Bruce Arians came out Sunday after his team beat the Jaguars and, during his opening comments, was blunt.
“Yes, I thought about going for it on fourth down,” Arians said. “It was real hard not to.”
It brought a smile to many listening. The week before, the Cardinals had tried to convert a fourth-and-1 with 6:33 left when losing to the Texans by three. Adrian Peterson was stuffed for a loss, the Texans ran for a touchdown on the next play, and that was that. It led to Arians taking the blame after the game for the call, and then reversing field the next day.
(There is a fascinating article about going for it on fourth down from the New York Times back in 2014. While critical situations have to be taken into account — like the ones Arians faced — that article says a team should always go for it on fourth-and-1 starting at a team’s own 9-yard line.)
A week later, a lesson apparently had been learned.
Against the Jaguars, there was 1:21 left in a tie game, and the ball was at the 50. Not converting there would have led to a very short field to get in field-goal range for the Jags, which would have been a disaster. Peterson ran the ball much better against Jacksonville, and the blocking was much better. But Arians wasn’t drawn in, and the Cardinals still won in regulation.
“Blaine (Gabbert) tried to talk me into it, and I just kept looking to see if it was going to be six inches or a yard,” Arians said the day after. “We knew we’d get the ball back, and I’m really pissed off because we didn’t line up properly on that one play; it cost us one of our timeouts, or we’d have two timeouts. But, we knew we were going to get the ball back if they threw it (on the possession after the punt), and they did.”
A couple of sideline passes later, Phil Dawson kicked a 57-yard field goal, and the fourth-down choice this time around paid off.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Jaguars, Phil Dawson, Texans
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Andre Ellington said goodbye after the Cardinals released him. Ellington was claimed off waivers by the Texans — the team the Cards just played, although Ellington didn’t see the field as a surprise inactive. There Ellington replaces D’Onta Foreman, who injured his ankle on his final touchdown run against the Cards. Ellington also gets to play with his cousin Bruce Ellington, a wide receiver on the Texans.
On Instagram, Ellington posted a farewell:
Special thanks to all my fans that supported me throughout my career in AZ. It’s been real! I truly enjoyed my journey as a Cardinal and playing in front of you guys. Unfortunately, some things must come to an end. To my teammates, best of luck and wish you nothing but success going forward. Much love!
Tags: Andre Ellington, Texans
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Bruce Arians said after the game Sunday he would be looking at different receivers potentially going forward. GM Steve Keim echoed that sentiment Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.
“We’ve been looking at wide receivers in a lot of different scenarios,” Keim said, noting that the current group — outside of Larry Fitzgerald — haven’t made the plays they had made in the past. That includes consideration of signing guys off the street, Keim said, as well as potentially poaching one from another team’s practice squad.
Who is catching the ball is one of the storylines going forward, as is who is throwing it. Keim praised Blaine Gabbert’s play — calling him decisive, saying he got the ball out quick and was accurate “for the most part” — as one of three players who really jumped out to him on a positive note. (The other two, of course, were Budda Baker and Ricky Seals-Jones.) He said Gabbert wasn’t helped by a lack of run game or the drops. (A quick aside: Pro Football Focus said the Cardinals only dropped two passes but it’s clear Arians and Keim thought it was more. Keim said six in his interview. I’d have to go back and watch, but at first glance I didn’t not think Sunday was as bad as the Seahawks game.)
Keim gave no hints on who might start at quarterback this coming week. He did say Drew Stanton’s knee was healing quicker than expected. He also said the quarterback decision would be made by Arians, but “we’ll talk it through and it’ll be a team decision.” (In my opinion, it sounded like Keim would lean to giving Gabbert another start. We will see.)
— The inability to run the football is getting under Keim’s skin. “Some of it is getting our tail whipped at the point of attack, some of it is fundamentals,” he said. Keim was disappointed in the blocking from the tight ends, and it the ability to block at the second level.
— Baker is “fun to watch. He plays at a different speed.” Keim loves both his explosive movement, his physical play and how much ground he can cover. He is “fantastic” in pass coverage, Keim added.
— Asked about the fourth down call, Keim said “I have a lot of faith in Coach.” Noted that Arians did drop passes, miss tackles or get dominated on the line of scrimmage, all of which were issues Sunday.
— Keim was asked about, with a 4-6 record, he was now going to focus on the future in terms of roster building and also perhaps how the Cardinals determine playing time. Keim said he’s looking at every scenario as always, scanning practice squads for other players, scouting college players, combining a look at the future as well as now. In terms of playing time, he used the Seals-Jones example of giving a guy a shot who also in term makes things better short-term. “If other guys aren’t getting it done, give other guys an opportunity,” Keim said.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Steve Keim, Texans
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The focus going in to Sunday’s game was the quarterback. That made sense. The Cardinals were on their third one of the season and it is the most important position on the team. And for the most part, Blaine Gabbert acquitted himself pretty well. There were the two picks late, and you can’t have those, but the Cards were chasing 10 points by then.
