Late in the season, the Cardinals’ offensive linemen installed one of those mini-basketball hoops above one of their lockers. Every once in a while, after practice, somebody (or somebodies) would take a few shots. There’s no question that over the years, plenty of players have come through that space thinking they were quite the basketball players.
Anquan Boldin could play. Kurt Warner could really play (and still does, hosting invite-only pickup games at his house in Scottsdale). Josh McCown could really play.
With the NBA all-star game today, it’s a good time to discuss who might make a solid unit for the hardwood. I’ve had the chance to talk to a handful of players about their basketball backgrounds. (I have not talked to everyone, and I am sure I will have inevitably missed some serious baller here. I ask, preemptively, for forgiveness.)
You’ve got to start with Darren Fells. The guy played pro basketball, after all. Larry Fitzgerald still likes to trash-talk Fells, and at one point there was a challenge of a one-on-one game, but I’m guessing Fitz wouldn’t like how that would turn out. Still, I’ve seen Fitz enough times in charity games that he probably could be in the starting lineup.
Our point guard would be Tyrann Mathieu, who might not quite be the same player as he was prior to a pair of ACL injuries, although I’m guessing he’d say different. (That video doesn’t exactly show the Badger against the best defense.) Calais Campbell, who at 6-foot-8 did some damage inside in high school, can be our center. And you don’t want to forget David Johnson (15.7 points, 7.9 rebounds a game as a senior in high school, and second-team all-state), who noted on Twitter he’s got a 41.5-inch vertical.
Off the bench? Kareem Martin, who played football at North Carolina, had a chance to walk on to the Tar Heels basketball team and maybe be the next Julius Peppers. Martin decided to concentrate on football, but you’ve got to have some game to be considered for UNC hoops. Some Earl Watford (Earl had some good stories about being the muscle on the court for his high school team), and a little A.Q. Shipley (A.Q., while shooting on that mini-hoop, assured me that back in the day, he was quite nimble on the court). Close it out with Tony Jefferson, who plays pretend basketball in the locker room with the trash cans more than any player ever and loves his Suns. (Yes, Jefferson was cut as a sophomore in high school, but noted that he had 16 points and five steals in his final lower-level high school appearance, so there’s that.)
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, basketball, Calais Campbell, Darren Fells, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Kareem Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tony Jefferson, that one-time undrafted free agent who was not a happy man when he was undrafted, will wait to see what his future holds. He’s on IR after hurting his knee, his best season over after 92 tackles, 13 for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups and even four tackles on special teams (the unit on which Jefferson got hurt.)
The Cardinals want to bring Jefferson back, and I believe Jefferson wants to return. But money talks, and when you have a guy who was undrafted in the first place (and then got less as a restricted free agent, with no competing offers, last offseason, much to his chagrin) money will be screaming this time around. Understandable.
The thing is, the Cards will have to figure out this complex puzzle of their secondary and safety. D.J. Swearinger is also an unrestricted-free-agent-to-be, and he too will be looking for money after falling to practice squad status as recently as last season. Tyrann Mathieu will be back next season, fully healthy without surgeries and that bodes well. Tyvon Branch should be back too, but when Mathieu goes into the slot, that leaves a spot. And that’s assuming Branch and Mathieu can stay healthy, with which both have had issues.
Jefferson is the kind of home-grown talent you’d love to keep around. He’s had a good season. But he’s also one of those players that might’ve fallen into the cracks — too good to afford to keep him, not quite good enough that you don’t think you can’t replace him. Plus there are the intangibles that are hard to measure.
Tags: D.J. Swearinger, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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The Cardinals actually won the first game played (that counted) at what is now CenturyLink Field.
It was 2002, and Thomas Jones had his best game as a Card and even though Jake Plummer couldn’t do much, the Cards knocked off the Seahawks, 24-13, the second week of the regular season. The building was simply a new building back then, certainly not the intimidating factor it has grown to be (although, as with most places, the stadium is intimidating when the team playing there is good. If the team playing there isn’t as good, not so much.)
The Cards with Carson Palmer have been good there. Two Palmer starts, two Cardinals wins. When the Cardinals lost in 2014, Palmer was injured and Drew Stanton was behind center. Palmer will be there Saturday, but the team around him is beat up and broken down. It’s not how the Cardinals wanted this matchup to be, especially with the Seahawks in mostly better shape than the first time these teams met this season. But the NFC West has been determined, the Cards are out of the playoffs and all there is for the Cardinals to spoil Seattle’s hopes for that No. 2 seed. Which isn’t nothing, but this game was supposed to be about so much more.
