The Cardinals have made it through their “Sunday Night Football” gauntlet of two weeks running. They have at least one more primetime game — their next home game is on “Thursday Night Football” against the Minnesota Vikings. But that might not be the only one. Their games down the stretch might mean something. Whether those games will be free to flex is another story.
As of right now, the game that would make the most sense to flex to “Sunday Night Football” would be the Dec. 27 home game against the Green Bay Packers. Two good teams, likely with something on the line as the Packers battle the Vikings for the NFC North title and with both teams possibly fighting for a first-round bye. Meanwhile, the scheduled “Sunday Night Football” game is Pittsburgh at Baltimore, normally a lock to stay there with such a great rivalry. But the Ravens have lost quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs all with season-ending injuries. They are struggling anyway. It’s not going to be the same.
Even if Cardinals-Packers makes sense, though, it’s far from a guarantee, because Fox has the ability to protect a game that week and Cards-Pack would seem a natural one to keep. It has national interest, and it’s a good game. The Panthers play the Falcons that week, so it might be worthy of Fox’s protection too — in fact, whichever one Fox doesn’t protect becomes a strong candidate to be flexed. (The Patriots play the Jets that week, but the Jets are fading fast.)
As for Week 17, which doesn’t have a named “Sunday Night Football” matchup — NBC gets to pick a game with playoff implications — the Cardinals and Seahawks is possible, but I’m guessing the NFC West will have been determined by then and there will be other games that mean more (Washington-Dallas? Minnesota-Green Bay? Philly-Giants?)
Tags: Falcons, Flex scheduling, FOX, Packers, Pathers, Ravens, Steelers, Sunday Night Football, Vikings
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It was quite the weekend, with free agency around the league slowing down and some tidbits floated here and there about the Cardinals and Adrian Peterson. No, I don’t think anything is imminent and I continue to hold to my original thought — that the Vikings will find a way to keep him. Keeping him, even at his salary, to help with young QB Teddy Bridgewater, is in my opinion the best football decision for the Vikings. Maybe Peterson is unhappy and doesn’t want to stay. But I don’t see them just cutting him, and the reality is, Peterson only has so much leverage. What’s he going to do — sit out a second straight season in his prime? That doesn’t make sense to me.
As for some of the other stuff that’s been said:
— Peter King is saying the Cardinals haven’t even had any discussions with the Vikings.
— Charles Robinson, who certainly seems to be talking someone in Peterson’s camp, keeps saying Peterson wants $25 million guaranteed over three years. OK. If you are just doing the guaranteed money, that’s a little more than $8M a year, but it’d be all guaranteed. Most deals have money beyond guaranteed too. Do you do that for a guy who will be 30 next week? Yes, it’s less than what he’s making, but …
— Robinson says Peterson is willing to restructure. What Carson Palmer did was restructure. Is Peterson willing to take a pay cut? If so, how much?
— The draft is full of prospects. Cheap prospects. If you still like Andre Ellington — and there is no reason to think the Cardinals do not — the Cards could pick up a good between-the-tackles guy in the first or second round and pair him with Ellington and still be left with cap room.
— Everyone assumed the Palmer restructure was a harbinger of something. It still could be. But the Cards might have just been getting low on cap space — they have, according to the NFLPA, about $9.9 million in space, and Palmer’s move created about $7M — and if they were going to do something with Palmer’s deal they had to when they did because his bonus was due last week. It might’ve been as simple as that. The Cards need around $4 million in cap space to bring in their top draft picks. Without Palmer’s move, they had about $3 million.
— Fitz isn’t being traded. Period. Forget the logistics or cap hit or anything. Ownership wanted Larry Fitzgerald in a Cardinals uniform. He is an important face of the franchise, and that’s why this new deal was done. The Cardinals aren’t going to let him go.
Again, I’m not saying a Peterson trade could not happen. But there are so many moving parts, between what his contract would be, what the Vikings might want in trade, whether the Vikings would even want to part with him, and what other teams around the league might offer (just because Peterson says he wants to go to this team or that doesn’t mean the Vikings have to accommodate him) it’s tough to get a true handle where this will go.
