There had to be some doubt, right? If not when Daryl Washington was suspended then when John Abraham didn’t show up to camp on time or Jonathan Cooper’s leg proved not-ready-for-primetime and for sure when Darnell Dockett went down. Maybe that was the day for me, when Dockett crumpled on the University of Phoenix Stadium turf during a run-of-the-mill training camp practice. At some point, it was all going to catch up with them, and maybe that was the day, with a guy who meant so much to the emotional tenor of the team and without whom depth was an issue.
That’s the day that keeps popping back into my head as the Cardinals sit here, going into a bye week, atop the NFC West standings at 3-0. Two wins over playoff teams. Two wins in games when starting quarterback Carson Palmer could not play, a mountain NFL teams these days often cannot climb. Where this goes isn’t easy to predict, but at the same time the belief is embedded by now.
The Cardinals won’t go undefeated. But at this point, there isn’t a game on the schedule – as difficult as it might be – that would cause someone to be surprised if the Cards won on that particular weekend.
– Since 1990, 75.2 percent of NFL teams that started 3-0 have made the postseason (91 of 121). Of course, we all know that one of those 30 teams was the 2012 Cardinals. But as I’ve said, this team is built much differently.
– In my eyes the biggest surprises? Well, beyond the play of Drew Stanton, which I really didn’t see coming, I’d say the defense as a whole. The pass rush, well, it is what it is, and in a vacuum, it’s not really that good. But defensive coordinator Todd Bowles makes it better with his schemes. I heard former offensive lineman/ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth on Arizona Sports’ “Bickley and Marotta” show today saying when watching video, he can’t believe how much the Cardinals actually blitz. Teams normally are burned by such maneuvering. The Cards are not, he said, because everyone is so in sync.
– I am a little surprised Jonathan Cooper is still on the bench. But Harold Goodwin is taking an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach with the O-line. Bruce Arians said once the season started it’d be hard for Coop to get on the field. He wasn’t lying.
– I am surprised rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro has been this steady. He’s 9-for-9 on field goals, tying he-was-a-Cardinal-for-few-days Dan Carpenter – now in Buffalo – for most in the league. He drilled a 51-yarder, a franchise rookie record, and impressively, 14 of his 17 kickoffs have left the opponent at no better than the 20-yard line, including nine touchbacks.
– Deone Bucannon has looked pretty solid in his dollar linebacker role, although he definitely has room to improve in pass coverage. Fellow safety Tony Jefferson has been a revelation. When Tyrann Mathieu is back to full strength, what a secondary this will be.
– Although no more scares like that Cromartie knee injury thing last week. Between the end of last season and Dockett, this team has had its fill of ACL tears.
– Just in case you want to make that story even better when the Cardinals, with just nine players on the field, blocked the 49ers’ field goal last week, how about this: The Niners actually had a fake called on the play, and then changed their mind, and not everyone got the message.
– The 49ers ended up with a trio of fines from last Sunday’s penalty-fest against the Cardinals, although neither hit on Cardinals QB Drew Stanton by linebacker Dan Skuta or Patrick Willis drew a fine (nor did Willis’ penalty flag on his helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.)
San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin was fined $8,263 for his headbutt on Jefferson. Tackle Jonathan Martin was fined $8,263 for clipping Bucannon, and safety Eric Reid fined $8.263 for facemasking wide receiver John Brown.
– Good story from Kyle Odegard on Cardinals’ VP of player personnel Terry McDonough and his brother Ryan, who is GM of the NBA team in town, the Phoenix Suns.
– So this is what it’s like to have an offensive line you’re not stressing about every game?
– I do expect the offense to get better as the season goes along, assuming health. Andre Ellington will be better. And yes, I think Fitz will eventually get the ball more often.
I’m going to go enjoy the bye weekend now. Practice resumes Monday.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Darnell Dockett, Deone Bucannon, Drew Stanton, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC West, Todd Bowles, Tony Jefferson
Posted in Blog | 48 Comments »
Tony Jefferson had himself a game Sunday. The safety lead the Cardinals with 10 tackles, he had the huge second-down sack of Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ last true chance to score and, of course, he absorbed the headbutt that changed the game.
Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, who has been known to let his emotions get away from him on the field, got angry at Jefferson after catching a pass for a first down on the Cardinals’ 6-yard line with the Cards nursing a 20-14 lead. Boldin headbutted Jefferson, and the 15 yards eventually derailed the drive into a field goal attempt that was blocked by Cardinals’ defensive end Tommy Kelly. The 49ers never did score again.