— Well, offensive line of John Wetzel, Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, Taylor Boggs and Earl Watford, welcome to Seattle. They held up OK against the Saints, but, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, this is a different animal, no?
“This is a very different animal,” Goodwin said. “It’s from outer space. It’s not necessarily an animal, it’s an alien.”
Goodwin said he hasn’t really said much to the group along those lines, however.
“To be honest, I leave them alone,” Goodwin said. “You don’t want to do too much talking. The film speaks for itself. The place we are going this weekend, the crowd noise … we know what we are up against.”
— That’s why the Cardinals need to be able to run the ball — it’s nice having David Johnson for that, although Johnson had to grind out his yardage in the first meeting, the infamous 6-6 tie. There can’t be penalties or sacks. Get at least a little something on each down. “This is not the place you want to go, this is not the team you want to see, in third-and-long,” Goodwin said.
— I don’t know how far Robert Nkemdiche has come yet. But I think it’s been proven that Bruce Arians wouldn’t give him praise unless something has gotten better. Doubtful we’ll see much the last two games, although he will play. It’s about 2017 for the first-round pick.
— Injuries always play a factor, but not having money linebacker Deone Bucannon against the mobile Russell Wilson tends to give one pause. Bucannon’s ability to run is unmatched by the guys filling in for him, and Wilson is clearly running better than how he did in the first meeting when he was hobbled with injuries.
— The secondary is also hurting. Arians acknowledged cornerback Marcus Cooper probably wouldn’t be able to play Saturday — if he doesn’t play, rookie Brandon Williams (who missed practice Thursday with a tight back) would get the start. Justin Bethel, who did say his foot is finally feeling better after the stress fracture that has hampered him for two seasons, remains behind Williams on the depth chart.
— There doesn’t seem to be any indication Tyrann Mathieu won’t play — the Cards need the bodies right now — but Mathieu playing and Mathieu being Honey Badger are two separate things. Arians on Mathieu’s play against the Saints: “He gave it everything he had. It ain’t Ty.” UPDATE: I guess I was wrong. Mathieu went to IR on Friday.
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, on whether the defense took last weekend’s meltdown against the Saints personally. “Absolutely we took it personally,” Bettcher said. “There wasn’t a guy on our defensive staff and there wasn’t a guy in the locker room that wasn’t extremely disappointed in our performance. It wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t up to our standard, that’s me included. It wasn’t up to my standard. We all own that.”
— Michael Floyd finally met with the New England media and talked about his DUI.
— Larry Fitzgerald said he has talked to David Johnson a lot about how to handle his burgeoning stardom off the field, like Emmitt Smith did with Fitz when Fitz first came into the league. For instance, Fitzgerald told Johnson to be fully dressed and “buttoned-up” when he talks after the game in front of the camera — you never know when a decision-maker at a company might see you and want you to be a spokesman.
“He doesn’t need a lot of advice,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s like a Christmas toy under the tree that doesn’t need any assembly. He’s out-of-the-box-ready.”
— Johnson, by the way, would tie Barry Sanders’ record for consecutive games with 100 scrimmage yards in 15 straight games in a season if he can reach that milestone Saturday.
— Bring on Seattle. Bring on 39 degrees and chilly rain. Bring on what always promises to be an interesting road trip.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Barry Sanders, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Robert Nkemdiche, Seahawks, Taylor Boggs, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals moved on from Michael Floyd quickly after his arrest for suspicion of DUI, and maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The team’s president is, after all, the chairman of the NFL’s conduct committee, and Michael Bidwill has strong feelings on off-field conduct. The circumstances had morphed for Floyd from the beginning of the season, when it was likely the free-agent-to-be was looking for a long-term contract that was probably going to be too rich for the Cards’ budget, to now, when he struggled every step of the way and had undercut his own open market — even before Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s incident.
But that part is over now. As for some of the details of the aftermath:
— This is the kind of thing that shakes up a team. “Obviously, this whole year has been kind of rough,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “And then seeing stuff like that happen, I think we’re all shocked and kind of in disbelief. We’ve got three games left to play so we’ve got to stay focused.”