As far as “going for it,” I just keep coming back to this thought from GM Steve Keim, who has said a version of this to me many times: “You always have to think about the long-term health of the organization.” He’s talking in terms of the salary cap. Keim often mentions “sustained success.” That doesn’t mean you can’t add a veteran who costs some money. But any undertaking will have some deep thought, and deep research, behind it.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Keim, Vikings
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I’m always hesitant to bring up Adrian Peterson in any context with this team because of the emotions it evokes. The story has been told countless times, how the Cardinals, picking fifth in 2007, passed up the chance to draft Adrian Peterson and instead took tackle Levi Brown. We all know how that worked out for both sides. The Cardinals had allowed Leonard Davis to leave in free agency and needed a left tackle. And Edgerrin James was coming off his first season in Arizona. Plus, new coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm felt the Cardinals had to upgrade their offensive line because without that, it didn’t matter who might be behind that line carrying the ball.
Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. Did I mention that?
The other part of that story is that, while Whiz and Grimm ruled the day getting the tackle they wanted in that draft, that then-director of college scouting Steve Keim wanted to take Peterson. He felt Peterson was a difference maker.
(It’s fun to look back at that 2007 draft. Tampa could have had Peterson at No. 4, they went DE Gaines Adams. The just-cut Ted Ginn went ninth to the Dolphins. Meanwhile the Niners got Patrick Willis at 11 and Buffalo took Marshawn Lynch at 12. That seems so long ago.)
So we flash forward to 2015, and yesterday’s news that Peterson’s ongoing suspension, or whatever it might be, has been bounced back to an arbitrator after a judge ruled his ongoing punishment for last year’s issues with child discipline went too far. Peterson’s situation has not been resolved. That’s the most important part of this right now. It’s also important to note that a) Peterson is under contract with the Vikings and b) the Vikings continue to say they want Peterson on their team in 2015. So any speculation about him being anywhere but Minnesota this season is just that — speculation and guesswork.
There was a report that Peterson’s agent and someone from the Vikings got into a heated discussion at the Scouting combine and that Peterson’s agent wasn’t keen on Peterson staying a Viking. Then Peterson’s dad came out and said Peterson isn’t trying to leave Minnesota, although there is a chance the Vikings could part ways with him. Peterson does have three years left on his current contract (he turns 30 in a couple of weeks) and is due to make $12.75 million, $14.75 million and $16.75 million. Those numbers would seem to me to make a trade for Peterson for many teams cost-prohibitive without a significant restructuring and/or pay cut.
Someone suggested to me yesterday that Nelson Peterson (the father) said the Colts, Cowboys and Cardinals would be on Adrian’s short list if he left the Vikings. I haven’t seen that. The elder Peterson merely mentioned to the St. Paul Pioneer Press he had heard those teams as rumored destinations — and this time of year is king for NFL rumors.
But it was interesting to see Nelson Peterson go into some depth about the Cardinals and their near-miss on Peterson in 2007.
“Arizona had the opportunity to draft him and they didn’t,’’ said Nelson Peterson. “They had an opportunity to take him in 2007 with the No. (5) pick and they went and picked Levi Brown. If they would have taken Adrian Peterson, then (quarterback) Kurt Warner would probably still be playing and they probably would have numerous Super Bowls.
“Can you imagine (Peterson) with Kurt Warner and with Larry Fitzgerald in his prime? Oh, man, Arizona would probably have a couple of Super Bowls by now.’’
Keim is still around, although now he’s calling the shots. It’d make sense he probably still likes Peterson as a player. It’s not like he can comment on the possibility — that’s tampering — although I’ve heard him asked in a couple of interview situations. Until free agency starts though, such ideas are going to be bounced around. I’ve been bombarded with the question: Could I see Peterson as a Cardinal? Maybe, although there sure seem to be a lot of moving parts here. I will say this, with all the players around the league getting cut and with a free agent class with a lot of names in the first place — plus issues like Peterson’s future playing out — it’s going to be an interesting month of March.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Steve Keim, Vikings
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Ted Larsen at left guard? It wouldn’t be a total surprise. Larsen was working at guard a lot before starting center Lyle Sendlein got hurt and General Manager Steve Keim said today during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Larsen “has been one of our five best offensive linemen” during training camp. The veteran free agent who had played for Tampa Bay has been solid at center for Sendlein and at this point, there are still questions about when Jonathan Cooper will come back and how he will do when he does come back.
