Just two weeks ago, Steve Keim was emphasizing the need to improve the Cardinals’ pass rush. This is no state secret, or hard to analyze. After watching what the Broncos did to the Panthers in the Super Bowl — and what the Cardinals could not do to Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game — that plan of action couldn’t have been made any more crystal clear.
It changes the game to be able to pressure off the edge consistently. It makes a difference in the biggest games. After the 2007 season, the Patriots, with their 18-0 record and a passing game that scored more than 50 times by itself, stalled in the Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense wasn’t even that powerful overall, necessarily — but it had a front four that could get to the quarterback (and depth up front), that made life hellish for Tom Brady and brought down the undefeated season with a crash.
This has been a constant topic around the Cardinals in recent years. Even looking back at the 2011 draft, when the Cardinals picked future All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall choice, the team was eyeing Super Bowl 50 star Von Miller had he dropped that far (although it became clear in the days leading up to the draft he would not.) You can scheme all you want and blitz more than any other team — which the Cards have done the last couple of years — but blitzing is a risk that can burn a club. And the Cards didn’t always provide the pressure even when they did blitz. The pass rush doesn’t guarantee a title (ask the Panthers, who harassed Peyton Manning pretty well themselves) but it’s an uphill climb without it.
Tags: Broncos, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Super Bowl, Von Miller
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After it came out that Chris Johnson had a fracture in his knee (to be clear, it is a tibial plateau fracture, with a chip in the tibia near the knee), it was pretty clear he was going to miss some time. The Cardinals clarified that Tuesday when CJ was put on the IR-designated to return list, meaning he cannot play before the Super Bowl. You know, assuming the Cardinals can get there.
Many have asked if the Cardinals were going to sign a running back. They promoted Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad. They are hoping Andre Ellington, who looks like he’ll be week to week with a turf toe, comes back sooner rather than later. And I was reminded of what running backs coach Stump Mitchell told Chris Johnson when Johnson was considering signing with the Cardinals back in August.
“I love Andre Ellington,” Mitchell said. “I love Kerwynn Williams. I love Stepfan Taylor. I love all the running backs we have here right now. Honestly, we don’t need you to win.”
This isn’t to denigrate Chris Johnson or what he has accomplished. He is shelved with 814 yards rushing, fourth-best in the NFL for now (and sadly, he won’t be one of the few 1,000-yard rushers for the franchise since moving to Arizona. But I digress.) But assuming the Ellington problem is short-term, the Cardinals are prepared and were prepared to attack this season without CJ2K. Rookie David Johnson has looked pretty good in limited time and he looks like he’ll be the starter if Ellington is gimpy. Would they have been as successful? Hard to know — David Johnson certainly would’ve gotten more work by now — but this isn’t something they feared.
Now, if David Johnson gets hurt, or Ellington can’t get healthy, then there’s a problem. It’s not like this offense was anchored by Chris Johnson. This offense still revolves around Carson Palmer and the passing game. You want the running game to be effective, but there is belief that it will be (with better blocking). There is little question every single guy in that locker room is hoping CJ2K plays again this season. Both for his sake, and for theirs.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Stump Mitchell, Super Bowl
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The NFL commissioner was talking Cardinals this morning, during an appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. At one point, he was asked about the status of suspended linebacker Daryl Washington, who has not been reinstated from his at-least-a-year suspension that was handed down in late May of 2014.
Goodell didn’t have details, nor was he going to. He did say that he was “aware that his status is unchanged.”
“The substance abuse policy is something that is collectively bargained with the players association as far as the CBA,” Goodell said. “A very strong tenet of that is the fact is the program remains confidential and circumstances surrounding it stay confidential between the various partners. We have professionals that work on it, they make determinations with individuals within the program and they make recommendations back to the NFLPA and NFL.
“I am not directly involved in that but I am aware his status is unchanged and will remain so until the professionals are prepared to move forward.”
While details aren’t forthcoming, it is telling that the NFLPA is looped in to all this and has not publicly said anything — in particular, gone to bat for Washington asking why he is still suspended. Neither has Washington’s agent. That’s probably not a good sign.
— Goodell also said the league “couldn’t be more pleased” with how the Super Bowl went last season and that the league looks forward to coming back. Another Super Bowl seems inevitable. Remember the one caveat to getting a Super Bowl at some point, officially, is that a host team has to give up a home game to play internationally. (That may be inevitable anyway. With the NFL’s international push, I’m guessing every team will eventually be tapped to give up a home game at some point.)
