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Lacking sacks, Cards blitz for “distruptions”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2014 – 10:17 am

The Cardinals looked hard for a pass rusher prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Nothing materialized. That’s really not surprising. In this league — especially when a team can flip into a playoff contender in one offseason — you just don’t trade decent pass rushers. You need them too much. And if you are willing to trade, you’re probably asking for more than they are worth, because they are at a premium, and a team like the Cardinals can’t just shred their draft options for that.

(Now, if Justin Houston was being offered for a first-round pick, yes, I make that move. I’d think GM Steve Keim would too. But the Justin Houstons of the world aren’t being offered.)

That leaves the Cardinals wanting on the pass rush. Yes, I’d think that will be the top target of the offseason, whether it is through free agency or the draft (or even both.) But the offseason is the offseason. That doesn’t help now.

The Cardinals have only seven sacks in seven games, and two of those are from defensive backs and one is from an inside linebacker. It’s no secret the Cards are blitz-happy out of necessity. It’s the only way they can generate consistent pressure, and it’s been a Todd Bowles staple, with the Cards blitzing about half the time. Would more sacks be welcome? Of course. But Bruce Arians sounds OK with the results so far. The last play Sunday is a great example. The Cardinals brought the blitz. They couldn’t sack Nick Foles — they couldn’t sack him all day, through 62 pass attempts — but it was the heavy pressure up the middle that forced Foles to backpedal and throw off his back foot. Jordan Matthews had been open in the back of the end zone, but the bad throw under pressure gave safety Rashad Johnson just enough time to recover and make sure the pass wasn’t completed.

“The thing we want to do defensively is be disruptive,” Arians said. “I thought we were disruptive (against Philadelphia). We created turnovers. Yardage doesn’t really matter. We want to lead the league in points (allowed) and we want to lead the league in sacks and turnovers. Sacks are the one thing that are obviously down, but there are disruptions there.”

At this time last year, the Cardinals had 19 sacks, en route to 47 on the season. A big part of that was John Abraham’s 11.5, and obviously losing Abraham — when the team had been counting on him to create some of those sacks — has left a mark. It was interesting to see that Marcus Benard is part of the outside linebacker rotation to create pressure, when Benard was one of the guys originally cut to add outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, who has mostly been inactive. Getting Calais Campbell back on the field will help, but it is, as Keim has said, beating a dead horse when talking about the Cardinals and creating/finding more of a pass rush.

The snap breakdown for the defensive line/outside linebackers against the Eagles, on 92 defensive snaps (92 – yikes!): Okafor 69, Acho 65, Campbell 62, Kelly 62, Stinson 51, Rucker 31, Dan Williams 18, Benard 16, Martin 10.

 

PressureBlogUSE


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Keim: Peterson protocol, and a Coop chance

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2014 – 8:13 am

There isn’t much new to report on cornerback Patrick Peterson this morning, but General Manager Steve Keim said during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Peterson was “in good spirits” as he left the stadium last night and will go through the concussion protocol before he can return to the field. “It’s not different than Drew Stanton’s (situation),” Keim said, referring to when Stanton suffered a concussion earlier this season. Stanton eventually was able to pass his concussion tests and was active the following week, although Carson Palmer was back by then and Stanton didn’t have to play. You figure if Peterson is active, he’s going to play a lot, so we’ll see how he reacts to the tests and the exertion he would have to give. Every concussion is serious, but every one is also different, and there’s no way to know right now how this will affect Peterson.

– The other “news” from Keim: Keim said Bruce Arians and the coaches have been praising how well guard Jonathan Cooper has been looking in practice and how he is beginning to look like the guy everyone in the organization was so high on last year before Cooper broke his leg.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next couple of weeks we try to work him back in there,” Keim said. “I know he was in there a little bit (Sunday) on some short-yardage stuff and some unbalanced, but he continues to improve and we certainly have not lost any faith in him.”

Keim was asked to define what he meant to work Cooper in. “Little bit of guard, and it’s been no secret Paul Fanaika has been banged up a little bit and when you have a player with Coop’s ability, you have to try and get him some snaps sooner rather than later.”

