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Bradford gets started, limited as expected

Posted by Darren Urban on April 17, 2018 – 5:16 pm

Steve Wilks said last week that there was “no rush” to get quarterback Sam Bradford on the field full-time, and that he would be limited in the first minicamp. And Tuesday, as the Cardinals got on the field for the first time, Bradford was indeed limited, and Wilks said afterward that wasn’t going to change.

“We will continue to do the same with Sam,” Wilks said, noting that Bradford did do “some things” with the first unit.

“He’s limited right now, so when we get a chance to work together, from what I’ve seen, which is on tape or standing across the field watching when he was playing for the Rams, he’s a pinpoint passer,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He’s extremely accurate, he can make all the throws than anybody would ever ask.

“Moreso me, I just need to learn (about) him, gain his trust by showing him every day I’m capable of making the plays he needs me to make.”

Wilks wasn’t going to get more expansive about Bradford, but it wasn’t limited to the quarterback’s status either. When asked about rehabbing players like tackle D.J. Humphries and defensive end Markus Golden, Wilks declined to talk much about what point they are at with their injuries.

“I don’t really try to put timetables on things,” Wilks said. “I don’t try to create promises. We just want to have results.”


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When Patrick Peterson “met” Sam Bradford

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2018 – 9:10 am

Patrick Peterson chuckled. He hasn’t had a chance to catch up with new teammate Sam Bradford about the last time the two met on a football field, but it was memorable. Perhaps you remember — in a Cardinals’ 30-24 loss in Minnesota in November of 2016, the Vikings ran a play with a direct snap to running back Matt Asiata. Bradford, the Vikings’ quarterback, slid out wide as a receiver on the play. And when the ball was snapped, Peterson ran up and shoved him to the ground.

Peterson still doesn’t know why it was a 15-yard roughing penalty when Bradford was split wide. But it caused an uproar. Bradford shrugged it off after the game — “If we get 15 yards, I’ll take it every time,” he said — but all the Vikings linemen were ticked off. “I’m not happy about that,” then-Vikings guard Alex Boone said at the time. “We’ll talk about it later. He knows what he did, and he knows what he’s got coming to him.”

Yes, that’s the Alex Boone that was Peterson’s teammate last season. And while Peterson hasn’t talked to Bradford about it, he has talked to Boone.

“He was like, ‘I almost decked you because you laid out my freaking quarterback,’ ” Peterson recalled. “I was like, ‘He was a receiver. I didn’t know he was a quarterback at the time.’ I remember on that play, because they ran that play previously, and I did nothing to him. Coach (Bruce Arians) was like, ‘Next time they run that play, take him out.’ So I did. I was just following the instruction of my head coach.”

Peterson laughed at the memory. “Next thing you know, I got a flag. I am happy I did not get a fine. It hurt us because I think they scored that same drive (they did, aided by another personal foul on Tony Jefferson), but I think B.A. took that penalty for me.”

To be fair, the Cardinals — and Arians — had a point. The previous time the Vikings ran the play, Bradford curled back a bit, took a backward throw from the running back and threw deep downfield, earning a pass interference call inside the 5-yard line and a big reason for Peterson to want to take Bradford out of the play the next time.

We’ll see if Peterson and Bradford have a discussion about personal fouls past. And who knows? Boone, a free agent, could ostensibly still return to the Cardinals, and all three would have the chance to reminisce.


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Sam Bradford and his contract

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2018 – 1:47 pm

When Sam Bradford signed last week, the immediate reaction was tied in part to the contract he got and the numbers that were being thrown around. Monday, the details of the contract leaked out in multiple places, underscoring that the Cards did give Bradford a nice contract — but, given his injury history, he will have to be on the field for it to be as nice as it can be.

The key points: A $10 million signing bonus and a $5 million salary — the $15M guaranteed originally reported. Bradford can get another $5 million, but it will be doled out on a per-game basis, which works out to $312,500 each time he is active for a game. Interestingly, he also got a no-trade clause, perhaps not a shock after he was dealt right before the season started in 2016 from Philadelphia to Minnesota.

The Cardinals hold a team option for 2019, which has to be exercised a couple of days into the 2019 league year.


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Looks like Bradford as QB1

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2018 – 12:01 pm

The dominoes had been falling and then later Tuesday, it looked like the Cardinals put themselves in position for their short-term quarterback answer. While nothing is official yet, multiple reports say the Cards plan to sign veteran quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford, who was the Vikings’ opening day starter in 2017 before a knee injury essentially ended his season, was one of the top QBs available despite his injury history. Once Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum were off the board, it makes sense to chase Bradford as a bridge as the Cardinals continue to look for a young alternative to be the long-term starter.

