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Of Fitz and fans, Wednesday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2017 – 4:33 pm

Drew Stanton targets Larry Fitzgerald more than any other receiver when he is quarterbacking.

“Wouldn’t you throw it to Larry?” Stanton asked with a raised eyebrow.

OK, it makes sense. Fitz is kinda good. But Stanton said there are other reasons to look for Fitzgerald, and it can help the Cardinals Thursday night against the Seahawks.

“I’m not dumb,” Stanton said. “I know that we get in this stadium Thursday night, and I throw him a pass and he gets up and goes nuts, that crowd is going to respond. That’s a huge asset for us. The offense goes through him. We feed off of that.”

I can imagine Fitz after a 17-yard pickup in a big moment, jumping off the turf and putting his head back in one of those primal screams as the crowd chants “LAR-RY” over and over. The Cardinals will need some of that. They are 4-4 and a win puts them ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West and Seattle is likely down one of their best defenders in Earl Thomas. But this is a Cards team that’s still banged up itself, missing its quarterback, and yet to shut down an offense as capable as Seattle’s. It feels like emotions will matter. (Not as much as a solid defense, but you get the point.)

— Fitzgerald, by the way, shrugged off Stanton’s suggestion. “We’ve got to get the ball to Adrian,” Fitz said. “Let him feed and we’ll get him opportunities. He’s the linchpin right now.”

Adrian is Adrian Peterson, of course, the man who had 37 carries Sunday and could get a whole heaping helping of more Thursday night. It won’t be simple, of course. The Seahawks a) know it’s coming and b) are much better up front than the 49ers.

— Peterson knows what’s up too. As he said Wednesday, it can be “famine, famine, feast” when it comes to carries. Stick with the run, he was saying. So the defense just needs to keep it close.  As Bruce Arians noted, the formula against the Seahawks is often, run, run, run to make sure that defense can’t make big plays. I don’t know if AD gets 30 carries – he’s only had back-to-back 30-carry games once in his eventual Hall of Fame career – but he’ll be used. A lot.

— Speaking of workloads, a side note: While researching my Peterson story from earlier this week I came across this one, only part of which I knew. Buccaneers running back James Wilder had an incredible 407 carries in 1984, which is one I remembered. What I didn’t know is he had 85 pass receptions that season as well. Mind-boggling.

— The Cardinals battled the Seahawks to a 6-6 tie last season in Arizona and it was a game that belonged to the Cards’ defense. The Seahawks only were able to send it to overtime because of a blocked punt. The defense earned that win against Russell Wilson and company. That’s the kind of performance that side of the ball will need again.

— It came late, but Chandler Jones got another sack Sunday, and with nine in eight games he’s on pace to beat the franchise record. Simeon Rice had 16½ in 1999.

— Fitzgerald is a key, but not just because he can catch the ball. It’s his importance in the run game, and blocking (something Fitz does not get enough credit for, and something that always seems to jump out against the Seahawks.) Fitz calls the Seahawks the toughest matchup of the year because he has to block big strong safety Kam Chancellor so often. He even said he pushes his final bench press of Seattle week to 315 pounds knowing the rugged day he is in for.

“It’s like blocking a refrigerator for 60 minutes,” Fitzgerald said. “Toradol shots and smelling salts, everything else I can muster up to try and deal with this guy.”

— With the returns of David Johnson and Carson Palmer on the back burner at best, Arians did say that the return from IR by running back T.J. Logan has not been ruled out. Logan has been out since dislocating his wrist back in early August in the Hall of Fame game. Arians said Logan, who has already been eligible to return, will finally get on the field next week to see if he can catch punts while wearing a brace.

“To see where he’s at,” Arians said.

— The offensive line finally has some long-term continuity going, and it’s showing up. It goes beyond the tangible 159 yards rushing for Peterson last week.

“They were running some tricky stuff up front and we were passing it off,” center A.Q. Shipley said. “It was cool to watch on film. That helps us moving forward because now Seattle and other teams moving forward they’re like, ‘OK, they can pick things up.’ It’s huge. We all get along very well, communication comes easy in that group. Hopefully we can stay with it.”

— Speaking of the O-line, hope you had a chance to read how D.J. Humphries’ kid kept him in the NFL.

— One of the things that has hurt the Seahawks this season is penalties. Seattle is averaging an astounding 10.2 per game. There is still half a season to go, but only one team in NFL history has averaged 10 penalties a game, the 2011 Oakland Raiders.

— The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be open Thursday night. Plan accordingly.

See you there.


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Palmer, IR and the hard decisions

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2017 – 1:39 pm

So much for the Carson Palmer optimism.