No, it was the issues that have been around all season that doomed the Cards in Houston. A running game that has echoed the struggles of the pre-Adrian Peterson ground game. A defense that makes some plays but just can’t clamp down when the team desperately needs it. An offense that needs to find more consistency overall.
— Drew Stanton was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday. Could that mean he’s healthy enough to start next week – and does Bruce Arians drop him right back in? (I know the public-at-large’s answer.) Gabbert did look very comfortable, and he clearly has some chemistry with rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. That makes sense, because Seals-Jones and Gabbert have been working together on third team since the offseason. We’ll see. It’s fair to point out the Texans secondary has struggled quite a bit against the passers it has seen, and next week’s game against the Jaguars will feature one of the better secondaries the Cardinals have seen.
— Speaking of secondary, the Cardinals sure look like they have a star-in-the-making back there with rookie safety Budda Baker. He was everywhere Sunday. He was great on defense and continues to play so well on special teams – I repeat that he deserves (heavy) consideration for the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams spot.
— Bruce Arians opened his press conference by taking the blame on the failed fourth down. I’ll admit I was on the move when the play happened, seeing it on the TV screen as I made my way down to the field. But I agree that the Cards had been stuffed all day inside. There wasn’t much to get, but the Texans made it obvious the wanted Gabbert to try and beat them. It was going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson on every run play, and the fourth-down try was only the one in the spotlight.
–Peterson ended up with 13 yards on 12 carries after his first two totes gained six and seven yards.
— I do think the absent D.J. Humphries makes a big difference when it comes to the run game.
— The Patrick Peterson vs. DeAndre Hopkins battle was exactly how it was expected to go. Peterson did give up the back-to-back big plays, finishing with Hopkins’ TD. But he broke up/defended a bunch of other tries, and nearly got a second interception late in the game with perfect technique. It’s funny that his first pick was on a pass that wasn’t even thrown to Hopkins or at Peterson. A deflection, and the right place, right time.
— Speaking of missed chances on turnovers, the Cards were there. There were a couple of other fumbles on the ground by the Texans that the Cards just couldn’t fall on, in addition to Peterson’s near-pick. Tyrann Mathieu also dropped a deep pass that could’ve been an interception, although the play was wiped out by an Arizona penalty. The Cards need all the turnovers they can get. At least they converted their two short-fields into TDs.
— Arians said he’d be going to different receivers this next week. That would seem to me that Chad Williams has a chance to be active, but other than that, I’m not sure where you turn. Maybe more Brittan Golden? I don’t see them bringing up Carlton Agudosi from the practice squad, but who knows.
— As much as Tom Savage had struggled this season, it hurts to give up a 97.1 passer rating to him, and 31 points to the Houston offense without the aid of turnovers.
— Fitz was asked about playing in 2018. He did not answer, one way or the other, and wouldn’t even say if he’s still thinking about it. So he leaves everyone in suspense – and makes sure the questions keep coming probably more often than not the rest of the season.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Carlton Agudosi, Chad Williams, D.J. Humphries, DeAndre Hopkins, Drew Stanton, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ricky Seals-Jones, Texans, Tom Savage, Tyrann Mathieu
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It turns out Drew Stanton is healthy enough to at least back up Blaine Gabbert today, and he will be active for the Cardinals against the Texans. In a surprising move, running back Andre Ellington is a healthy scratch — and former ASU star D.J. Foster will get his first chance to play this season. It’ll be an intriguing third-down possibility with Foster and the mobile Gabbert,
The full inactive list:
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR Chad Williams
— S Harlan Miller
— RB Andre Ellington
— LB Bryson Albright
— C Max Tuerk
— DL Corey Peters (ankle)
Tags: Andre Ellington, D.J.Foster, Drew Stanton, inactives, Matt Barkley, Texans
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The last time the Cardinals played in Houston in a game that counted, Larry Fitzgerald was only 22 years old, in the days when the Cards never talked about the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. Fitz was asked this week about a 12-yard touchdown pass he caught in the game – a loss to a Texans team so bad they ended up with the No. 1 overall draft pick – and it took him no time to recall that it was the great John Navarre who threw him the pass.
“I have a photographic memory,” Fitzgerald said. “Slant route in garbage time. Fantasy owners were happy.”
Fitz proceeded to say he remembers almost every catch he’s ever made, and that’s quite a few. I mean, that’s 1,185 in his career and counting – a number that came into even sharper focus Friday morning with Fitz’s contract extension through 2018. As I said before, it’s good he’s under contract but for me, it doesn’t guarantee Fitz playing next season. Good sign, yes. But until I hear it from his mouth – I am guessing it will be a topic postgame Sunday – I can’t go all in.