Nothing can be official before Wednesday afternoon, and given Bradford’s injury history — he’s twice torn his ACL and missed most of last season because of knee problems, among other aliments in his career — he would definitely have to pass a physical before anything is official. When he has played, however, he has played well, with the former No. 1 overall pick completing more than 71 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 17 games played with Minnesota.

But if Bradford arriving does come to pass, the Cards will have taken a first step in the quarterback process. It wouldn’t be a surprise to add another veteran. And the draft remains an important possibility.


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QB dominoes falling

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2018 – 9:40 am

Free agents cannot officially sign with new teams until Wednesday afternoon, but as usual lots of moves are all but done in the “tampering” period prior to Wednesday. That includes the quarterback merry-go-round, in which the Cardinals are forced to take part (given that they do not have one for 2018 yet).

The big move came Tuesday morning, when news leaked that Kirk Cousins will end up exactly where everyone posited he would — the Vikings. That came the day after news that the Broncos would end up with Case Keenum. The trades that also cannot be completed until Wednesday are out there, so the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor and the Redskins traded for Alex Smith. The Bills also will make a trade with the Bengals that got them the 12th overall pick (ahead of the Cardinals at 15) and still have 22 overall, giving them ammunition to get even higher in the draft. As of now, the Jets, like the Cards, still don’t have a starter.

None of these moves preclude a ton of teams from potentially taking a QB in the draft in the first round. Cousins and Keenum always figured to be the first two FA QBs off the board. So now we see where Sam Bradford ends up, and Josh McCown, and A.J. McCarron, and Teddy Bridgewater.

One other thing to remember (after Ian Rapoport put out there that the Cards could have interest in Mike Glennon when he is cut by the Bears, as expected) is that the Cards need multiple QBs. That isn’t just a starter. You want a backup too, and a veteran one even if you draft a guy high.

And to think, free agency hasn’t even officially started yet.


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Jockeying for QB has begun

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2018 – 11:55 am

The Scouting combine is the perfect place for quarterback speculation, with all the top draft possibilities coming in to talk, all the teams on hand to watch and speak to the media, all the agents there to whisper things and free agency coming just a week after its conclusion. It’s fun to wonder about anyway, but important since the Cardinals don’t have a quarterback, period, as of now.

There was plenty suggested about what free agents might go where, what could happen to first domino Kirk Cousins (the Cardinals have been named as a potential suitor, but Cousins was always thought to be drawing many) and what kind of money he could make, and where all the other QBs might fit after that: Case Keenum, A.J. McCarron, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown, and, of course, whether Drew Stanton and/or Blaine Gabbert could still end up in the mix here in Arizona. All those puzzle pieces then impact the draft and the top names there.

What might be more interesting right now is to try and pinpoint not the individual quarterbacks per se, but the teams that might be interested in drafting a young QB. It might not impact how free agency plays out directly, but it could turn some free-agent decisions for those getting bridge QBs into higher pressure situations come the draft. For instance, the Giants already have Eli Manning, and could take RB Saquon Barkley second overall. But a quarterback has to be in play there, given Manning’s age.

Looking at the league, however, you can make the case — to varying degrees of urgency, of course — that 15 teams in the first round (and the Browns and Bills each have two picks in the first round) could consider a young QB going forward. And that doesn’t include the Cardinals. Some are obvious: The Browns, Broncos, Jets and Vikings — and Cards — have to have a QB (if they don’t have someone like Cousins who would be a long-term solution.) Some teams need to groom someone behind a QB who is older: The Giants, Redskins, Chargers, Saints, Steelers and Patriots. And then there are the teams that might be looking to move on from their current situation: The Dolphins, Bengals, Ravens, Bills and Jaguars.

That’s a lot of places a QB could go — and another reason it’s dangerous for a team to think they can get the guy they want into the second round, when a team might just spend a late first-rounder to grab a guy.


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Friday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2016 – 4:20 pm

The very first game Larry Fitzgerald played in the NFL was in Minnesota. That’s where the Cardinals opened the preseason in 2004. (He was targeted twice, making one catch for five yards.)

The first game Fitzgerald played that counted in Minnesota was in 2006, and that’s the game he set his regular-season best in yards, with 172 on 11 catches. (He had 176 yards against the Packers in the playoffs in 2015.)

Fitz insists this is just a business trip, and truth be told, he spends enough summer time in Minnesota where I could see how he would be able to separate. Shameless plug: Here’s the story I did after going to Minnesota in 2012 and talking to him at his house on the lake.

(By the way, one part of the interview burned into my brain from that Minny visit: Did you know Fitz wants to go into space?)