The Cardinals officially put their quarterback on injured reserve Thursday. It means he is out at least eight weeks, it means he could at most play two more games, it means someone — likely T.J. Logan, but maybe Palmer, after all this — cannot come back this season. If Palmer indeed was going to be able to return sooner, you leave him on the 53-man roster and try and massage those inactives for a month-plus. But the Cards felt they needed the roster spot, and so Palmer is on the sideline. If the news after Wednesday’s surgery was definitive enough, then there is no reason not to IR him.

There is an open roster spot but Bruce Arians has already said it won’t go to a quarterback. Who they add (and it might not be until Monday or Tuesday, since the Cards are off until then) will be interesting. Wonder if there is a pass rusher out there who might be able to help out the struggling Haason Reddick in that regard. Also, is there still confidence in David Johnson coming back? I am guessing yes.

Mostly though, you think of Palmer. Unless the Cardinals can stay in the playoff hunt, it may not make sense to bring Palmer back for the last two games of the season. And yes, it makes you start to wonder if he has thrown his last pass for the Cardinals. If he returns, it’s a moot point — and don’t forget Arians said if Palmer was IR’d the Cards would “definitely” save one of their IR-return moves for him. (Again, teams only can bring two players back from IR in a season, after a minimum of eight weeks.) Palmer is also under contract for 2018. But is he going to play another year? There are still nine games left in this season, but the reality of the 2018 offseason and the potential changes to this team are hard to ignore.


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Carson Palmer’s chances of a quicker return

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2017 – 9:42 am

Bruce Arians originally thought Carson Palmer would be out eight weeks, but he said the quarterback was hoping it would be more in the 4-to-6-week range. If that ends up being the case — and there is apparently reason to believe it could be — that would be the best case scenario. Palmer was expected to have his surgery on his broken left arm today.

Former NFL team doctor David Chao writes articles about NFL injuries for the San Diego Union-Tribune and, via Twitter, often makes a general prognosis on an athlete’s injuries based on video review. In Palmer’s case, Chao also wrote an article about the part-time San Diego resident, saying that a return in 4-to-6 weeks makes a lot of sense. According to Chao, the video seems to show an isolated ulna fracture in the forearm. Other position players Chao had helped when he was a team doctor actually came back with a splint in as little as two weeks. Palmer likely needs more time given how much he handles the ball, but having him in a spot to play with a protected left (non-throwing) arm is possible in a little over a month. There is an outside chance, thanks to the bye, that Palmer could miss as few as three games.

The timing of all this is crucial because a trip to injured reserve means Palmer would have to miss eight weeks minimum. Keeping him off IR means he can return whenever — and would also keep the door open so that both running back T.J. Logan and David Johnson could be brought off IR and could both still play again this year.


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London — and Palmer injury — aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2017 – 4:11 pm

The story became so much more than just a week in London and what that meant for the Cardinals and why they played poorly in Sunday night’s across-the-pond loss to the Rams. Now it’s about the quarterback positon, the loss of Carson Palmer to a broken arm, and what that means for the future – on a couple of levels.

For Palmer, a player who no one was really sure how many seasons he still wanted to play, it leaves big questions. If he’s out eight weeks like Bruce Arians said, that’s basically the rest of the season. Does he stay on the active roster for that possibility?  A trip to IR is at minimum eight weeks. Maybe that’s what Arians was talking about, but bringing Palmer back would mean the end of bringing both T.J. Logan and David Johnson back, because you can only bring two players total back from injured reserve.

For Palmer, does he try to come back for 2018 for sure, so this isn’t the way it might end? There is so much that is potentially in flux for the Cardinals this offseason, especially given the age of many on the roster, that I doubt it’s a question that can be answered anytime soon.

As for the QBs that remain, Bruce Arians was adamant Drew Stanton would be his starter the rest of the season. Stanton is the backup and Blaine Gabbert the third-stringer for a reason, Arians said. And maybe the Cards have seen all the need to in order to evaluate what Gabbert can do for them. But I had thought Gabbert might get a chance if the season got away in the won-loss column. Perhaps not.

The Cardinals are going into a bye week. There is time to sort it out, but obviously, Sunday couldn’t have gone any worse.

— Stanton’s first start of the season is going to be in San Francisco. That’s where he had his lone start of 2016, when he threw a pair of TD passes to beat the Niners as Palmer missed his only game of last season because of a concussion.

— The Phil Dawson 32-yard field goal miss was his fifth of the season, more than he had all of last year. The footing was not great at Twickenham and the snap was low, but holder Andy Lee looked like he did a nice job getting it in place. It was also rougher when Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein converted all four of his field-goal attempts.

Arians said Dawson is “our guy” and all he can do is tell him to make the next one. But it’s hard to believe Dawson has struggled so much because it goes against everything he has been up until this season.

— Todd Gurley 106 rushing yards, Adrian Peterson 21. Boiling the game down really far, that’s it right there.