Keim said Cooper’s turf toe was “significant” and he isn’t sure if Cooper will be back this week or next. It would make sense when Sendlein returns from his calf injury — Keim said that could be Wednesday — that Larsen could be in the left guard mix. (That also likely means Earl Watford has not left as good of an impression playing left guard as the Cardinals would have liked.)
— The Cardinals have not received any phone calls about someone possibly interested in a Ryan Lindley trade, Keim said. The reality is that barring injury, Lindley will be the odd man out at QB. Keim said such calls wouldn’t hear up until next week anyway. Keim said the Cardinals have had a few calls about their wide receivers. In what really isn’t a surprise, Keim said it is “more realistic” the Cardinals will keep six wide receivers. I’ve thought that for a while, given the play of Jaron Brown and rookie Walt Powell behind Fitz, Floyd, Ginn and John Brown.
— Stuff Keim liked from the Vikings game: linebacker Larry Foote’s play, quarterback Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown and how all the wide receivers did blocking on the perimeter.
— Stuff Keim didn’t like: The inability to create pressure on the quarterback, blown coverages and the lack of explosive runs (although he admitted not playing Andre Ellington much didn’t help the latter.)
— New linebacker Desmond Bishop, who dressed for practice Thursday but didn’t practice much at all, looked good in his 12 snaps, Keim said. I think Bishop, assuming he progresses, has a chance to stick. It’ll be interesting to see who that might cost in terms of a roster spot.
— Speaking of inside linebackers, Kevin Minter may still sit because of his pectoral injury. Keim said the Cards will be careful with Minter. No reason to risk anything right now.
— Linebacker John Abraham could return to individual drills either today or Wednesday.
Tags: Desmond Bishop, Jaron Brown, John Abraham, Kevin Minter, Ryan Lindley, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen, trade, Vikings, Walt Powell
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It’s preseason, and rarely do things matter less in the NFL than a touchdown scored in the waning minutes of the second oreseason game. The reality is almost every player on the field at that point in the game won’t be in the NFL in a month.
In the grand scheme of things, Zach Bauman’s six-yard lateral run (?) of the loose ball batted backward by center John Estes was the play of Saturday night, right? It’s the kind of play that might’ve lived forever had it happened in a regular season game. It was fourth down, the Cardinals were going for it down three on the Minnesota 6-yard line because there is no way Bruce Arians was going to go to overtime in the preseason, and then Estes’ snap didn’t connect with quarterback Ryan Lindley. The ball rolled around. Estes, in the officials’ eyes, batted it backward, although oblong as it is, the ball took a turn toward the Vikings’ goal line, and Bauman scooped it up and improbably scored.
“Saw a play I haven’t seen in 22 years,” Arians said, before deadpanning, “that touchdown … that was designed.”
Even Lindley was willing to have fun with it.
“You know when we ran (at practice) and coach went off the field?” Lindley said, referring to the fight-induced punishment Thursday. “That’s really what we did, we got the defense some scout team reps, and we let it ride.”
For those wondering, here was the official comment from referee Craig Wrolstad:
“The ball was snapped, it was a backwards pass. The snap is considered the backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple times, nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”
Wild. It worked out for Bauman too, clearly.
Tomorrow my mom birthday and I told her I was gonna score a TD for her!
— Zach Bauman (@FranchiseBAUMAN) August 17, 2014
Some other quick thoughts before I try to actually get some sleep on this flight home:
— The Cardinals know they have to be better on special teams. This goes beyond who the kicker might be. The coverage wasn’t good – Arians said as much – and Lorenzo Alexander knows it needs to improve quickly.
“They probably have one of the premier return units in the league, but as a cover unit, we definitely have to step up and put our defense in better field positions, and also create turnovers,” Alexander said, adding “we still have a lot of moving parts, lot of young guys, but it’s no excuse. Special teams is about want-to, effort and heart.”