Tags: Daryl Washington, Roger Goodell, Super Bowl
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Bruce Arians has never been shy about bold proclamations about his team, like after winning the Coach of the Year award before the Super Bowl saying that he planned on his players dressing in the locker rooms of the 49ers’ stadium at the same time the following year — when Super Bowl 50 is played.
Last week at the NFL spring meetings, someone pointed out that Rex Ryan often had the same kind of talk when leading the Jets, until Ryan apparently got to the point where he felt like he was putting an unnecessary target on his team. Arians was asked if he had considered those ramifications.
“No, because we talk about it in the first meeting and then we don’t talk about it anymore,” Arians said. “That’s the goal every year. Last year (the Super Bowl) just happened to be in our stadium. It was easy to look a guy in the eye and say, ‘Who’s dressing in your locker?’ We don’t have that so I have to come up with a new line this year.
“The goal is to win the Super Bowl. We won’t shy away. We talk about it the first day and then we talk about the process, every day the process.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Super Bowl
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The Patriots won the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in early February. The turf upon which they won the Lombardi Trophy will live on for football too (and soccer and other sports.) The grass has been installed at Tolleson Union High School. Through Chandler-based Evergreen Turf (which, not surprisingly is a partner with the Cardinals), about 90,000 square feet of sod was moved from University of Phoenix Stadium about 6½ miles west.
It’s not the first time the sod (which was grown in Alabama, originally) has been shared locally. After the Giants’ Super Bowl win in February of 2008, that sod was moved to Phoenix Moon Valley High School.
Tags: Super Bowl, Tolleson Union High School
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That’s it. The NFL season is over.
It’s a weird feeling here at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility, because the Cards have been done for a while — yet with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in town (not to mention the many appearance opportunities for various players, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwill) it ramped up quickly around here. And then, quiet. The Scouting combine starts two weeks from Wednesday, and free agency will start a couple weeks after that. Roster moves will begin to happen. The 2015 season will be on us quickly.
— Bruce Arians told me Friday he expects to make an announcement on the new defensive coordinator this week. But that’s all it will be, an announcement, because Arians is out of town this week so he wouldn’t be at any press conference. Arians also said all the changes to the coaching staff aren’t quite done, so maybe he’ll just wait to talk about it once that all is settled. As I’ve mentioned, all signs point to the promotion of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher to DC.
— The decision to not run Marshawn Lynch was not smart. (I do get trying to beat a goal-line defense, but again, you have the best battering ram in the league.) That said, how does a defense that is that good allow two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter? Can’t happen, and is as big of an issue in my mind as the offensive failure at the end.
— The Cardinals’ facility is now 3-for-3 in Super Bowl winners. The Cowboys (for Super Bowl XXX), the Giants (Super Bowl XLII) and now the Patriots all practiced at the Cards’ Tempe home the week of their games in Arizona.
— Speaking of the facility, more makeovers are underway. The new weight room and cafeteria are closer to being finished, and now that the Patriots don’t need it anymore, the locker room is being torn down for renovations.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, James Bettcher, Marshawn Lynch, Patriots, Seahawks, Super Bowl
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One of the many things the Cardinals must sort through this offseason is what to do with suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if and when he returns — and how to plan for the season with his status in limbo for the next few months. Washington’s suspension, which is for a year before he can request NFL reinstatement, lasts until late May. That’s after free agency, and it’s after the draft. Until this suspension ends, it seems unlikely the NFL will hand down whatever suspension Washington might get for his assault conviction from last year.
That’s a lot of uncertainty, and why team president Michael Bidwill said Thursday the Cardinals are going to go through the offseason ready to not have Washington available — and if he is around, the Cards will be that much better off.
“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”
— Bidwill reiterated once again he is optimistic the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald will come to an agreement on a new contract.
“Larry and I have met about it, just he and I talking about it, and I know he’s interested in getting something resolved,” Bidwill said. “After the playoff game, he got away, left the country. He’s back now, it’s a busy week this week and we’ll start working on this next week. I think we’ll get this all worked out.
“He’s such a great person and a great player, he’s got many years left and I want to see him retire as an Arizona Cardinal. I want to see us move past getting this contract resolved and move forward.”
— The other Cardinal facing legal issues, running back Jonathan Dwyer, had his case play out Thursday. The running back, who had been arrested in September, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced him to 18 months probation and community service. Dwyer is scheduled to become a free agent in March.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, Jonathan Dwyer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim, Super Bowl
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Kurt Warner was going to be here for the Super Bowl anyway, with his duties for the NFL Network. He was at U.S. Airways Center Tuesday for Media Day, answering questions from whomever might ask (including former Olympic gymnast/Inside Edition correspondent Shawn Johnson, who, like Warner, is a Dancing with the Stars alum. That’s the picture below.)
