memorable) Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on September 30, 2016 – 3:10 pm

It’s the Cardinals vs. the Rams, a game that in Bruce Arians’ time as the Cards’ coach has often provided some memorable moments over six meetings.

  • In 2013 in St. Louis, Arians’ first game as coach, Tyrann Mathieu had his famous forced fumble from behind, although it wasn’t enough in a Cardinals’ loss;
  • In 2014 at home, Carson Palmer tore his ACL but the Cards, thanks to Drew Stanton and the defense, poured on late TDs to move to 8-1;
  • In 2014 on the road, Stanton suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury, and the defense was brick-wall-esque in a brutal 12-6 win. That’s the game in which Arians talked about a team “always 8-8.”
  • In 2015 at home, Todd Gurley broke out and the Rams managed a big upset over the undefeated Cardinals.

What comes this Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium could determine the direction of the season. A 1-3 start is a difficult hole out of which to climb. The Cardinals are 2-2 — especially with a short week and trip to San Francisco coming Thursday — and life is much more settled.

— It will be helpful, to say the least, to have guard Evan Mathis in the lineup against that defensive line.

— I know the Cards knew the Bills were going to run last week and the Bills still killed them on the ground. I know Gurley is good. But I’m betting this defensive performance will look more how the Cardinals dealt with Gurley in St. Louis than that out-of-control 144-yard half in Arizona last year.

— Usually, no one pays attention to the long snapper. That hasn’t been the case with the Cardinals, and newcomer Aaron Brewer — who snapped for the Super Bowl champion Broncos last season — would like for that to change.

“Hopefully everybody forgets who I am and I kind of fall away into the shadows,” Brewer said. “That’d be the best. … That means you do your job well, when no one knows who you are.”

— It’s not ideal when two of the three pieces in the kicking operation changes in one week, but kicker Chandler Catanzaro said he’s already found a comfort level with Brewer and new holder/punter Ryan Quigley. “I understand the business of it, that it is a production business and things have happened,” Catanzaro said. “That’s something I can take on my shoulders and we can fight through it. That’s part of the deal as a specialist.”

— Yes, punter Drew Butler was supposed to hold but his bad calf won’t let that be possible. I don’t know what happens if Quigley impresses. Arians said this week Butler would remain on the roster unless an injury forced a move.

— Roy Green will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday (we will have a story posted Saturday about Green.)

— Much talk this week about Mike Leach coming out of retirement. The former long snapper told the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports he actually went out and practiced snapping at his house with a helmet and pads on, to see if he could still do it. He could — except the way his body felt the next day reminded him why he retired. Few know how much time Leach spent in the training room the past few years getting his body ready to play every week.

— If you missed it, here’s the Cardinals Underground podcast from this week.

Black uniforms Sunday.

— This point was brought up to me by a fan, that the passing game stumbles through the first three games is reminiscent of similar issues Kurt Warner and the Cardinals had through three games in 2009 after big expectations. That year, the Cardinals found their rhythm and won nine of their next 12 games (although the passing game never quite reached 2008 levels.)

This isn’t about streaks right now, though. The Cardinals just want one win, at home, against a team they’ve played generally well against (even in last year’s loss the Cards moved the ball, they just lost the turnover battle and stalled in the red zone.)

— In 2002, the Rams — coming off a tough Super Bowl loss and bringing back basically the same powerful team — ended up starting 0-5. Then-quarterback Kurt Warner has said (and reiterated this week on Arizona Sports 98.7) it was because the Rams were pressing too hard to show how good they were.

Warner said he thinks that is happening to the Cardinals. Arians agreed. Now we’ll see if the Cards can adjust that and fix the direction they are going.

beforeramsblog


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That time Roy Green wanted a raise

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2016 – 5:31 pm

Roy Green’s press conference today as it was announced he was headed into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor stretched to 30 minutes as Green told stories about his time with the Cardinals, about his famous catch to beat the powerful 49ers at Sun Devil Stadium in the team’s first season in Arizona, about ex-teammates like Stump Mitchell and Ron Wolfley, about the Cards’ killer loss to the Redskins to end 1984, about towel-whipping then-Cardinals ballboy Michael Bidwill when Bidwill was a teenager working training camp.

(Green, with Bidwill laughing beside him, joked he would have treated Michael better had he known he’d eventually run the team.)

But at one point, Green told a story about a contract negotiation with Bidwill’s father, Bill. At the time, Green was serving as his own agent. And he decided — in the era before modern free agency — it might be time to play out his option and improve his contract status following the 1989 season.