— The only injury Arians knew of was tackle Max Starks, who tweaked the same left ankle that has been giving him trouble.
— Newly signed linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t supposed to dress but he did and he played. He flashed a couple of times too. The veteran was a very good player before he had serious injuries the past two years. His progress bears watching.
— The starting defense did OK. I think they’d like to do better. I thought Calais Campbell was effective early, and I thought linebacker Larry Foote was too. That group is going to jump a level when DC Todd Bowles starts game-planning.
— It was too bad the crazy Bauman play didn’t win the game, but the third unit defenders didn’t have a good night. The Cardinals probably shouldn’t have been in the position late anyway, at least not how they got there. I thought the long pass interference drawn by receiver Kevin Ozier to set up the Cards’ final TD wasn’t a good call.
— The 19-play drive that scored a touchdown to open the third-quarter was a thing of beauty in terms of possession (and in terms of a preseason game and running the clock, but that’s me being selfish). It ate up 10:06 on the clock, and 14 of the plays were runs. No runs for more than seven yards and the Cards needed to convert a couple of fourth downs, but it was an exercise in being physical.
That’s enough for now.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Desmond Bishop, John Estes, Larry Foote, Lorenzo Alexander, Ryan Lindley, Vikings, Zach Bauman
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No real surprises on the list of players who aren’t expected to dress for the Cardinals tonight in Minnesota. Linebackers John Abraham and Desmond Bishop did make the trip, but will not play. Wide receiver Ted Ginn is going to try and give it a go after missing time with a bruised knee. Wide receiver Michael Floyd (groin) will sit out. The rest of the Cardinals not playing tonight:
— G Jonathan Cooper (toe)
— C Lyle Sendlein (calf)
— T Nate Potter (back)
— LB Kevin Minter (pectoral)
— DT Bruce Gaston (knee)
— CB Teddy Williams (checking on this one)
The Cardinals return to practice Monday. I’m thinking a handful of these guys will be able to give it a go at some point this week. Also, there is optimism S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu will come off PUP sometime next week.
Tags: Desmond Bishop, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Vikings
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Finally, the Cardinals go outdoors. There is a bit of irony attached that the first time the Cardinals will be outside since training camp started will be a game in Minnesota, since for so many years this game too would have been inside against the Vikings. But the Vikings are playing outside for a couple of years, shacking up as a guest at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while their new (domed) stadium is constructed.
Regardless, the Cardinals haven’t been outside since minicamp ended in mid-June. Which took quarterback Carson Palmer back a bit when it was mentioned to him earlier this week. “It is (surprising) because I hadn’t thought of that at all,” Palmer said. “Because we do not want to be outdoors right now.”
Tough to argue. You don’t really want to go through outdoor two-hour plus practices when it’s 100-degrees plus and the humidity (at least for around here) starts to spike. The Cardinals had considered one outdoor practice earlier in camp but decided to stay inside. Last year, the Cardinals actually held a training camp practice outside at their Tempe facility. Bruce Arians wanted a tough workout in the heat. He doesn’t see the need this season.
“We don’t have a hot game this year so there is no need to go outside,” Arians said. “We’ve had a pretty physical, hard camp, as hard as we can make it..”
So it’s on to Minnesota, where the forecast for Saturday night is mid-to-low 60s and high humidity.
— We get to see round two of the John Brown experience. What might be more amazing with Brown, even more than his grasp of the offense and his production against veteran cornerbacks in practice, is how much Palmer already seems to trust him.
— Arians, talking about why Brown is so quick (and why it might take the QBs a bit of time to learn timing with him): “A lot of guys have to chop their feet and slow down to cut,” Arians said. “He can run full speed and just change directions. That’s rare.”
— Some have wondered about rookie safety Deone Bucannon and playing the dollar linebacker position in the nickel defense. When Bucannon is in there, that makes six defensive backs on the field. So, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, doesn’t that make it a dime package?
“It’s still the nickel,” Bowles said. “It’s the position, not the player.”
— The Cardinals’ running game wasn’t very productive in the preseason opener (81 yards on 37 attempts, although that includes three kneeldowns). Arians said he wasn’t and isn’t worried about it. “I don’t put a lot into numbers,” Arians said.