This season, though, Fitzgerald is here and playing very well. If you can have a quiet 10-113 as a receiver, Fitz did last week against the Seahawks. With Blaine Gabbert starting Sunday, I’m guessing the new QB will lean on Fitz targets again, both because, duh, he’s a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but also because of the troubles the pass catchers not named Fitz had with drops/near-catches against Seattle.
— It made a lot of sense all week that Gabbert would get the nod to play Sunday. He’s healthy. Drew Stanton is not. Bruce Arians wanted to keep Stanton in the lineup, and I do agree with B.A. that Stanton played pretty well against Seattle. Gabbert is playing because of injury but I also understand the idea of getting a chance to see what Gabbert can do, in this offense, in a game that counts.
— Fitz was asked if Gabbert’s success in the preseason gives him confidence in the new QB. It led to a long pause. “I’ve been in it a long time,” Fitzgerald finally said. “Preseason is preseason. I’ve seen him have success in regular-season games.”
— Interesting (to me, at least) that the Cards become the first team to start three QBs this season, given that it comes against the Texans. The long-ago loss in Houston, in which Navarre found Fitz? It was the only time the Cardinals have played three quarterbacks in a game. Kurt Warner started, completed all 10 of his passes (Fitz isn’t the only one who remembers all this stuff off the top of his head) before exiting with a knee injury. Josh McCown was the backup and came in, but he was horribly ill that day and he couldn’t continue. So the Cards turned to Navarre.
— Arians was asked about those receivers this week after the struggles they had collectively. “Practice is fine,” he said. “When those lights turn on … it’s going to be a big week for them.”
— The Cardinals have only played the Texans three times in the regular season. The loss in 2005, and the Cardinals getting home wins in 2009 and 2013.
— Stanton hurt his right knee when he was hit low by Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was flagged on the play (and it kept alive the TD drive that ended with the Stanton TD screen pass to Jermaine Gresham). Richardson was fined $18,231 for his play, and was not happy about it. Also fined $18,231 was Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for the hit to Russell Wilson’s jaw. Dansby is appealing, and the Seahawks are still dealing with the fallout for not properly checking Wilson for a concussion.
— Corey Peters has been solid in the middle of the defensive line this season. Not having him in the lineup is notable. The Texans are going to want to run to protect struggling QB Tom Savage. We will see who plugs the middle of the line.
— The Texans are putting former all-pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, their version of Fitz, into their Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday. Current star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was asked to name his favorite Johnson play. It turned out he named a reception over Patrick Peterson in Arizona in 2013.
Late in the game, Johnson was blanketed by Peterson, who actually got his hand on the ball and looked like he might get an amazing end zone interception. Instead, the ball bounced and Johnson somehow tipped it to himself and kept his feet in. (Here, look for yourself, around the 52-second mark.)
“I don’t know how he caught it,” Hopkins said.
— Fitz on Johnson: “He exudes class. He’s one of the best to ever do it. This is just a precursor to greater things down the road. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. I’m happy as a fan of his to witness and see it go up.”
— One final Fitz note. It was mentioned in his “A Football Life” episode that he buys suits for all the coaches. Fitzgerald said he’s been doing that “forever.”
“Our success on the field, it says our numbers, but those guys spend hours … (assistant head coach) Tom Moore is here at 4 o’clock in the morning every morning figuring out new innovate ways to be able to feature guys like myself and Adrian (Peterson),” Fitz said. “A lot of hard work was put into those schemes and you want to do right by those guys.”
“They all get custom stuff, make sure they look good. Some of them look better than others.”
See you in Houston.
Tags: Andre Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Corey Peters, DeAndre Hopkins, Drew Stanton, John Navarre, Josh McCown, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Russell Wilson, Sheldon Richardson, Texans, Tom Moore, Tom Savage
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Tony Romo is leaving football to go into broadcasting. So were the reports Tuesday morning, as Romo remains Cowboys property long after it was thought he would have moved on. In a world where Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger at least consider retirement and there is constant discussion about teams looking for long-term QB solutions and the ability for older QBs to be effective, it’s strange to see a guy like Romo walk away.
But the Cowboys were holding out for a draft pick, unwilling to just release Romo, and teams (Texans, Broncos) didn’t want to pick up Romo’s giant contract. So Romo apparently has taken himself out of the mix to go into TV. Will he stay there? You’d think CBS want to have something concrete, so maybe this is the real deal. But it’d be understandable to have some skepticism in a league where there are probably a team or two who would likely want Romo to play. The Texans, in fact, might only be a (healthy) Romo away from being a Super Bowl contender. Could Romo’s playing status change again come September? (It’s been noted by Cowboys writers that Romo isn’t in shape and may have been leaning to retirement anyway.)