– Keim said he could’ve given a game ball to a bunch of different players, not surprising the way it turned out. “It was nice to see Larry (Fitzgerald) have such a good game,” Keim said, and agreed that veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has been a major addition. “Sometimes you worry about the amount of snaps he’s playing, but he has been a breath of fresh air,” Keim said.


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Keim loves Cardinals’ balance, nitpicks aside

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2014 – 8:13 am

Balance is what Steve Keim liked the most out of the Cardinals’ win Sunday in Oakland — “I can’t remember the last time we ran it five more times than we threw it” — though the General Manager noted during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports, “it wasn’t perfect.”

Every week Keim is asked about his concerns. He talked about not wanting to beat the “dead horse” of seeking more of a perimeter edge rush. “I’d like to see us put teams away a little earlier, not make it so dramatic,” Keim added. “But that’s being nitpicky.” Indeed, the Cardinals are 5-1, so they have to be doing something right. (As Adrian Wilson once infamously said during a live radio interview, “(Expletive), it’s hard to win in the NFL.”)

– A week after saying he was hoping cornerback Patrick Peterson had more focus, Keim said he thought Peterson played well on Sunday. There were two penalties, although Keim, without saying it, clearly wasn’t all that fond on the flag Peterson was given for pass interference. “I thought Pat played excellent, played with urgency,” Keim said. “I was really, really pleased with how Pat played.”

– Keim said he thought rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson had his best game, and added fellow rookie defensive lineman Kareem Martin did some good things too. Also getting praise from Keim were linebacker Sam Acho and safety Tyrann Mathieu, who impressed Keim with some looks-like-2013 play against the Raiders.

– Running back Stepfan Taylor not only helped create confidence in his play for the coaching staff, Keim said, but probably gave himself some confidence too. That’s important when talking about having help for Andre Ellington.

– Carson Palmer’s poise in the pocket caught Keim’s eye, crystallized by Palmer’s improvised roll-out and throw to Ted Ginn on third-and-long. Keim thought Sunday showed Palmer’s strength and velocity was returning to the shoulder/arm.

– As for the potential Palmer contract extension, Keim reiterated how the Cardinals take a three-year view on the entire roster. And Palmer isn’t the only one the Cards are considering an extension for. “We are looking at others who have expiring contracts,” Keim said.


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Extending Palmer and the 2015 offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 10:21 am

It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.

The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.

The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?

But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.)  That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.

If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.

Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.

PalmerCool1BLOG


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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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Keim: Campbell prognosis to come, no new QB yet

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2014 – 8:12 am

General Manager Steve Keim addressed the two biggest issues facing the Cardinals following Sunday’s loss/injuryfest in Denver during his Monday morning appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports. Obviously, both were injury-related.

Defensive end Calais Campbell is getting an MRI this morning, but Keim said the belief is Campbell has a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee. Keim said Campbell’s prognosis is tough to predict because it can range quite a bit. But it felt like a little optimism. Keim didn’t even close the door on Campbell playing against Washington Sunday (although that would be amazing) although multiple games sitting is definitely possible.

Also clear: Keim wasn’t happy about the Julius Thomas low block that hurt Campbell, saying he’s never seen a player go low on what was essentially going to be a chip block before Thomas ran a pass route. “Hopefully, we’ll never see that again,” Keim said.

– As for the quarterback situation, Drew Stanton will go through concussion protocol and Carson Palmer will continue with his shoulder treatment. Because in theory both could be ready for the Redskins, Keim said the Cardinals aren’t going to add another quarterback. Not yet. That will be determined in the next 24 to 48 hours. Keim wouldn’t divulge what quarterbacks the team would be looking at if they would sign one, although he said there are a lot of considerations that go into it and what they need plays into any decision. Keim noted any practice squad addition means keeping that player for three games on the 53-man roster, which might not make sense if Palmer and Stanton are on the verge of returning (and why Ryan Lindley, on San Diego’s practice squad, might not make sense.) Keim also said it’ll depend what the Cards might be looking for — a third-string guy?  A backup? I don’t think there is any question Logan Thomas is the starter if Palmer and Stanton aren’t playing.