“People give him (Boldin) so much respect out on the field, and I respect him as a player, but anybody who is going to jaw at me, I’m going to jaw back,” Jefferson said. “I’m all about the action. I’ll jaw. But I won’t retaliate like he did.”
But the play was more than that for the Cardinals. Boldin ranted after the game Jefferson had been delivering cheap blows and he was simply fed up. After the game, however, the Cardinals were talking about finally standing up to bully in the 49ers that had knocked them around in recent years.
“I think they are kind of used to us backing down once the game gets started,” Jefferson said. “But we were in their face. We were going after it. We let them know, this is a different team.”
It seems like a different team. It’s definitely an undefeated team, and one that has earned that distinction.
– It was a big deal winning Sunday, not the least of which was with Drew Stanton behind center. Bruce Arians kept saying Stanton could get the job done, but he (rightfully) said Stanton had to show everyone else. He has. Stanton managed the game in New York. He won the game against the 49ers. B.A. clearly didn’t pull back the reins.
Stanton had a great press conference. He was happy, as he should be, and knows how to be funny. Someone asked him why he clicks with Arians. Stanton said he wasn’t sure. “To be honest with you, in Indianapolis, I didn’t even know if he liked me,” Stanton said.
I don’t think Drew needs to worry about that anymore.
- -That said, please don’t ask about a quarterback controversy. There isn’t one. When Palmer is ready, he’ll be back in there.
– As good as John “Smokey” Brown –and that’s what the Cards call him, Smoke or Smokey – was on his TD catches, the pass interference he drew on the game-clinching field goal drive was just as big a play. Without that, the Cardinals are punting with more than three minutes left.
“Once I got past five yards, (I knew) if he got hands on me, it was an automatic pass interference,” Brown said. “Drew made a great throw and (cornerback Chris Cook) did what I wanted him to do.”
– Brown said the gameplan all week was to feature him, thinking the 49ers would focus on Fitz and Floyd. Brown was asked, was that because the 49ers don’t really know who you are? Brown smiled. “No one knows me.”
– Stanton became the first Cardinals’ QB to not throw an interception and not be sacked since 2010. So once again, Stanton has a link back to 2010.
– You can’t go sackless, especially with as many deep throws as the Cardinals tried, without very good pass protection. Yes, the Niners are without guys like Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman, but this upgraded line is doing very well (including that parting of the Red Sea to spring Andre Ellington for that last 20-yard gain.)
– The Palmer/Stanton quarterbacked-Cards have yet to throw an interception this season.
– Amazing. On Tommy Kelly’s blocked field goal for the Cards, the Cardinals only had nine men on the field.
– It was with a lot less in-game attention as the Cardinals rallied, but Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get his first catch Sunday until the fourth quarter again. Then it looked like he’d be the key factor in the game-clinching drive – and then he fumbled the ball at the San Francisco 5. It was shades of last year’s lost fumble in San Francisco that short-circuited a possible go-ahead drive. This time, the Cardinals weathered the turnover. I’m not sure Fitz talked to anyone after – I know I didn’t get a chance to see him – but I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief the turnover turned out not to matter.
– Michael Floyd, two long (39 and 45 yards) catches among his 5-for-114 day. That’s two 100-yard games in three weeks.
– Is there a better defensive coordinator in the league at making halftime adjustments than Todd Bowles?
– I’m not sure how the defense went from being unsure how to handle Colin Kaepernick to shutting him down. This defense just keeps making it work. Losing Antonio Cromartie with a knee injury could have been a blow, but Bowles was already going to use Justin Bethel in this game. That’s foresight. I thought Patrick Peterson played pretty well too. The Cards started getting to Kaepernick with pressure, but the coverage was a big part of that.
So the Cards head into the bye. A short week of practice, needed time off and a 3-0 record. Can’t complain.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie, Drew Stanton, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Todd Bowles, Tommy Kelly, Tony Jefferson
Posted in Blog | 67 Comments »
Jonathan Dwyer had just run up the gut for a first down to clinch the win Monday night, and it was hard not to notice the player who looked like he had the biggest grin on the field: Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitzgerald only had one catch on the night but it was a doozy, a 22-yarder that he hauled in to put the Cardinals into San Diego territory on the game-winning drive. Fitzgerald’s targets — four of them officially — will be a topic of conversation, but the Cardinals won and so those things move into the background. Hard to argue when the quarterback still gets 300 yards and there are enough others to make the plays when Fitz isn’t (Michael Floyd, 5 for 119 to start what I’m guessing will be a very big year.)
