Friday before the Rams – and season’s end

Posted by Darren Urban on December 30, 2016 – 3:27 pm

One of the friends and family of Frostee Rucker that will be at the game Sunday in Los Angeles will be his first football coach. Rucker was 6 at the time. He later ended up playing at USC, and so will be back at the Los Angeles Coliseum playing for the first time since college.

“It’s almost like full circle in a sense,” Rucker said.

The season will come to an end as well. Can’t say it’s full circle, since at the beginning expectations were so high and here we are, on the final day of practice and it’s not even January. That certainly wasn’t the plan back in August. The mood was good this week, I’m sure in part because of the win in Seattle. They’d like to finish off with the revenge win against the Rams. “You build your team to win in the division,” coach Bruce Arians said, and, despite all the ups and downs, if the Cardinals win Sunday, they will have gone 4-1-1 in the NFC West.

That’s a record that Arians admitted, had he known before the season, he’d have assumed they would have won the division.

— Here’s another stat (oh, those sometimes misleading stats) that also would’ve made you think they could’ve (would’ve?) won the division: There are only three teams in the NFL ranked in the top 10 in offense and defense. The Cardinals (eighth in offense, third in defense) are one of them. The others? Playoff-bound New England and Pittsburgh.

— The Cardinals have not lost an NFC West road game since 2014. They’ve won five straight heading into this one.

— It’s amazing to think the Cardinals will be starting their fifth different right guard Sunday. It’s gone Evan Mathis to Earl Watford to John Wetzel to Earl Watford to Taylor Boggs and now to Evan Boehm.

— For those wondering, I had a chance to ask Carson Palmer about the late slant pass to J.J. Nelson. It indeed was an audible.

— The crazy stat of the week: Running back David Johnson is averaging 10.7 yards per catch (77 receptions). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is averaging 9.6 yards per catch (102 receptions). Yes, Fitz has more catches, but you’d never think a running back would be ahead of a receiver.

— Speaking of Fitzgerald, Arians said he would not lobby the veteran wide receiver to return in 2017. “It’s up to Larry,” Arians said of Fitzgerald playing another year. “I’ve got my fingers crossed. Hopefully he will come back but that’s strictly up to him.”

— Arians does have other business with Fitz, though. On Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning field goal last week, Fitz celebrated with the coach a bit too hard. The jumping bear hug hurt Arians’ right shoulder, and he admitted Friday it still hurts. What did the MRI show? “Haven’t taken one yet,” Arians said with a chuckle. “I don’t even want to know.”

There could still be a price to pay, though.

“If I can’t play golf this year (in the offseason), I’ll be driving one of those real nice cars,” Arians added with a grin.

— The in-flux offensive line, whatever its shortcomings, has allowed only two sacks total the last two games.

“Proud of them,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “That’s what I told them Wednesday. Just proud of them.”

— Palmer doesn’t like sitting out Wednesday practice but he never really fought it either. The Cardinals put a lot of time and effort into the sports science of workload, hits and repetitions — led by assistant strength coach Anthony Piroli — to judge such things. Palmer’s Wednesday work is part of that science.

“There’s reason for it,” Palmer said. “There’s data behind it. It’s amazing the stuff that they keep track of and the information that you get back from that. It makes sense. I see why they do it, and like I said, they’re paid professionals. That’s their job and that’s their role, and you don’t have a choice but to listen.”

— This Rod Tidwell “Football Life” trailer is pretty good, NFL Network. I’m going to stick with my Tidwell effort, however.

— Congrats to Johnson for being named MVP by the Arizona chapter of the PWFA. Same for Kevin Minter for taking the “Good Guy” award for his dealing with the media. Truth be told, there are a bunch of guys that could win the Good Guy award — Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson, Tony Jefferson, D.J. Humphries, Tyrann Mathieu and A.Q. Shipley immediately come to mind, and that’s not a total list — but the truth is, we have a very good locker room when it comes to this part of the job.

— Another season (almost) done. That’s 17 in the books for me. Where does the time go?


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20 Responses to “Friday before the Rams – and season’s end”

  1. By Kevin Butler on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

    Now that the team is doing better, do you think I can get my job back?

  2. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

    I hope Boehm gets a good hard look at RG next year in training camp. Either that, or we need to draft one.

  3. By joe holst on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

    The defense has been getting lit up the last 2 games in the 2nd half, I am starting to question James Bettcher. They seem to struggle closing games out , Todd Bowles had a knack for shutting down teams in the 2nd half,

  4. By rod on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

    I just hope none of our big guns get hurt during a meaningless last game of the season.