– Tight end Troy Niklas has a high ankle sprain. He too will get an MRI.

– Cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) will probably be day to day, but Keim didn’t sound concerned.

– Keim’s total of drops he counted for his receivers? Nine. More than I had. Obviously, not a good total. Keim definitely didn’t sound pleased. “You can’t play like that and expect to win,” he said.

– He didn’t sound pleased with the offensive line. Keim said they played “below average,” and didn’t play in unison.

– Keim on Logan Thomas’ play: “He’s got to learn to get the ball out quicker,” Keim said, “but that will come in time.”

– Keim was pleased with the play of draft picks Deone Bucannon and Kareem Martin. Martin improvement would be important if Campbell is sidelined.

– The injuries don’t feel good for a GM either. “It’s tough,” Keim said. “But again, no one else in the league is going to feel sorry for us.”


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Keim: Happy, but still searching for an edge rusher

Posted by Darren Urban on September 22, 2014 – 8:12 am

General Manager Steve Keim is happy the Cardinals knocked off the 49ers, but he is a GM and it is only three games into the season, so he said Monday on his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports that he is continuing to try and upgrade the outside linebacker position and a guy who can pressure the passer from the edge,

“We will look at trade options but why would teams want to trade guys who can rush the passer?” Keim asked rhetorically.

The answer is they would not, not when every team in the league is looking for the same thing. It’s not like basketball where you might have a glut of point guards and dealing one doesn’t matter. You can’t have too many pass rushers, and let’s face it, those that can make a difference are few and far between anyway.

That said, being 3-0 is a good thing for Keim. Some of his other thoughts:

– He noticed that all 23 points yesterday were scored by a pair of rookies (kicker Chandler Catanzaro, now 9-for-9 on field goals, and wide receiver John Brown.)

– On Brown, “he is everything as advertised, that’s for sure,” Keim said. The speed shows up again and again.

– Keim praised left tackle Jared Veldheer as being exceptional and then said the offensive line as a whole was very good. They only allowed pressure on blitzes and held up fine against four- and five-man rushes. As an aside, I’ve had people ask if Jonathan Cooper moves back to starting left guard now that there is a bye week to make a transition. Ted Larsen did have a couple of penalties Sunday, but no, I don’t see a change coming. You are 3-0 and the line played well. Why change?

– Right tackle Bobby Massie was “excellent,” Keim said.

– Keim said the whole reason the Cardinals signed Drew Stanton was to potentially be the starting QB (he arrived weeks before Carson Palmer did) so the Cards have a level of expectation for him to play well in this role. Half-jokingly, Keim was asked about a potential QB controversy. Keim answered seriously. “It’s great to have two that can play,” he said. “I don’t think about those things. I just want to get these guys healthy on the bye week.”


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Keim: Still waiting on Abraham decision UPDATED

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2014 – 8:08 am

The Cardinals do not yet know if linebacker John Abraham will retire or not. General Manager Steve Keim, Monday on his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show, said the team is still giving the veteran his space and that the team expects Abraham’s decision “in the next 24 hours.” Certainly there remains a chance Abraham could end up playing against the 49ers. “That’s a tough question,” Keim said. We know Bruce Arians (half-)joked yesterday he was hoping someone — someone being Abraham — came out of retirement to help the pass rush. The funny thing is, if Abraham does return, there is no guarantee he’ll produce. But the Cardinals want to be able to find out.

UPDATE: Bruce Arians said Abraham is indeed returning to the team.

– The right shoulder nerve injury with quarterback Carson Palmer leaves him day to day, Keim said. “The timeline is a little bit of an unknown,” Keim said. The injury should only get better, Keim added, but now, it’s day to day. It’s still possible Drew Stanton gets the 49ers start this coming Sunday.

– Keim said he thought S Tyrann Mathieu did fine in his season debut. Mathieu only played five snaps, recording a tackle. Keim said the package that includes Mathieu will increase each week.