This also underscores where the league is with quarterbacks, when a 36-year-old, oft-injured (albeit talented) player is potentially a major loss for someone. Because the landscape said Romo would likely would have ended up in the AFC, there wasn’t really going to be a direct impact on the Cardinals (although the Cards do visit Houston this coming season). Still, it’s an interesting story that may not have an ending yet.
Tags: Broncos, quarterbacks, Texans, Tony Romo
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It’s not exactly on par with the news that the Cardinals will play a game in London next season, but the opponents the Cards will play in 2017 is just about set. The only part left is Sunday night’s Packers-Lions game. The Cards will travel to play the loser of that game next season. UPDATE: The Packers beat the Lions, so the Cardinals will go to Detroit.
As always, the schedule is to be announced, although we know the London game will be either Week 7 or 8 (and will be followed by their 2017 bye). The full NFL schedule comes out in mid-April.
— Dallas Cowboys
— New York Giants
— Jacksonville Jaguars
— Tennessee Titans
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams
— Philadelphia Eagles
— Washington Redskins
— Houston Texans
— Indianapolis Colts
— Detroit Lions
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams (in London)
Tags: 49ers, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Lions, London, Rams, Redskins, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Titans
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The preseason is over, essentially. The fourth preseason game is Thursday, but the main players will likely sit it out. So the Cardinals will go into the Patriots opener (assuming nothing happens bad in a practice) fairly healthy, with their quarterback ready. Did they accomplish everything they wanted in three preseason games? No. But I’m guessing, had Carson Palmer not thrown that last interception and the offense would have kept moving the ball as they were on that drive and they got at least a field goal, that would’ve been that.
Instead, there is concern with the fan base — as there has been — and little inside the team — as it has been.
Judgment is coming. Once the games count for real, we’ll see exactly how ready the Cardinals are. In the meantime:
— Nothing official on cornerback Mike Jenkins and his injury, but he was in a giant brace in the locker room and his mood hadn’t improved from when he was taken off the field. He had a chance to be a factor in the secondary configuration but that seems unlikely now. Bruce Arians said Justin Bethel was just rusty in his preseason debut but Bethel doesn’t have a lot of time to get up to speed either. Assuming Jenkins is down, the question is, will there be a cornerback the Cardinals want and can find after final cuts?
— The running backs all looked good. Every single one of them.
— Brittan Golden was down with his bad hamstring but he played well Sunday. The end of the wide receiver depth chart will be interesting. Golden probably would have an edge on Chris Hubert because of special teams. But will the Cards keep more than five receivers?
— D.J. Humphries seemed like he had his best overall game of the preseason. At least to someone who was watching out of the corner of his eye.
— The new thing to do is to complain about backup quarterback Drew Stanton, apparently. Not sure why. I thought he played better Sunday, and regardless, he’s not going anywhere.
— Bruce Arians insists that most of the tipped ball interceptions were more fluky than anything, and that Palmer is making the right reads.
— Chandler Jones got his first sack as a Cardinal, at least in the preseason. Stopped a potential TD drive when the Cards had been getting little pressure before that.
That’s all from Houston. Arians will speak to the media before practice tomorrow, and at some point, we’ll hear about the first cuts. The preseason is almost over. Thankfully.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Brittan Golden, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Drew Stanton, Justin Bethel, Mike Jenkins, Texans
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Earlier this week, Tyrann Mathieu talked about being “mindful” of his health, weighing it against whether playing in the preseason was important enough to trump where he was in his rehab. The reality is, for many starters, playing in the preseason simply doesn’t overrule health (right, Tony Romo?)
There is no official “not-expected-to-play” list but three key Cardinals — Mathieu, CB Patrick Peterson and WR Larry Fitzgerald — all are in street clothes and not in uniform and they won’t be playing today. Mathieu, of course, is coming back from his ACL tear. Fitzgerald has been dealing with a minor MCL sprain and said this week he just wants to be ready for Sept. 11 against the Patriots. Fitzgerald was out in early warmups — helmet on, which is rare for any player at that time of the pregame — catching passes, and was moving around fine. This feels precautionary.
Not sure what Peterson’s issue is, if any. He did have his foot/ankle taped during Friday’s final practice so perhaps that is a factor, although he looked OK. In any case, it opens the door for the three cornerbacks battling for the other starting job — Brandon Williams, Mike Jenkins and Justin Bethel — to get important work. It’s unknown how much Bethel will play coming off PUP. Jenkins has yet to play in a preseason game himself because of his broken hand.
WR John “Smokey” Brown, coming back slowly from his concussion, also isn’t dressed, as is RB Kerwynn Williams. Not sure of his injury, although he was watched carefully by RB coach Stump Mitchell and trainers Tom Reed and Chad Cook early before the game.
Tags: John Brown, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Texans, Tyrann Mathieu
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