Given that Andre Ellington figures to play little, I’m not sure how dynamic the running game will be in the preseason.
— Darren Fells continues to push for a spot as the fourth tight end. Arians said Fells continues to block very well. “He still has to get rid of those bonehead plays,” Arians said. “He’s experiencing a lot of new things too many times. I was disappointing he dropped that pass Saturday because he’s got great hands. I think he tried to score before he caught it. He’s steadily improving.”
— No, I don’t think Jay Feely has to be perfect, in the truest sense of the word, even though that is what Arians said. Feely will get his chance to kick Saturday after Chandler Catanzaro’s impressive debut in the controlled conditions of University of Phoenix Stadium. The pressure is on for Feely, yes. But he’s been through this kind of pressure before.
— One more week of training camp left.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Darren Fells, Deone Bucannon, Jay Feely, John Brown, Vikings
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You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.
But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.
As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.
Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.
Tags: 2015 schedule, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Lions, NFC West, Packers, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings
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So it’s gonna be about 70 degrees today. Sunny. Just sayin’. Seems like everyone else is making comments about the weather, so I thought I’d chime in.
— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles reportedly met with the Browns for their head coaching job on Friday and was supposed to meet with the Vikings about their opening Monday. Neither team seems close to making a decision on their coach, although Bowles reportedly made an impression with the Vikings. Both Minnesota and Cleveland continue to look at more and more candidates, and that doesn’t include coaches still in the playoffs. Bowles won’t be interviewing in Detroit, where he was a candidate back in 2009. That makes sense, because many reports say the Lions would likely hire Chargers offensive coordinator and ex-Cards boss Ken Whisenhunt for that job once the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs.
— On the all-pro team from profootballfocus.com, Tyrann Mathieu makes first team as a slot cornerback, Justin Bethel first team for special teams. Patrick Peterson is second team at cornerback.
— Cardinals director of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Disner was named on Forbes list of top 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports. (The man next on the Forbes slideshow after Disner? Kevin Durant. LeBron and Gronk are among the athletes on the list too.)
— I am not a fan of messing with the playoff format. It caught up with the Cardinals this season yes, it benefited them in the 2008 season. I do not think extra teams should be added to the postseason. That said, it is still often discussed. That doesn’t mean anything is imminent, but things could change at some point.
— In case you missed it — and in case you’d like a smile or two — check out here the year in quotes and quips from coach Bruce Arians.
Tags: Browns, Bruce Arians, Justin Bethel, Lions, Mike Disner, Patrick Peterson, playoffs, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
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So far, Todd Bowles is scheduled to interview for a pair of head coaching jobs: With the Browns Friday and then with the Minnesota Vikings sometime next week. Does that mean Bowles is leaving as Cardinals’ defensive coordinator? Of course not. Last year at this time, DC Ray Horton was set up for three head coaching interviews — Cleveland, Buffalo and Arizona — and as we all know, Horton was still the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator when Bruce Arians decided to let him leave so he could be the DC in Cleveland and Arians could hire Bowles.
We’ll see how this turns out. Bowles fulfills the minority requirement of the Rooney Rule. Not that he isn’t a legitimate candidate, but that’s a possibility too. The Houston job (Bill O’Brien) and Tampa job (Lovie Smith) are now filled, so the only openings left are Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington. It’s also hard to get a sense about what candidates are in play since many of the playoff teams will have assistants up for jobs when their seasons end.
(On a side note, so Horton doesn’t get the Cleveland job last year but goes to the Browns to be DC. Now that job is open again and I can’t think Horton would be thrilled if he was kept under contract when Bowles — the man who replaced him — then got the head Browns gig.)
I don’t know exactly what Bruce Arians, who has made clear his hope that Bowles someday becomes a head coach, would do if Bowles left. I’m not sure there is an automatic candidate on the staff already. But that’s a long way off. It still seems likely to me Bowles will be around for another year as defensive coordinator. Certainly, the Cards would like that to happen.
Tags: Browns, coaching staff, Todd Bowles, Vikings
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