– Keim was happy with the rescue job of backup quarterback Drew Stanton, noting that Stanton was one of the first players he signed when he became GM and could have been the starter if the Palmer trade had not happened. Still, you get the sense Keim would prefer, not surprisingly, for Palmer to be able to return sooner rather than later. At least Stanton got off to a positive start. “I’m sure some of those guys on defense didn’t even know who I was,” Stanton joked after the game.

– Keim praised left tackle Jared Veldheer, and good blind-side protection will mean a lot going against the 49ers.


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Flooding and Ellington still game-night decision

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2014 – 8:33 am

Well, everyone in the Valley woke up to the massive rain and flooding, and that tends to hold the attention right now. Even Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, on his weekly “Doug and Wolf” appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7, did his call from home because he said he had a foot of water in his basement. Not good. The I-10 freeway is flooded in spots too. We’ll have updates on azcardinals.com and on Twitter if needed as we get closer to the game. Nothing to report right now in terms of it impacting the game, but be sure to keep checking.

“Hopefully,” Keim said, “all our fans can make it out there.”

As for a little bit of football:

– Keim said running back Andre Ellington (foot) was limited again Sunday in the work the Cardinals did. That said, Keim said the medical and training staff will put Ellington through the paces pre-game to determine if he plays. My gut, based on pure speculation? I’d say they hold him out. But we’ll see.

– Same goes for safety Tyrann Mathieu. I did find it interesting that Keim noted how well Jerraud Powers and Tony Jefferson have been playing and Mathieu’s status is “just whether he fits in to the particular scheme this week.” Again, my gut would say Mathieu sits. Powers and Jefferson can do the job.

– Keim said guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) is taking reps with the first unit. Ted Larsen is still the starter, but clearly, the Cardinals aren’t going to shove Cooper in the corner. Keim said it would be up to Bruce Arians whether Cooper would get any actual work in the game.

– Keim said the decision to release linebacker Desmond Bishop was a “numbers decision.” Bishop’s salary is not guaranteed now, even if they were to bring him back. Although listening to Keim, I’m not sure that would happen anyway. “(Bishop) had a nice preseason but quite frankly (undrafted rookie) Glenn Carson did as well,” Keim said. “Carson is the fourth inside linebacker at this point and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

– The Cardinals have not yet filled the open roster spot created with Bishop’s release. I’d guess one would happen today, but we’ll see. You could add a running back with Ellington’s iffy situation, or a punter if ailing Dave Zastudil (groin) isn’t ready.

EllShot

 

 


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Adrian Wilson visits practice

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 1:39 pm

Before anyone takes this out of context, when veteran safety and ex-Cardinal Adrian Wilson came to visit practice today, it was just that — a visit. It wasn’t a tryout. Wilson wasn’t working out for General Manager Steve Keim but conversing with him, wearing — as A-Dub often does — a trendy outfit and carrying what looked to be a notebook and pen. He and Keim go way back, with both North Carolina State products and Keim the one who scouted Wilson and pushed for his selection in the 2001 draft.

I only got to talk to Wilson briefly, and he said he was doing well. There was no talk of football per se, or his recent release by the Bears. He, as you can see in the picture below, still very much looks the part. (One young Cardinal saw him from afar and noted, “I thought he’d look older than he does.” Take it as a compliment, Adrian.)

I’m not sure of the drop-by, but it isn’t surprising. Someday, Wilson will be going into the team’s Ring of Honor. That’s been known since it was put in the official press release the day Wilson was released. I am one of many who thinks that, whenever Wilson decides to retire, he could very well sign a one-day contract with the Cardinals to end it with this franchise. And I would not be surprised to see Wilson end up with some kind of role within the organization at some point. I think the organization thinks that much of Wilson, and I think Wilson thinks that much of this organization.

– The Cardinals had a another mini-practice Wednesday. With a Monday game, the real “week” of practice starts Thursday, with pads and hitting. That’s the day safety Tyrann Mathieu will give hitting a try.

– Arians said new defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is picking up the defense just fine — “Defensive line, the playbook isn’t real deep,” Arians quipped — and it looks like Kelly should slide in just fine into the defensive rotation.

DubBubbleblog


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