    Looking forward to the 2017 season, go Cardinals!

  5. By Richard S on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

    The Cardinals put a lot of time and effort into the sports science of workload, hits and repetitions — led by assistant strength coach Anthony Piroli — to judge such things. Palmer’s Wednesday work is part of that science. Still I wonder if that affects the timing between passer and receiver. Everyone is different and it sounds to me that sports science assumes everyone is the same.

  6. By sbrown on Dec 30, 2016 | Reply

    when I thought about this game, with Palmer going to play at the Coliseum and with this game, next season going to be in London, I jumped on stub hub and grabbed a couple of mid level tickets.
    My son and I will make the drive over and watch on Sunday , also something to check off my bucket list, watching a game at the Coliseum.
    Looking for a great game and a W by the Cardinals to finish off the season.

  7. By LadyBird04 on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

    Sorry for being snarky here Darren, but, you mentioned the top ten ranking for the offense and defense….what is the ranking of our Special Teams and Kickinig Units? Can’t believe they’ll be above the top 30. 🙂

    I’ll bet the Patriots can’t beat that.

  8. By Darren Urban on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

    LadyBird —

    RE: Special teams

    The league doesn’t have special teams rankings.

  9. By shannon robinson on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

    Coaches spend a lot more time with trainers than doctors. A trainer’s job is to get the player back on the pitch at maximum production as soon as possible. Doctors do different stuff. The trainer’s advice has to be highly predictable. Trainers make reliable snap decisions as part of the game. I was impressed with the Cards’ Training Room. Right now we’re finishing with a strong team that does the hard stuff well. The NFL is the only sports organization that intentionally diminishes its own product. The Injured Reserve rules are self defeating. If the Cards followed baseball, basketball, hockey, international rugby and soccer rules we would have finished with Cris Johnson and Tyvon Branch active and on the game day roster together and maybe sooner. Why does the NFL enforce rules that dampen their own product? I get discouraged and watch a team less if my favorite players go on the shelf. I’m really looking forward to see our guys play Sunday. A tip of the Cardinals’ Wing to the unsung heroes of 2016 – our training staff!

  10. By Adam Smith b1723 fka DTL on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

    Kevin Minter needs 1000 push ups a day in off season. The pic above shows a 220 lb RB with materially broader shoulders than LB Minter.

  11. By Scott H on Dec 31, 2016 | Reply

    Well, since we have one game left to play, let’s make it a win. I just can’t help but thinking that it can only help with Fitz thought process. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe not a chance in hell. But a month-long losing streak to close out the season certainly couldn’t help, ya know? We saw how psyched he was as he grabbed BA on the sidelines when we locked down the win in Seattle….so let’s end on a two-game win streak and send Larry into the off-season with something he can feel better about ( I hope ). And let’s hope he doesn’t hurt anyone, tackling them from behind, on Sunday!

    Down here in Treasure island Florida ( Buccaneer’s country ) for the New Year and I will be representing at the local sports bar on Sunday with my Cards ankle socks, my new breast cancer Cards t-shirt ( LOVE the Cardinals logo in that bright pink! ), and my Kurt Warner watch. They probably don’t see many of us down here, but there WILL be a Cards fan in the house tomorrow afternoon! Anyone care to join me? First round’s on me!

    Hope everyone has a happy & safe New Year’s Eve!

  12. By mitchaz on Jan 1, 2017 | Reply

    Re: Cardinals’ 2017 Draft. These are some notes about some of the players who stood out to me this week:


    Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina.

    Made a couple of mistakes, but displayed all the reasons why teams are enamored with him: size, footwork, vision, arm strength, accuracy from pocket and on the move, improvisational skill.

    Deshaun Watson, Clemson.

    He too made a couple of mistakes, but kept his poise, used his feet to his advantage and threw plenty of strikes. Very good touch and rhythm on short to intermediate passes, which bodes well for playing in BA’s offense. Very good runner. Good vision. Strong leader.


    Dalvin Cook, Florida St.

    We have seen what Devonta Freeman has done to electrify the Falcons’ running game and thus to open their passing game. Well, Dalvin Cook has an array of exceptional skills to add to Freeman’s downhill burst and running style.

    Wayne Gallman, Clemson.

    Has a similar running style to David Johnson’s, although few RBs can slalom cut the way DJ does. Although he runs upright, like DJ, he is slippery and leans forward to get the most out of his run. Not sure if he will be a lead RB in the NFL, but he could be a superb #2.

    Nick Chubb, Georgia.