“I told Mr. B I wanted to talk to him,” Green remembered. “He was like, ‘Yeah, come on in.’ He asked, ‘What’s going on?’ I said, ‘You know what, Mr. B? I’m looking for a raise, actually. I think that I’ve played well, blah, blah, blah.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Roy, you’re overpaid right now.’

“I wanted to laugh at that very moment but I had to keep my lawyer’s face on. I’m negotiating. In a few minutes after I got out of the office, I was dying. I couldn’t wait to go tell the guys what he had told me.”

MrBblogGreenUSE


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A live video chat and helping Roy

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2013 – 11:32 am

As a prelude to some live video chats we will have in Indianapolis at the Scouting combine — details are still being fleshed out, but the hope is to have all the big decision-makers among the guests –myself and Cards’ analyst Ron Wolfley will be taking part in a video chat Thursday morning at 10 a.m. We’ll talk all things Cardinals — whatever might be on your mind. Send your questions to askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net or tweet them to @azcardinals using the hash tag #AZCardsChat.

The video can be seen at www.azcardinals.com/livevideo, which will also be the link to all the combine video chats. Again, more info to come on those, because I will be asking for submitted questions on those as well.

— I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but Josh Weinfuss has a great story on former Cardinal Roy Green, his kidney transplant and how Nicole Bidwill has put herself out there as a dancer to help raise money for the cause. Watch a video of Roy and Nicole here, and maybe donate a couple of bucks to the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona.

 


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A chat and some other tidbits

Posted by Darren Urban on January 31, 2013 – 10:06 am

Sure, the Super Bowl is coming Sunday. But there is still time to talk about the Cardinals, so I’ll be doing that in a chat a 1 p.m. today Arizona time (3 p.m. Eastern). If you are interested, the link is right here.

— Speaking of links, here are a couple more.

* Here’s a cool highlight package of Larry Fitzgerald’s greatest hits. Don’t forget Fitz is also up for the NFL’s Man of the Year award, which will be announced Saturday night.

* Nicole Bidwill is taking part in a charity dance competition for her friend, former Cardinals great wide receiver Roy Green, who underwent a kidney transplant. Bidwill is raising money for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona. My cohort Josh Weinfuss is working on a story for azcardinals.com that should be posted in the next day or so, but you can also watch a video with Bidwill and Green about the situation (and maybe even donate some money.)

* Here’s a quick overview of one of the new members of the front office, Debbie Pollom, who comes to the Cards to work for GM Steve Keim after two decades with the Rams.


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Green and Fitz: From one record-holder to the next

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2011 – 9:51 am

Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Green have been friends since Fitzgerald came into the NFL. Green, the long-time Cardinal, lives in the Valley and naturally had an “in” to meet and get to know Fitzgerald. Fitz, meanwhile, immediately knew about Green because it was Green’s franchise receiving records that Fitzgerald knew he would be chasing.

“He set the bar high,” Fitzgerald said. “I remember as a rookie looking at his numbers thinking I have a lot of work to do. To have the relationship I do with him now means a lot to me.”

There’s been a lot to talk about recently. Fitzgerald – fresh off guaranteeing his long-term spot with the team by signing a contract extension – has been on a record-breaking binge for the franchise. Fitzgerald had already surpassed Green’s record for career receptions late last season. Then, the past two games, Fitzgerald has passed Green’s franchise marks for touchdown receptions and yards receiving.

(Fitzgerald’s career numbers are now 636 catches for 8,565 yards and 67 touchdowns.)

So the friends and, statistically, two best receivers in franchise history (Anquan Boldin certainly has a place at the table) got together this week for an on-camera interview discussion. It will be featured on Maximum Cardinals in two parts, the first coming Saturday on NBC following Notre Dame football (approximately 4 p.m.) and later will pop up on azcardinals.com.

Green and Fitz talk two to three times a week. Sometimes they go out golfing, although Fitzgerald admits he doesn’t golf as much as sit in Green’s cart while Green plays, and the two talk about life during the round.

Life hasn’t been easy for Green recently. He was in the hospital for serious surgery, and is now just getting back on his feet. He is itching to get back on the golf course. When it comes to his now-former records, however, Green is happy it is Fitzgerald who now owns the marks.

“If anyone was going to break it, thank God it was him,” Green said.

“Those records are going to be so far removed (from mine), I can always say I was second to one of the best to ever play, so it’s OK.”

“Anytime you come to a franchise,” Fitzgerald said, “you want to be one of the best.”

Green said Fitzgerald – along with Boldin – “rejuvenated my interest in football.” That’s why he was thrilled to see Fitz sign his contract extension. “In that way we are similar, when I played even though we weren’t winning ballgames, I thought, ‘I want to be part of turning this thing around,’ ” Green said. “I know he has the same mindset.”