— Yes, had the Cardinals carried Floyd through the end of the season and let him leave as a free agent, he likely would have figured in the equation for comp draft picks in 2018. But it isn’t a one-for-one thing. A team’s entire free-agent haul is compared (through a super secret formula based on the new contract and production) to what free agents were lost, and then the picks are distributed. With Floyd’s play this season, it was highly likely he was going to sign a relatively cheap, one-year contract anyway for 2017, in an attempt to rehab his value on the market and then try again in 2018.
Would he have been a comp pick factor? Probably. But it’ll be hard to tell how much.
— If Floyd is picked up on waivers, which we will know soon, he’s due $1.2 million. If not, he’ll be available as a free agent. UPDATE: The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.
— Carson Palmer was asked directly if he thought Floyd — who also had a DUI in college — had a problem. Palmer, who had already noted Floyd was a friend, quickly said no. He does face a possible suspension of a couple of games next season from the league.
— Where to now for the receiving corps these last three games? Coach Bruce Arians said Smokey Brown can “hopefully” get more snaps this week. J.J. Nelson has played better, but he still has to show he can do it consistently. Brittan Golden, you’re going to get some time. And this, more than any other reason, is why David Johnson may be a 1,000×2 guy after all.
— This was probable even if Floyd wasn’t released, because like I said I didn’t expect his return, but the Cardinals will have to look seriously at drafting a bigger receiver now. Floyd won’t be around and Larry Fitzgerald’s status has reached year-to-year.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patriots, Tyrann Mathieu
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In what is no surprise, safety Tyrann Mathieu is inactive today because of his bad shoulder. Mathieu missed practice on both Thursday and Friday. The Cardinals do have safety Tyvon Branch back from injured reserve to help make up for the absence. The rest of the inactive list is fairly status quo as of late:
The full inactive list:
— WR Marquis Bundy
— S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder)
— LB Sio Moore
— G Cole Toner
— DT Olsen Pierre
— DT Robert Nkemdiche
— DT Ed Stinson
Tags: inactives, Redskins, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s been a week of criticism and accountability, of players meeting and talk of needing just one win. And as Bruce Arians talked for the final time before the last-gasp-for-now Washington game Sunday about such things, he veered to a message that wasn’t really asked about but something he clearly wanted to say.
“I love this team’s work ethic,” the coach said. “I never have to bitch about work ethic. They come to work Wednesday through Saturday. It’s a shame it hasn’t all shown up on Sundays, but I couldn’t ask any more on the field and in the classroom than what they are giving.”
Ultimately, the talk during the week is just talk. Something else that keeps popping up when Arians – and players – speak about everything that’s happened this week: No one knows what it all means until Sunday.
It doesn’t mean all is right with the win, or that it was a disaster of a week with a loss. But the on-life-support playoff hopes need a win to make sure they don’t head to the morgue, and it doesn’t get much more desperate than that. The Cards are working for that. Arians is sure of it. But that’s not really been a complaint all season. Just the results.
— There’s been speculation that the pounding Carson Palmer has taken this season could influence him to retire after the year. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since he’s talked often about playing as long as he possibly could, and just said last week how much he still enjoys the prep during the week and game days.
But I asked him if indeed, the added hits could play a role in him deciding to retire.
“I don’t know,” Palmer said. “I’ll have to let you know, if I get there. If I get there.”
— I’m glad Fitz acknowledged he always knows where he is when it comes to stats because if he had said he didn’t, those who have been around him would’ve known otherwise. Look, Fitz desperately wants to get a Super Bowl title – the one thing he doesn’t have. But yes, the numbers have always been very important to him. He’s not catching Jerry Rice. He might not even catch Tony Gonzalez. But he’s had an amazing career.
(Yes, you can only imagine what it could have been with a good QB situation from 2010-2012, or a more steady situation in 2014, but we play the Cards we are dealt. He did have a huge 2011 season, though, when John Skelton just started throwing it to him down the field over and over.)
— How much does Josh Norman cover Fitz Sunday? And exactly what will be Patrick Peterson’s duties when he is on the field?
— Arians was asked about the lack of production from the draft class. The coach said they were all picks made for the future, with a deep and veteran roster. He noted that only injuries forced Brandon Williams into the lineup early this season.
“(The class) was more guys we felt we could develop and not need right away,” Arians said. “Hopefully that’s every draft from here on in.”