Besides, Fitzgerald has big enough reasons to want to get this one aside from his 0-4 record against the Vikings in Minnesota (The Fitz-era Cardinals are 2-1 against the Vikings in Arizona.) It’s not the fact the franchise hasn’t won there since a 1977 game, with an eight-game losing streak. It’s the fact the Cardinals need the win basically to stay in the playoff race. Mathematically they won’t be eliminated, but with a game coming in Atlanta and the Vikings struggling like they are, this one is crucial. No way to argue otherwise.

— It’s easy to wonder about the Cardinals’ offensive line, and John Wetzel and D.J. Humphries will be tested (yes, that is an understatement) against this front in this building. The Cards have to run the ball better than they did last week, you’d think.

But the Vikings are facing the same issues, if not moreso. With no Adrian Peterson and line injuries, the Vikings have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. QB Sam Bradford has been solid when he has time – he’s only thrown two picks – but he can be sacked. For the noticeable hiccups the Cardinals have had on defense, and some blown coverages, the Cardinals have allowed a league-low 4.7 yards per play this season and their pass defense has nine interceptions and has allowed only six passing touchdowns.

— Along those lines, the Patrick Peterson-covering-Stefon Diggs matchup is incredibly intriguing. Diggs has made 26 catches total the last two games. That’s a huge number. By comparison, Pro Football Focus has Peterson allowing just 20 receptions all season.

— The Vikings have 38-year-old cornerback Terence Newman, who has played a significant role. Peterson shook his head at such longevity. Peterson, at age 26 in his sixth year, said he wants to make double-digits for a career before he thinks beyond that.

“My mindset is I want to go as long as my body will let me go,” Peterson said.

— Michael Floyd is also going home this weekend. He’s from St. Paul. He was asked if he looked forward to seeing some snow, since it’s supposed to snow tonight. “I’m glad they have a roof,” he said with a smile, referencing the new stadium.

— We’ll see on Tyrann Mathieu playing. It felt like a red flag when Bruce Arians said he was sore on Friday. It’s hard to tell if the safety will be playing Sunday. It could be a true game-day decision.

— You feel better about Deone Bucannon playing, despite only one day of limited work. Arians said he was “fine.” He’d be an option on tight end Kyle Rudolph. The good thing for the Cardinals is that this is the first time in a while they aren’t dealing with a mobile QB (Wilson, albeit gimpy; Newton; Kaepernick).

— Fitz, by the way, had ditched the knee brace for Friday’s practice after wearing one Thursday (and in the second half of the 49ers game.)

— Will be cool to see the new building. Everything I have heard (and seen on TV) makes U.S. Bank Stadium the jewel it was supposed to be. We’ll see if the Cardinals can find a way to break their losing streak now that they’re in a new place.

befreminny


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Pick plays a secondary needs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2016 – 10:20 am

The Cardinals are playing well, statistically, on defense. They are second in total defense, and tied for third in scoring defense. But of late, the turnovers have dried up.

In their last three games, the Cardinals’ D has forced only one turnover — a fumble recovery in Carolina, a play that was negated by a Carson Palmer interception soon after. (The Cardinals did recover a fumble against the 49ers, but it was on special teams.) The Cards haven’t had an interception since picking off Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick twice on “Monday Night Football.”

It’s a big missing element right now. Perhaps it has something to do with the year Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu has had  — or hasn’t had — trying to come back from his knee injury and then sitting out last week with his shoulder problem (there is a possibility Mathieu will play Sunday in Minnesota). The Cardinals still have nine total interceptions this season, not a bad total given the bagel posted over the last month. But on a team that has struggled to score points consistently, those are the kind of plays that can change fortunes.

It could be tough Sunday — Vikings QB Sam Bradford has been careful with the ball, letting his great defense do the heavy lifting. Bradford has thrown only two interceptions this season in 283 attempts while taking 24 sacks. He’ll be smart. The Cardinals hope to get enough pressure to force a mistake — and maybe that can jump-start the Cards on the other side of the ball.

pickblog


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Friday before the Eagles, and Fitz tackles

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2015 – 4:14 pm

Larry Fitzgerald has made it clear he doesn’t necessarily like to block. But he likes to tackle.

Sometimes, it’s a subtle attempt at a takedown, like when he was giving Michael Floyd grief near the end of the win in St. Louis when Floyd didn’t come down with a diving TD catch and slowly moved into position before the lighting quick lower-leg takedown on the sideline. (I have been on the receiving end of that move a couple of times over the years.) Sometimes, it’s full speed, like when he took down Smokey Brown after his TD against the Eagles last year (spooking Brown enough that he rushed his TD dance against the Rams later in the season for fear of a Fitz hit). Or, for instance, last week.

Dwight Freeney had just sacked Teddy Bridgewater to seal the Cardinals win. And Fitz sacked Freeney.

“Listen, we’re the two oldest guys out there and you’re running full speed and I’m sitting there wondering what he’s going to do,” Freeney said. “And then I’m like, ‘Oh God, he’s jumping.’ The whole game I’m healthy until that damn play.”