Besides, it’s tough to get that smile out of my head as the clock ticked down.
– The Cardinals look like they are going to be fine on defense. Yes, Todd Bowles is going to have to dial up some different things. The pass rush on some plays was, match up with receivers one-on-one across the board and send everyone else. That’ll be tough against Detroit with Calvin Johnson, but Bowles sees what he has and goes with it. He lost two more pieces during the game when linebacker John Abraham (concussion) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) went out. Oh well. “Survival of the fittest,” Bowles said. “Your healthy, you play.”
– One of those guys who is playing is Larry Foote. No, he’s not Daryl Washington. But a good camp was followed up with a good opening game, something that brought a smile to Bruce Arians’ face. “He’s going to be the bellcow for us all year,” Arians said.
– The good was Deone Bucannon looked comfortable and solid as that dollar linebacker in the nickel defense. The bad was him missing the block that allowed new punter Drew Butler to get one blocked. “I was just overexcited,” Bucannon said. “I was trying to get out too soon, trying to get down there to make a tackle. Totally stupid. Selfish by me.”
– Overall, the “kicking game hurt us more than it should have,” Arians said. Besides the block, Ted Ginn did not have a good opening game returning kickoffs. Field position wasn’t great much of the time. Chandler Catanzaro, however, held his own as kicker. The Cardinals look like they made a good choice with the rookie.
– Arians didn’t seem that bothered by the fact right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t just fall on the Andre Ellington fumble, which ended up with the Chargers and cost the Cardinals an early scoring chance. The cast on Massie’s hand — which he apparently has — was the culprit, Arians said. “He tried to pick it up and run with it,” Arians said. “The cast dropped it.”
– Safety Tony Jefferson said he got props from both San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates after the game, after Jefferson chased Gates around much of the game. Still, Jefferson was still irritated with the defensive holding he was called for on a play he ended up getting an interception on. He didn’t feel he held, although he admitted he needed to look at the video.
– Andre Ellington wasn’t at full speed, but that was still good enough. That 18-yard run he made on the game-winning drive was a huge play and if he can muddle through his tendon injury, the Cardinals will be much better off with him in there.
OK, that’s that. I’ll be doing a chat tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. on this short week, if you want to take part. But now, it’s time to go home.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Chargers, Deone Bucannon, Drew Butler, Jonathan Dwyer, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Ted Ginn, Todd Bowles, Tony Jefferson
Posted in Blog | 73 Comments »
Earlier in the day, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals’ defense is better now than it was this time last year. Perhaps. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, speaking Thursday afternoon, simply said that in the wake of the Darnell Dockett injury, the unit simply has to adjust.
“It doesn’t impact what you want to do but it impacts who you want to do it with,” Bowles said. “Injuries happen in this league every year. No one is feeling sorry for us, not Darnell, not us or anyone else. It truly is next man up. You’ve got to prepare for injuries. That’s what you have depth for. Unfortunately, when it’s a star player, you make more of a big deal about it than if it is a practice squad player, and rightly so. We’ll just have to be aggressive in different areas.”
Bowles said he wasn’t worried about leadership because the defense has plenty of guys who can fill the role — “Dock was more vocal but (away) from cameras there are a lot of guys that are more vocal,” he said — and is reserving judgment on other pieces of the defense. Desmond Bishop will get a chance to show what he can do within the scheme against Cincinnati and we will see if Bishop can stick around and be a factor at inside linebacker. Linebacker John Abraham has looked “decent” in his first couple of practices, Bowles said.
As for rookie defensive linemen Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin, Bowles isn’t going overboard.
“You can’t make that much progress as a rookie in two-and-a-half weeks,” Bowles said. “But the smarts are there, the know-how is there. The rookies can only gain experience by playing in real games and playing in preseason games. So far, they have progressed little by little.”
– S Tyrann Mathieu moved into 11-on-11 work in his second day back at practice, as did DT Alameda Ta’amu. Mathieu was only working with the scout team and hitting was limited all the way around, but Mathieu did get shoulder knockdowns on wide receiver Ted Ginn and running back Andre Ellington after receptions.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Desmond Bishop, Ed Stinson, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 13 Comments »
Perhaps the day off Tuesday came at the right time for the Cardinals. The defense can digest the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can start to sort out how exactly he will run his defense with the pieces he has left. You can sit and mull what the Cardinals don’t have now compared to 2013, but it’s a moot point.
