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  • Sun., Nov. 30, 2014 2:05 PM MST Cardinals at Falcons Week 13 of the regular season at the Falcons
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  • Thu., Dec. 11, 2014 6:25 PM MST Cardinals at Rams Week 15 of the regular season at the Rams
  • Sun., Dec. 21, 2014 6:30 PM MST Cardinals vs. Seahawks Week 16 of the regular season vs. the Seahawks
  • Sun., Dec. 28, 2014 2:25 PM MST Cardinals at 49ers Week 17 of the regular season at the 49ers

Blogs

Larsen a top lineman, and trade calls

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 9:16 am

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.

 


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Vikings (late) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 11:35 pm

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.

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.


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Ginn to go; Floyd, Coop sit in Minnesota

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 4:08 pm

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.


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Friday before the open-air Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2014 – 11:22 am

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.


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Glancing at the 2015 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 2:46 pm

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.

FitzInChicagoBLOG

 


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Odds, ends and Bowles

Posted by Darren Urban on January 7, 2014 – 10:27 am

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.

Anyway …

– 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.


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Bowles scheduled to interview for two jobs

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2014 – 7:53 pm

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.


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Mac’s last speech

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2013 – 5:19 pm

It was the last day of the 2003 season, and the Cardinals shocked the NFL — and certainly, the Vikings — when they rallied from an 11-point deficit with less than two minutes to go by winning on a Hail Mary TD pass from Josh McCown to Nate Poole. I was thinking about it again now that McCown, after his long roller-coaster ride of an NFL career, is starting for the Bears after Jay Cutler’s groin injury.

Back in 2003, though, McCown was getting a shot at what everyone knew was the end of the Dave McGinnis coaching tenure. McCown not only survived, he impressed new coach Denny Green enough to be the quarterback choice the next year over some impressive potential draft picks (and notably allowing the Cards to pick Larry Fitzgerald.) As it was, McCown made sure the Cards didn’t get (cost them?) the No. 1 overall pick and Eli Manning when he crushed the Vikings’ hopes and dreams in 2003 with his Poole pass.

(You can see the end of the game right here. Be sure to notice my radio broadcast partner Damien Anderson, who recovers the onside kick to even give the Cards a chance to make their game-winning drive.)

But I digress. The NFL Network, on its 10th anniversary, has made available to teams a handful of historical clips, and I happened to notice one in the system that I had never seen before. It was McGinnis’ locker room speech after that emotional Vikings win. I had never seen it before. Pretty powerful stuff. It was cool to step back in time, to see all those players I used to cover (Anderson sneaks into the Mac video too, just off to the left of the screen, as does current front office man Josh Scobey.) No one says it, but everyone knows it’s goodbye.

“You’ve got my heart. You’ve got my heart.”


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Fitz too has hometown rooting interests

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2013 – 1:08 pm

Suddenly, it causes a stir when players have some connection to a team that isn’t their own. When Colin Kaepernick wore a Dolphins hat — presumably for the look, since he isn’t from that part of the country — it probably shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. (Although he didn’t handle it very well and the defiant response forced a lingering backlash). Then Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who is from Atlanta, mentions he grew up rooting for the Falcons and still likes to see them do well when he isn’t playing them.

That too seemed to gain headlines. As if there was something, if not wrong with it, too weird about it. All I could think about was Larry Fitzgerald.

Fitz, if you have been paying attention, has said many times how he remained a Minnesota Vikings fan given where he was raised and how he was a ballboy for the franchise. Last year, I went to Minnesota to talk to Fitz specifically about being a Minnesota boy and he made it plain then too.

“I grew up a Vikings fan and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say I was still a Vikings fan,” Fitzgerald said then. “Growing up in Minnesota it’s second nature. I still pull for them when I’m not playing them. A lot of my closest friends in the NFL are Vikings. I’m close with (Everson) Griffen, Jared Allen, Phil (Loadholt), Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph. You pull for your friends.”

I didn’t think anything of it. It made sense to me, as a matter of fact. It doesn’t mean Fitz wants to beat the Vikings any less when the Cardinals play them (or that Newton, battling the Falcons within the same division, doesn’t want to sweep Atlanta). If memory serves, often you want to beat your brother/friends more. You can see the frustration on Fitz’s face when the Cards lose and it has always seemed moreso when the Vikings beat him. He wants to topple the hometown team, to talk a little trash to his Minnesota guys back home.

Now, would Fitz slide a Vikings cap on? No. He’s smart enough to not do that. But NFL players who grew up rooting for teams that aren’t their own? You’re silly if you don’t realize that — and that they won’t necessarily turn it off once they get to the league. It doesn’t mean they are trying any less to beat those teams.


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Finalizing the equation of Jefferson trade

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2013 – 7:43 pm

Many have asked over the months since the Cardinals traded cornerback A.J. Jefferson to the Vikings at the end of August. Thanks to my friend Tom Pelissero, erstwhile Vikings guru, those trade results have been finalized. Ultimately, the trade was Jefferson and the Cardinals’ seventh-round pick in 2013 for the Tennesee Titans’ 2013 6th-round pick, which the Vikings had previously acquired.

Considering the Cards were on the verge of cutting Jefferson (and the league knew the Cards were corner-heavy) when the trade went down, moving up a round wasn’t a bad result. It gives the Cards, at least before the compensatory picks are doled out, seven total draft picks covering the first six rounds of the draft.


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