Fitzgerald – who complained he was whacked on the head by guard Ted Larsen’s helmet when Larsen, helmet in hand, went to hug Freeney – said he just got excited.

“I’ve known Dwight for a very long time, a long time,” Fitz said. “To be able to see him do that at that moment, for that number, a $200,000 sack, that was big.”

Ahh, the cash. Freeney hit the $200,000 incentive in his contract for his fourth sack, and he gets incentive money for each sack going forward. Fitz doesn’t miss stuff like that.

“I appreciate that,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m going to appreciate every single one for him here on out, too.”

Maybe there will be a sack-tackle in Philly too.

— Every Friday, both the offense and defense leave for a players-only meeting after practice ends. It’s usually just a wrap-up reminder from unit leaders about the game plan, imploring focus. Most of the time, the defense is gone for 15 or 20 minutes. They met for much longer Friday. After the mistakes made against the Vikings – and what can happen with similar mistakes against the high-tempo Eagles – there has been a drive to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

— The Cardinals haven’t turned the ball over in three straight games, which has helped considering two of them were close (weird to think in the three games before those, the Cardinals lost the turnover battle yet still won, which feels statistically impossible in today’s NFL.) It feels like turnovers will be the deciding factor Sunday night. If the Cards stay clean, I don’t see the Eagles beating them.

— If Rashad Johnson can’t play, I’ll be very interested to see how the defense reacts and what it means. Patrick Peterson said this week he can’t imagine life without Rashad behind the defense. Will they have to find out? (And given that Johnson is a free agent-to-be, could it be a trial run for 2016?)

— If you haven’t seen “Bruce Arians: A Football Life” you might not know that the Cardinals last year adopted the song “I’m About To Whip Somebody’s Ass” for pre-game. Safety Tyrann Mathieu said he is the locker room DJ before games and is the “only one with that song” on the team. Arians sent it to Mathieu during a text conversation last year, Mathieu liked it, and it became part of the team’s pre-game ritual.

“Every game, home or away, it doesn’t matter,” Mathieu said.

It doesn’t hurt that the Cardinals have won many of those games.

— Michael Floyd grinned, admitting again how he probably stole the pass for Fitzgerald last week that ended up being a 42-yard TD for Floyd, with Fitz blocking. Fitzgerald was asked if Floyd was going to buy him dinner in exchange.

“Mike is the cheapest dude on the team,” said Fitzgerald, who never seems to pass up a chance to needle his fellow Minnesota native. “Mike don’t even pay attention. That’s how cheap he is.”

— Yes, the Cardinals are on the road, but in anticipation of what is expected to be an influx of Packers fans next week after a noticeable amount of Vikings fans at University of Phoenix Stadium last week, Fitzgerald isn’t thrilled.

“Nothing that irks me more than seeing that,” Fitzgerald said. “We want to create that same tradition here. I know we have only been here since 1988. … Hopefully we can change that tide.”

— Freeney signed so late in the season he got a locker not with the linebackers but where there was an open stall. It happened to be between quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.

“It was kind of funny,” Freeney said, who added with a smile, “but I like being near quarterbacks.”

— Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, on the possibility of throwing at Peterson, who has been as much of a shutdown cornerback as anyone in the league this season.

“Well, I would probably prefer not to,” Bradford said. “Obviously, Patrick’s a great player. He’s proved that in his time in the league. But, if we have the opportunity and it’s there, you’ve got to throw it. You can’t let one guy take away a whole half of the field.”

— Kyle Odegard did a great job writing about running back David Johnson’s journey to the NFL. Check it out if you haven’t already.

— I think Johnson, who has 99 and 92 yards rushing in his two starts, cracks 100 yards this week.

— Next stop, Philadelphia.

FreeneyFitzBLOG


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Mathieu, Ta’amu, Minter, Coop to sit

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2014 – 3:30 pm

There are only four Cardinals that are not expected to dress for the game against the Bengals tonight, and none are a surprise. It’s the two guys who just came off the PUP list — S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu — and the two guys who didn’t practice at all last week — LB Kevin Minter (pectoral) and G Jonathan Cooper (toe). Coach Bruce Arians said this past week that both Minter and Cooper face an important (if short) week of practice if they still plan on playing in the regular-season opener.

Even though everyone else is expected to dress, how much they play will be interesting. There have been a rash of injuries across the league this weekend as all team’s play that all-important third preseason game, and it affects the season. Just ask the Rams, who have lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season when he again tore the same ACL that ended his season early last year. The Cardinals need work and want to be sharp, but more crucial is making sure all the key pieces are ready to play when the regular-season starts against the Chargers in a couple of weeks.

TaamuList


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