Along the defensive line, the Cardinals are expected to add a vet to the roster (Brett Keisel went back to Pittsburgh) but veteran Frostee Rucker should end up as the starter alongside Calais Campbell and Dan Williams. There should be plenty of mixing and matching, though, with rookies Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin and now, Alameda Ta’amu, who comes back to practice today. There would have been mixing and matching even if Dockett was healthy. Getting a steady rotation on the defensive line has been one of the main themes GM Steve Keim wanted to accomplish while re-tooling the roster. The key here could be Ta’amu, because if he can return to form relatively quickly, it will impact the middle of that line.
At linebacker, there have long been concerns and whenever Kevin Minter returns to the field, that probably doesn’t go away. I thought Larry Foote played pretty well in Minnesota and it was encouraging to see newcomer Desmond Bishop do what he did in a handful of plays, but the question marks don’t go away and now you don’t have a guy like Dockett in front of them. The plus is that outside linebacker John Abraham is back (his return to practice, pictured below, was seriously overshadowed Monday by the Dockett news) but again, until he plays his way into shape, it’s tough to know what he’ll bring.
In the secondary, the Cardinals not only have all their guys still but now Tyrann Mathieu is back in the mix too. That group remains the strongest, although playing out on an island at times means they need the front seven to come through. That was a bit troubling to hear Bruce Arians talk about how many times the Cardinals did not run their blitzes correctly in Minnesota — Bowles was magical last year the way he schemed players to often get to the quarterback untouched — and that will be a key to this whole thing.
The Cardinals’ offense will be better this season and they will need to be. Regardless, the Cardinals aren’t going to get where they want to go unless the defense plays at a high level. They will have to do it differently than they once planned.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, defense, Desmond Bishop, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »
Logan Thomas isn’t going to play this week in Minnesota. He got the second half of the preseason opener, so now, it’s Ryan Lindley’s turn to get the second half when he plays against the Vikings. That means Thomas’ impressive (and yes, I know it was against second/third-teamers of a bad Texans team) debut will simmer for now. Nevertheless, Thomas has gotten national praise for the way he played in his 11-12-113-1-0 outing, and Bruce Arians said he couldn’t be more pleased out that aspect.
“I really enjoy all the guys who said he stunk coming out and should have been a tight end, they’re eating a lot of crow this week, so that’s fun,” Arians said with a smile.
Arians was having some fun himself today. He also was talking about third-round pick John Brown, and how in the aftermath of success with such a player there are always people from other teams claiming they had just been about to pick him when the Cardinals did so. Arians clearly isn’t a believer. He said he’s heard from guys on “three or four” teams that were about to choose Brown in the draft.
“They’re all lyin’,” Arians said.
– Offensive linemen Max Starks and Anthony Steen return to practice today. The other injured players remain sidelined. It does not look like guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) is going to make it back to playing Saturday. Receivers Ted Ginn (knee) and Michael Floyd (groin) could be game-day decisions. Linebacker John Abraham remains absent.
– QB Carson Palmer, on dealing with the mind of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in camp: “We have seen every single coverage there is,” Palmer said. “There’s a couple we couldn’t identify. It’s like he’s making some stuff up just to try and see how it goes.”
– Arians said he has no set snap count for how much the starters will play Saturday. “If it is as good as last week, it’ll probably be the same,” Arians said. “If it’s not it’ll probably be a little longer.”
– Jay Feely will kick in Minnesota. Arians said it was undecided how the kicking will go in the next game at home against Cincinnati, but he does want to see Feely kick off indoors.
– Finally, Arians talked about how he likes to go through the locker room and interact with his players. Some coaches do not like to do that. Other locker rooms will have players who don’t like coaches coming through, but Arians said those locker rooms usually are host losing teams.
“I was taught a long time ago, coach ‘em hard and hug ‘em later,” Arians said. “That’s the hugging part. Rip a guy’s ass out there and go in, (tell them) it’s just football, nothing personal. ‘Your football stinks, you’re a pretty good guy.’ You want to make sure they know that. You ask them to do a lot of things and you get a lot of feedback when you go through there.”