— Don’t forget there is a toy drive at Sunday’s game. Bring an unwrapped toy or donations to any stadium entrance.
— In case there was uncertainty about bringing Tyvon Branch back from IR, the uncertainty of Tyrann Mathieu as we go along probably should clear that up. Plus – and importantly – Branch plays special teams.
— David Johnson needs one touchdown to reach 14 this season. No Cardinal has done that since Roy Green did it in 1983.
— Washington is feeling good about itself. Their offense, even if Jordan Reed isn’t going to play, has moved the ball. This is not a simple game. Seeing how the Cardinals react to the events of their week – and the spot they are in at 4-6-1 – is intriguing. We haven’t been here in the Arians era. Everything is new.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, John Skelton, Jordan Reed, Josh Norman, Larry Fitzgerald, Redskins, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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For a few minutes, it was exactly how Bruce Arians wanted it to be all along.
Carson Palmer, with a clean pocket, threw perfect chunk passes off play-action. David Johnson picked up six yards running just falling forward. The Cardinals scored a touchdown on the first possession for the first time this season. Arians was thrilled.
“I take a lot of pride in that stat of scoring first,” Arians said.
The Cards couldn’t get a stop, though. They couldn’t get a stop all game when they really, really needed one. I take that back, they did to begin the second half – but then the offense had a three-and-out in their lone full possession of the third quarter.
That’s frustrating, Arians and everyone else asked about it will say. But that’s expected. There isn’t any one part of the game (unless you go with David Johnson himself as a part of the game) that has been excellent.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters, the one-time Falcon, shook his head at the lack of consistency. He was talking about the defense, and there is certainly reason to look at the defense that way. But the offense and special teams haven’t been able to find any either. That’s why they can shred a defense for an easy 75-yard drive to start, and have just 109 yards total in the second half.
“We’re 4-and-6, that’s our reality,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “We’re too talented to be under .500.”
— Arians is beside himself about the receiving problems. Smokey Brown gets hurt again. Michael Floyd drew a pause and an “I don’t know” from the coach, after a game in which he could have made a huge fourth-down catch and he did not. Floyd’s season will go down as one of the greatest mysteries in recent Cardinals history.
— Arians said the Cardinals used more maximum protection on pass plays Sunday than any time since he has been coach. The group was not perfect, but I did think they held up – at least until the end when the Falcons figured a pass was coming every down. I fully expect that group – from left tackle over, Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Wetzel, John – to remain the starting five.
“I really would like to see it on film, just to critique the small stuff,” Humphries said. “But I felt the way stuff was shuffled around and the wat we had to pull together in a short time, it was a good outing. But it wasn’t good enough. Clearly.”
— Mathieu talked again about accountability in the locker room. I don’t know if he has things in particular he is thinking of or if he just feels like, when you are losing, people need to go under the microscope. It may be the latter, because he said in the same breath they have to stick together. That will be tested these last five games.
— Patrick Peterson hurt his knee. He said he got kicked by the cleat of Julio Jones on D.J. Swearinger’s interception. We’ll see what that means for him this week, although he said it was “painful.”
— Swearinger’s reputation earned him that interception he made. Jones beat Patrick Peterson on the in-route but Jones was staring straight at Swearinger as Jones made his way across the middle. That moment of lost concentration – and that knowledge Swearinger lights up receivers going across the middle – caused the bobble and Swearinger was gift-wrapped an INT.
— Unfortunately, Swearinger couldn’t hold on to the interception later, which would have stalled a Falcons’ TD drive. But the way it went Sunday, that might’ve been a band-aid. Not sure the Cards could’ve stopped the Falcons enough.
— Well, the Cards and Peterson didn’t let Jones beat them. So …
— The series of plays before halftime was a well-executed as anything the Cardinals have done this season. The loss buries the plays, but after the Swearinger interception, the Cards had just 25 seconds at their own 37. A 17-yard pass to J.J. Nelson that may or may not have been incomplete. Rushing to the line to run a play and make sure it wasn’t reviewed. Then Palmer hit Fitz, who in one motion slid to catch a 10-yard pass and called timeout, using only four seconds of the five left and allowing Chandler Catanzaro to boot the 54-yard field goal.