Green also is willing to make much bolder predictions about Fitzgerald than just about lofty franchise records.

“Barring injury, I see the best of all time,” Green said. “I believe that. I know Jerry (Rice) has put substantial numbers up and people think they are out of reach, but that’s part of the competiveness, the mentality … (Larry) wants to be the best and he works to be that.”


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Revisionist History: The end for Lomax

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2011 – 9:48 am

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

There is a fair argument to be made that the course of Cardinals’ history was changed on Nov. 13, 1988. That was the day the Cards beat the New York Giants, 24-17, at Sun Devil Stadium to run their record to 7-4 and reside in first place in the NFC East. It was also the day quarterback Neil Lomax’s career began to spiral to its ugly conclusion.

Some of the details about that season, and Lomax’s end, seem to have gotten cloudy over the years. The big picture was the most painful. Lomax never won another game as a quarterback. The Cards ended up losing their final five games of the season that year and didn’t make the playoffs. And Lomax’s bad left hip ultimately forced his premature retirement.

But it wasn’t as simple as Lomax getting hurt against the Giants and never playing again.

Lomax got hurt in that game against the Giants, but it was a twisted left knee that sent him to the sideline and not his hip. Lomax even threw a touchdown pass – 44 yards to Roy Green – after the play on which he thought he got hurt. At that point, Lomax had 19 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions and the Cards were cruising during their first season in Arizona.

Lomax did come back that season, however. He sat out losses at Houston and at Philadelphia while Cliff Stoudt struggled. He was brought back against a good Giants’ team in New York and was pummeled, completing just 9-of-25 passes for 103 yards and two interceptions in a crushing 44-7 loss. With playoff hopes slipping away, Lomax did OK against the Eagles (29-for-50, 384 yards, one TD, one INT) but the Cards lost at home, 23-17. Then he had a bumpy day against the lowly Packers (15-for-33, 172 yards) in a final loss.

Lomax never played in the regular-season again. He gave preseason work a try in 1989 and went through training camp (pictured below, with Gary Hogeboom to Lomax’s right). But he couldn’t move, and went on injured reserve at the end of training camp. By that point, Lomax was trying to hold out hope he could still play, but it was becoming clear he probably wouldn’t because of the hip. That was crystallized the following January, when Lomax finally retired at age 30. He made two Pro Bowls and could’ve made a third in 1988 had he not hurt his knee. He held most of the Cards’ passing records before Kurt Warner came along.

Hindsight shows Lomax’s hip problem was bad enough that his end was coming regardless, although the way it played out – and the way the Cards’ 1988 season finished up – made for more of a sad narrative.


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The greatest 75 draft picks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 15, 2010 – 1:31 pm

And now, we take a brief breather on free-agency debate …

The NFL and NFL.com are putting together, for the draft, the greatest 75 draft picks of all time, with fans getting a chance to vote. Each of the 32 franchises had 10 players selected as nominees, which not only had to be good players but bring value to whatever round they were chosen (so does, for example Aeneas Williams in the third round mean more than Peyton Manning first overall?). The list coincides with the 75th NFL draft.

The 10 best Cardinals’ draft picks chosen were (in alphabetical order): wide receiver Anquan Boldin, tackle Dan Dierdorf (pictured below blocking for Jim Ottis), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver/defensive back Roy Green, safety Tim McDonald, tight end Jackie Smith, running back Charlie Trippi, cornerback Roger Wehrli, Williams, and safety Larry Wilson.

Players are pitted, randomly, in head-to-head matchups and fans vote (through April 18th). Picks 11 through 75 will be unveiled on NFL.com and the NFL Network from April 19-22, with the top 10 unveiled in the network’s draft coverage April 22. Don’t forget the draft is over three days this year. The first round is Thursday night, April 22. The second and third rounds are on Friday night, April 23. And the final four rounds are Saturday, April 24.


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Fitz fast, Hyphen faster, Dockett on fire

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2009 – 4:19 pm

Larry Fitzgerald’s first catch of the second half was the 500th of his career, getting him to that level in just 87 games — the second-fastest in NFL history to 500. Teammate Anquan Boldin, who did it in 80 games, was the fastest.

Then again, no one looked faster on the Cardinals than rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling, who broke off a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown — the first Cards’ rookie to do so since Roy Green did it against the Cowboys in 1979, a 106-yard return.

Finally, Darnell Dockett already has three sacks today (Vince Young had been sacked just once this season on four starts), a career-high in the regular season and tying the three he notched in the Super Bowl.


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