Tags: Carson Palmer, Jay Feely, Logan Thomas, Todd Bowles
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Bruce Arians wanted a fast start. He got it. What was striking to me about Saturday night’s demolition of the (admittedly bad) Houston Texans was that everything the Cardinals have been saying about their team was indeed true. The offensive guys kept saying they were a lot more comfortable and knew their stuff. The defense promised they’d be good again even with the linebacker losses. There is a ton of time still before the games count for real, but that’s what happened to start. Why does that strike me? Because I have been around plenty of teams for this franchise and optimism is always high early in camp — and then the games start. It’s rare when the optimism matches.
– Carson Palmer looked really good. This is the guy the Cardinals are talking about when they talk about Palmer’s ability to lead them where they want to go.
– I’ve heard a lot of things said about rookie wide receiver John Brown. Here’s how one Cardinals’ player described him tonight: “He’s like Wes Welker.” If he can make that kind of impact, turning third-and-longs into first downs, man, does this offense have potential for being incredibly dangerous.
– I’ll have more on G Jonathan Cooper tomorrow after I watch the game again, but I thought he held up OK. He gave up the sack to J.J. Watt, but again, we’re talking about the best defensive player in the league. “I definitely have a lot of room to improve,” Cooper said. “I got those jitters out of the way now.”
Cooper will get better (and thank goodness when he was rolled up on from behind he wasn’t hurt. Cooper said it was the same leg he broke last year. It shouldn’t be a problem but we’ll see in the light of day.
– I’m not sure how this team will sort through its wide receivers. I really believe Walt Powell can play in this league, but he’s stuck behind a solid five of Fitz, Floyd, Ginn, John Brown and Jaron Brown. I mean, Floyd and Ginn didn’t suit up and the passing game didn’t miss a beat.
– Logan Thomas might be that guy Arians talks about when he talks about gamers, because goodness, the Logan Thomas who played against the Texans has not been the guy I’ve noticed on the practice field. Not that Thomas has been bad in camp, but it was his calmness in the pocket that struck me. Maybe Arians and Tom Moore will turn out to be quarterback whisperers. Long, long way to go, of course. But 11-for-12 for 113 yards and a TD? Can’t start much better.
– Because the offense was so crisp it is easy to forget about the defense, but it was solid. “We have to look at the film to be sure,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “We did some good things. We were out of out depth a few times in the running game. All in all, a good start.”
– Speaking of good starts, rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro couldn’t have been better in his battle to get a job. Boomed kickoffs deep or through the end zone all night, made all three field goals (easily) and three extra points. Jay Feely gets his turn in Minnesota.
That’s it for tonight. I’ll post on the blog tomorrow, and it’s back to practice Monday. We’re only halfway through #CardsCamp.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Logan Thomas, Texans, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 42 Comments »
The Cardinals’ defense will be good again this season. Just ask the Cardinals’ offense.
“Every day we go on the field is an unbelievable challenge for this offense,” coach Bruce Arians said.
It’s about more than talent, though. The defense not only has players but it has information. It has watched the offense run its plays over and over, in camp and this offseason. It has heard the audibles.
“Because we see so many pressures, blitz period or not, they are going to know our audibles,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Coach Arians said it (Tuesday), as soon as we audibled one play the whole defense knew what was coming. He just wants to see the audible executed, (even if it is) completely covered and blown up. But you see it in a walkthrough and then in practice, it’s pretty easy to pick up. Once you go in a game, you only use that audible once every three weeks. You understand the situation for what it is. But that stuff does get frustrating.”
Palmer emphasized how much respect he has for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. “You can’t get a bead on what you think is coming,” Palmer said.
Still, it makes success during training camp much, much harder.
“When offense wins a few matches in practice, I am very proud our offense is getting better,” Arians said.
– Maybe that played a part in Wednesday’s practice. At one point during team work, the defense would have come up with a handful of sacks and/or heavy pressures on the passer. Then at the end of the day, when the offense took on the defense — first unit versus first unit, and so on — for an attempt at a mostly length-of-the-field drive, the defense was winning. The first-string offense drove all the way into the red zone, only to have cornerback Antonio Cromartie bring down a beautiful one-handed interception on a fade route to Ted Ginn. The second offense only had a couple of plays before a pass to Jaron Brown was deflected high in the air before linebacker Ernie Sims grabbed the ball. The third offense was successful, eventually scoring a touchdown on a short run by Jonathan Dwyer.