Yes, I’m looking for silver linings.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Corey Peters, D.J. Humphries, D.J. Swearinger, Falcons, J.J. Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, offensive line, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals will have both wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) on the field today against the Falcons. The Mathieu news wasn’t unexpected. Floyd worked out for head athletic trainer Tom Reed before the game and looked OK. It makes the inactive list one devoid of big names, unless you want to count first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche, who has been there more often than not this season.
One other player active today is guard Earl Watford, among reports there could be changes on the offensive line today. We’ll see of D.J. Humphries gets a chance to play left tackle and/or Ulrick John plays right tackle. If there are changes now, it would seem to be production-based, since everyone is active. UPDATE: And the changes have been implemented, based on pre-game warmup. Humphries is the left tackle, Mike Iupati the left guard, A.Q. Shipley still at center, John Wetzel at right guard and John at right tackle.
The full inactive list:
— WR Marquis Bundy
— S Christian Bryant
— LB Sio Moore
— G Cole Toner
— DT Olsen Pierre
— DT Robert Nkemdiche
— DT Ed Stinson
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Falcons, inactives, Michael Floyd, offensive line, Tyrann Mathieu, Ulrick John
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Steve Keim (like Kevin Minter Sunday) said it right away Monday, about how he sounded like a broken record. The stats were better than the opponent, the score was not. The Cardinals’ General Manager, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, was also blunt about the hole the team is in after 10 games and a disappointing 4-5-1 record.
“We’ve let our fans down, especially when expectations were so high,” Keim said.
That was the theme of Keim’s thoughts. “There’s nothing I care about more with in this organization than winning and putting a product on the field for our fans can be proud of,” he said. And this: “The season is not over, and I know that’s not what the fans and the people supporting us want to hear. But we’re certainly not going to quit.”
— Asked specifically about special teams and special teams coaching, Keim said there will be discussions about that and everything else after the season. He said the reoccurring theme not only for special teams but also the offense and defense was inconsistency. Keim is at practice daily, and he has seen and heard the coaching, not only on special teams but team-wide, and he noted that the players have to get better as well. “At some point and time, it comes down to those guys executing,”
— Along those lines, Keim said he takes ownership in the problems on special teams (and elsewhere) because he’s the one who supplied the players. “It’s something where we all have to look in the mirror, and that starts with me.”
— That was reflected on the long kickoff return. One issue Keim noted, sometimes it’s about “guys running downfield and having the will to make a play.” That’s about fighting through blocks and having a want-to he’s not seeing.
— Taylor Boggs was in the game late Sunday at right guard because Earl Watford was suffering from stingers, Keim said. He added he did not know if that might impact Watford’s availability for Sunday’s game in Atlanta. “We were down to our third guard,” Keim said. “(The Vikings) were running a lot of games and stunts (up front) and we had trouble picking those up.”
— Keim said he wasn’t sure if safety Tyrann Mathieu would be back this week to play, but said he was close in Minnesota and felt there was a good chance Mathieu would be available.
— He said, knowing how sick Michael Floyd was — Floyd was apparently up most of Saturday night ill — that he was willing to give him a pass on the deep pass where Floyd looked to slow up on what turned into a Carson Palmer interception.
— Palmer was impacted by receivers not getting open and protection that wasn’t very good. But “he made some critical mistakes as well,” Keim said.
— Keim said he doesn’t have a problem with the effort this season. But he also said, with limited things he can do to impact the current situation, he will continue to look hard at the back end of the roster and see if he can find players that can help, particularly on special teams.
Otherwise, he said he’ll continue to work by the motto he said he’s followed in his 19 years with the organization. “Be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Keim said. “I have to be a positive leader.”
Tags: Earl Watford, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim, Taylor Boggs, Tyrann Mathieu
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Safety Tyrann Mathieu is inactive against the Vikings today because of his shoulder injury. He was limited all week, and in the end wasn’t quite ready to go. Fellow cornerback Tharold Simon (ankle) also is inactive, so Justin Bethel and/or Brandon Williams will need to play bigger roles this week again. The good news is money linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle) is healthy and will be playing for the Cardinals.
The full list of Cardinals inactives:
— WR Chris Hubert
— CB Tharold Simon (ankle)
— S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder)
— G Cole Toner
— DT Olsen Pierre
— DT Robert Nkemdiche
— DT Corey Peters (foot)
Tags: Deone Bucannon, inactives, Tharold Simon, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
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