— I don’t know what would’ve happened if Palmer hadn’t been hit on his interception. He doesn’t break his arm. He probably doesn’t throw a pick. And the game was only 6-0 at that point. It just got ugly after Palmer left.

— Larry Fitzgerald is usually quiet after bad losses, but he seemed particularly so after this one. Bad loss, loss of QB, that can happen. He’s another guy for whom retirement talk lingers. Now what does he have coming the rest of the year?

“We’re confident Drew can lead us and do the same things that we were able to do in terms of play calling that Carson was able to do,” Fitzgerald said.

— So the London week is over. No one really knows what it meant. The Cardinals lost big and did it have anything to do with being overseas for a week? It’s difficult to imagine the Cards doing any better in Los Angeles if Palmer is getting hurt and the excellent Rams defensive front is plugging any potential Adrian Peterson holes.

In any case, the bye week is here. Before that a long, long plane flight, in which the Cards will have time to ponder what went sideways in England and how exactly they can try and make things better the second half of the season – if they are able.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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Breaking down the first 53-man roster

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2017 – 5:57 pm

The Cardinals have a roster. I expect it to change by Sunday night, but as usual, we will see. There is a possibility they look at signing veteran punter Andy Lee, who was cut Saturday by the Panthers and who has a history as a holder for Phil Dawson. They could grab an outside linebacker, because they only kept three thus far. The likelihood is that T.J. Logan will go on IR too, so that’ll quickly create an opening.

In the meantime, some thoughts on the roster as is:

— The numbers breakdown:
QB 3
RB 5
WR 6
TE 3
OL 9
DL 7
OLB 3
ILB 5
CB 4
S 5
ST 3

— Other than Logan on the roster (I did not know a player could not be put on IR immediately and be able to return later in the season, so that was a new one for me) this was basically what was expected at running back. Chris Johnson was let go as Andre Ellington seemed to find his rookie vibe. Ellington can catch the ball better and ultimately, I think that was a big thing.

— The receiving corps ended up being the six most likely candidates, but someone will end up on the practice squad. My guess would be Carlton Agudosi, but Bruce Arians likes how Chris Hubert gets open too.

— The offensive line may have delivered the most surprises, but then again, Arians was happy with his starters plus John Wetzel and the rest was up in the air. I thought Cole Toner would be the swing guy but instead, the Cards kept C Daniel Munyer (who they liked, obviously) and T Ulrick John, as well as rookie T Will Holden. G Dorian Johnson, the fourth-round pick and the only choice not to make the roster, really struggled in camp and preseason and it cost him a chance to stick.

— The Cards only have three outside linebackers. I’d guess Cap Capi will be a practice-squad candidate, and they very well could find an outside linebacker somewhere as a cut from another team. Philip Wheeler was the guy who beat out Scooby Wright as a fifth inside linebacker. Wright could be practice squad. He does well on special teams but his athletic limits hurt Wright on defense.

— Matt Wile is the punter. Will that change?

— Rudy Ford makes it as safety over Harlan Miller. Ford has a lot of speed, and that shows up when he plays center field on defense and on special teams.


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Keim: Injuries will decide if Logan returns

Posted by Darren Urban on August 7, 2017 – 8:29 am

It didn’t take much to see what rookie running back T.J. Logan could do in the return game in the preseason opener. Every one saw it. It was a bummer for all when Logan dislocated a wrist, which will force surgery.

“I feel like I jinxed us because about halfway through the game I leaned over to (team president) Michael Bidwill and said, ‘We finally have our punt and kick returner,’ ” General Manager Steve Keim said during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Because the things he showed, his fearless approach to catching the football in traffic, his footspeed, his acceleration, the burst you saw, gave me the feel he could be very explosive in the return game.”

Coach Bruce Arians said the hope is that Logan returns by midseason. But that isn’t just based on Logan’s recovery. It’s also based on other injuries. Logan is headed for injured reserve, and it’ll depend on circumstances for his return, Keim said.

“It’s hard to forecast injuries and how they heal,” Keim said. “There’s a chance potentially to get that thing to heal and get him back at some point in the season. Whether we do or don’t will be determined on some of the other injuries we incur. Hopefully we won’t have many.”

A new NFL rule says teams can bring two players — not just one — back from IR after eight weeks. And teams don’t have to designate who those players are until a week before their return, so there is flexibility.

Among Keim’s other comments:

— He said it’s premature to be talking about Blaine Gabbert overtaking Drew Stanton for No. 2 QB. But Gabbert has shown a quick grasp of the offense, and Keim liked that he didn’t always look to run if his first read wasn’t there.

— On defense, Keim raved about second-round safety Budda Baker, and liked the play of defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre.