– Darren Fells would seem to have an inside track at a roster spot as the fourth tight end after Jake Ballard’s retirement, but he had his hiccups Wednesday after the news came out, dropping a couple of catchable passes.
– Everybody was out practicing except for DT Darnell Dockett (who was given a rest day by Arians) and center Lyle Sendlein, still out with a calf injury.
– Tyrann Mathieu, on the help he gives rookie safety Deone Bucannon: “I try to tell him what I know. I don’t try to tell him too much because I don’t know everything.”
– Arians said the kicking spot will come down to how the games play out. “All the eggs are in that basket,” he said. “It’ll be a tough decision.” Arians said each kicker will be given a full game to work, starting with Chandler Catanzano against Houston Saturday. Feely will kick in Minnesota the following week.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Darnell Dockett, Darren Fells, Deone Bucannon, Ernie Sims, Jay Feely, Jonathan Dwyer, Lyle Sendlein, Todd Bowles, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »
Optimism reigns every year when a team’s season begins and at no time does that optimism echo more than the day when training camp begins. That day, with all due respect to QB School is Friday. That’s when the Cardinals move into the hotel next to the stadium, when they take their conditioning test and when they get the speech from coach Bruce Arians about the goals for the season. They are the same goals every season — eventually ending with a title, of course — but they must be repeated all the same.
There will be ups and downs. Some players will have a bad stretch. Somebody will get hurt, and you just hope it isn’t a season-ender. Some new players might now work out. It’s how a team deals with these events that determines the course of the final won-loss record.
I think the Cardinals have a chance to be as good or better than last year. I think their defense might need some adjustments with the losses of the inside linebackers, but I think Todd Bowles can make something work. I think, assuming health, the offense will be better. I don’t think Carson Palmer is going to morph into Peyton or even Kurt Warner, but I think he will benefit by an upgraded offensive line. How this all plays out, ultimately, with a won-loss record depends on a lot of moving parts, not all of which are under the Cardinals’ control. But they have a chance to be good, and over the years, that hasn’t always been the case.
— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) July 24, 2014
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Todd Bowles, training camp
Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »
The cliché has been around awhile, some version of “It’s not about the ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ but the jimmys and joes.” And no, pizza has nothing to do with the conversation. It’s a simple concept really, one that emphasizes the reality that without players, you can draw up the best plays in the world and you still aren’t going to be successful. It came up in the context of profootballfocus.com releasing their full season stats from the NFL and the best defenses in producing unblocked pressure. The Cardinals were the best in the league midway through the season and held on to the top spot by season’s end with 82 unblocked pressures.
In the stats, the Cardinals were led by two players in particular — linebackers John Abraham and Karlos Dansby. Dansby had 13 total unblocked pressures and Abraham 12, and Dansby produced four sacks in those pressures (Abraham two). So it stands to reason with Dansby leaving for Cleveland, the Cards will be hurt in this regard in turning the role over to Kevin Minter — not as athletic as Karlos — or whomever. You lose a ‘joe,’ maybe the ‘O’ doesn’t hold up, right?
Or maybe not?
First of all, at least in this context of rushing the QB unblocked, scheme would seem to have a ton to do with it. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is doing something to confuse the other team, regardless of the players. Even “lesser” players are supposed to be accounted for every play by the offense. Of those 82 pressures, 23 came through an ‘A’ gap (the spots between the center and either guard). No one is supposed to forget the guy standing near the ball, even if he is a step or two off the line of scrimmage. Sometimes it was an overload on one side situation (35 of 82, according to PFF) and sometimes the offense simply didn’t block a guy even if there was someone there to do so (19 times).
Certainly, a talent like Dansby played into the equation, as did Abraham. You’d have to look at every play individually to really know if the result was a combination of factors, a Dansby “win” or a Bowles’ scheme result. You figure there is a mix. You figure Bowles knows what Minter can and can’t do, and while the Cardinals won’t run the same things exactly for him as Dansby, I’d guess if Minter comes free through the ‘A’ gap he’ll probably find a way to create some havoc. The Cards didn’t have the same ‘jimmys’ in the secondary once Tyrann Mathieu got hurt, but Bowles’ ‘Xs’ were good enough to fluster both the Seahawks and 49ers pretty good the final two weeks of the season.
There is a reason Steve Keim is always looking to upgrade the roster where he can. And you take Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington off the defense, for instance, and the scheme is not going to look as good. But scheme matters too.
Tags: defense, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Pro Football Focus, scheme, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 42 Comments »