But the big day for Warner comes Saturday, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee whittles down the final group of 15 — within which Warner qualified — to the Class of 2015. It is Warner’s first year on the ballot.
“I’ve tried to just live life and not get too bogged down with this whole process,” the former Cardinals quarterback said. “I’m enjoying it. I’m honored to be in the final 15. As I’ve told people, whenever it gets to a cut, you start to realize how much more gravity it has to it. Right now, ‘Hey, I’m one of the 15. That’s crazy.’ Come Saturday, I’m sure we’re all going to feel the gravity of what the decision to get into the Hall of Fame means, what that looks like big picture to us.
“Right now, I’m so honored to be in the 15 with the great, talented players. So many players I’ve played against, people that I know that are great people, that I’m just honored to be in the class. We’ll let it play out.”
At this point, Warner’s spot in the Hall of Fame seems to be more a question of when, not if. It’s hard to make it to the final 15 the very first year you are on the ballot if you aren’t already considered a guy who is worthy. Maybe it will happen on his first chance, maybe not. It would certainly be a nice coincidence given that the Super Bowl and Hall announcement is in Arizona.
“My only hope is that, when it comes to Saturday and they call you or knock on your door, whatever, I just don’t want it to be any kind of a disappointment for anybody,” Warner said. “We all are honored to be in this class and be in the top 15, and I’m worried that if you don’t get that knock on your door, you walk out (disappointed). Hey, I’m one of the 265 best players to ever play this game, so to speak, and I’m pretty cool with that. I’m good with that. I want this to be a joyous time, and if I get in, what an amazing honor. It’ll be a great ride.”
Tags: Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLIX
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It was the mantra Bruce Arians made sure his team lived by all season.
“Don’t let anybody dress in your locker room come February,” was the version Arians vocalized at midseason, a nod to making sure the Cardinals fought hard to reach the Super Bowl and be able to practice and play in their home facility and at University of Phoenix Stadium. That dream died on Wild Card weekend. So the next thought was the idea this weekend that NFC West rival Seattle, after beating the Packers in the NFC Championship, would then take up residence in the Cardinals’ locker room. That got a reaction.
A Seahawk is gonna be sitting in my locker 😡
— Tony Jefferson (@tonyjefferson1) January 18, 2015
Except that will not be the case.
At University of Phoenix Stadium, there are multiple locker rooms, so neither the Seahawks or the Patriots will use the Cardinals’ locker room. The Cardinals’ practice facility in Tempe is in play during the week, but the Patriots are going to use the facility — it was going to be the AFC team regardless, although I’m assuming that would have changed if the Cardinals had made it this far.
Tags: Patriots, Seahawks, Super Bowl, Tony Jefferson
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The “deadline,” such that it is, comes on the fifth day of the NFL’s league year — which begins March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time. That’s when, if Larry Fitzgerald is still on the Cardinals’ roster and still has his current contract in place, he is owed $8 million. That’s the real date at which everyone is focused to see what happens with the wide receiver and whether he stays with the Cardinals and if so, what kind of contract he has.
GM Steve Keim has long acknowledged he has had ongoing discussions with Fitzgerald’s agent about redoing the contract and fixing that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz carries with him. There have been a couple of reports out there that the conversations toward a new deal have been positive. That’s good, although as we all know, something like this isn’t done until it’s done, and just because someone hasn’t hung up on someone else doesn’t guarantee anything.
Still, you start to think about that March deadline, and one other potentially artificial one: Super Bowl week.
Fitzgerald is usually a regular on radio row at Super Bowl week. Whether it’s for the company EAS or someone else for which he might be a spokesman, that’s the week where the sponsors want to capitalize on having the big name doing their work. When Fitz does a bunch of TV and radio interviews heading into the NFL’s biggest game, he’s answering a lot of questions.
And while Fitz always handles himself and his answers like a pro — he’s really, really good at that part of his job — it’s not always his favorite thing to talk about the more controversial of subjects (like, in years past, the chaotic quarterback situation with the Cardinals.) So what happens when he sits down for interview after interview and the first (and probably not the only) question he is asked is about whether he’ll be a Cardinal? His contract situation, which I know he’d rather not talk about, could end up taking up the entire segment.
(Except for the one EAS question at the very end, right?)
I’m not saying anything is going to get done with the Cardinals and Fitzgerald by Super Bowl week — to me, the only thing that would be done that quickly would be a way to keep him in Arizona, because a trade can’t happen until March 10 and they aren’t releasing him at that point — just because he’ll be doing some interviews. But it’s something to think about.
Tags: contract, Larry Fitzgerald, Super Bowl
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