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Good news on Bucannon, not on Logan

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2017 – 11:04 am

A quick update long distance (thanks, streaming azcardinals.com) after practice today, before I head over to Canton for Kurt Warner’s induction.

— Good news on Deone Bucannon. Bruce Arians said he’s on target to return for the opener, due to get about a week of practice (although the coach admitted again he’d rather have the $LB get about 10 days in a perfect world.) The fact that Karlos Dansby (leg) is supposed to be returning to practice this week means the position hopefully is moving in the right direction health-wise.

— Not good news of rookie running back T.J. Logan. Kyle will have the full story soon, but he dislocated a wrist and needs surgery. Arians said Logan will be out 12 weeks and needs surgery. He will go on injured reserve, but the idea is that he’ll be back around Week 8 and would be one of the Cardinals’ returns from IR.

— LB Jarvis Jones is out a week with a disc issue.

— Arians said Blaine Gabbert “has a chance” to unseat Drew Stanton as the No. 2 QB, but there’s a long way to go, and Stanton knows the offense so much better.


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After practice: Penny bashes at the Red-White

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 6:22 pm

Famous last words.

Mike Jurecki asked about cornerback Ronald Zamort in Saturday’s lunchtime presser. And if he hadn’t, someone would have. Bruce Arians’ reaction was swift.

“You guys keep asking about individual guys and they keep getting hurt,” Arians deadpanned. “You and Josh (Weinfuss) are 2-for-2. If you get this one, you’re done.” (There had been previous questions about Aaron Dobson and the lack of soft tissue injuries at that point.)

Arians chuckled.

He wasn’t chuckling a couple hours later, when Zamort indeed went down. At first it was scary — Zamort wasn’t moving — but he eventually got up. We don’t know what the injury was — an update likely won’t come until Monday — but we’ll see what kind of questions Arians will answer going forward. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports that Zamort tore an ACL.

As for the rest of the Red-White:

— Elijhaa Penny is trying to find a spot on the roster. The big second-year running back wanted to clarify some of the reports about his weight — he said he weighed 250 last season, and is now down to 236, feeling lighter on his feet — and he spends most reps looking for contact as he runs downfield.

“I want to be the linebacker on offense,” Penny said. “I want to deliver the hit instead of taking the hit. The main point is I want the offense to get the same mentality that the defense has. Hit them instead of them hitting us.”

He is in a fight with a crowded backfield. “Every day, I have to treat it almost like it’s game day.”

— It was interesting to watch the final three plays on the full-contact goalline scrimmage. Three straight carries for rookie T.J. Logan. Logan and fellow rookie linebacker Haason Reddick collided something fierce in the hole on the first two. On all three, Logan’s helmet popped off.

— Among the notable plays in 11-on-11 work: Patrick Peterson’s tip-drill interception in the end zone, tipped by Tyvon Branch; Jaron Brown hauling in a tipped pass that had been defended well by Zamort; Larry Fitzgerald’s sliding TD catch on the first play of red zone work from the 11-yard line; Krishawn Hogan’s juggling catch on the sideline; and Budda Baker’s nice from-behind pass breakup on Jeremy Ross.

— LB Karlos Dansby sat out the practice with a sore knee.

— The defenses and offenses essentially split success at the end-of-practice scrimmage plays.

— Robert Nkemdiche was a disruptive force much of the time again. The second-unit offensive line has a hard time blocking him.

— The crowd ended up being 25,000.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow and don’t have another open practice to the public until Aug. 8. They play in Canton Thursday.


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Cornerback shuffle continues

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 12:37 pm

Bruce Arians wants the Cardinals to add a veteran cornerback, but defers to GM Steve Keim as to when (not really an if, it doesn’t seem) that happens. Nevertheless, with Justin Bethel out a couple of days after hyperextending his knee in a collision with tight end Jermaine Gresham the other day, Ronald Zamort is running with the first unit. Brandon Williams, who was supposed to be behind Bethel, is behind Zamort.

— Rookie T.J. Logan should be the kickoff return man for the Cardinals, Arians said (unless he is bad in preseason, Arians added.) But in a small surprise, Arians said Logan has been doing well on punt returns and might have a chance to do that as well. Logan has never returned punts, so it’s a work-in-progress.

— Arians wasn’t happy with the offense in Friday’s practice, disappointed in the execution. Carson Palmer technically practiced, but he didn’t do anything after individual drills. (Palmer is practicing fully today.) Arians added that Drew Stanton had a good day at practice but could have had a great day. At the same time, he acknowledged Palmer’s absence obviously impacted the offense. “That’s why he’s Carson.”

— It’s tough to be happy after a camp practice, Arians said, and he rarely is. “That’s the problem. Cardinals always win, but offense or defense, one side always beats the other. You hope it happens in and out of practice, rather than one-sided.”

 


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