    Ground and pound RB who has impressive feet, lower body strength and pad level. Not sure about his receiving skills at the next level, but he could surprise there.


    Mike Williams, Clemson.

    Plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s everything we wished Michael Floyd would be. Superb down the field and on 50/50 balls, but also tough and highly competitive on routes over the middle.

    Malachai Dupree, LSU.

    Has a knack for gaining separation. Very slippery. Has good RAC ability. Is a willing and able blocker downfield.

    James Quick, Louisville.

    Deep threat who, like Williams, can make strong catches and RACs on under and intermediate routes.


    O.J. Howard, Alabama.

    Has WR speed and knows how to get open. But he tends to disappear in games. Can he be a go-to receiver on a regular basis? Only has 2 TDs this year.

    Jordan Leggett, Clemson.

    Has all the tools. He’s a better blocker than Howard and while he’s not quite as fast as Howard, he is more consistently productive.


    Cam Robinson, T, Alabama.

    Quick off the ball, and very agile for at 6-5, 326. Sets up well in pass pro and plays good angles on his blocks. Can be out-quicked on stunts and edge speed rushes, but once her gets his long arms on his man, he rides them out of the picture.

    Pat Elflein, C, Ohio St.

    Rock steady in the middle. Has good combination of footwork, leverage and upper body strength. Good leader.

    Ethan Pocic, LSU.

    Plays surprisingly lithe at 6-6, 309. Can play equally well with power or finesse in whatever the situation dictates. If you want to boost the running game up the middle, this guy gets it done.


    Solomon Thomas, Stanford.

    Explodes off the snap, but manages to maintain outstanding body control and ball awareness. Made to order as a 5 technique in a 34. Has 8 sacks and gets to the QB in a hurry at times.

    Jonathan Allen, Alabama.

    Might be the strongest and most disruptive DE in recent Bama history. Thrives under the big lights.

    Devonte Fields, Louisville.

    Despite playing injured, Fields was in the LSU backfield all afternoon. Could play 34 OLB at 6-4, 258. Plays long and fluidly.

    Harold Landry, Boston College.

    Will likely declare for the draft after his breakout 16 sack season. Has equal ability as a bull rusher and quick around the corner rusher.

    Carlos Watkins, Clemson.

    Moves with surprising agility and quicks for such a big bodied (6-3, 318) DT.

    DeMarcus Walker, Florida St.

    At 6-3, 275, Walker is load off the edge who brings constant pressure and blows up the running game.


    Myles Garrett, Texas A&M.

    Elite skills in all phases. Likely the #1 pick in the draft.

    Reuben Foster, Alabama.

    Despite smallish size, he has tremendous instincts, range and toughness.

    Raekwon McMillan, Ohio St.

    Bigger and more rugged than Foster. Not quite as rangy, but is a force to be reckoned with between the tackles.

    Tim Williams, Alabama.

    Speed rusher, very good athlete, but is on the small side at 6-2, 230.

    Ryan Anderson, Alabama.

    Not as athletically gifted as Foster or Williams, but is a Johnny-on-the-spot type of playmaker, as evidenced by his pick 6 versus Washington.

    Ben Boulware, Clemson.

    Self-made all-star, despite short height and athletic limitations. Junkyard dog and tremendous leader.


    Marlon Humphrey, Alabama.

    Got beat on the double move for a TD early in the Washington game, but stuck like glue in coverage after that. Has good size and quick feet.

    Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama.

    Intense competitor. Forces the run well. Good tackler. Combative when the ball is in the air. Closes quickly.

    Tre-Davious White, LSU.

    Smooth and sneaky. Finds the ball and gets to it in a hurry. Has return skills.

    Sidney Jones, Washington.

    Had a rough game versus Alabama. Like his talented teammate WR John Ross, he got overmatched physically. However, his cover skills are potentially elite and once he adds more strength in the weight room, this kid could be a sensational pro.

    Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson.

    Had a superb game versus Ohio St. Has length, good feet and fluid hips. No stranger to contact, either.

    Gareon Conley, Ohio St.

    Smart and instinctive. Plays the position the way it is supposed to be played, with good leverage, ball awareness and closing speed. Not flashy—just reliably solid.

    Marshon Lattimore, Ohio St.

    Has the size and skills and is starting to develop nicely.


    Malik Hooker, Ohio St.

    Total package as to what the Cardinals need at FS. Has good size and superior range, as evidence by his interception at the pylon over the top of the Clemson WR. And, his initial angle on that pass was off, which he readjusted in mid-run and got to the spot in a flash. He plays physical when he needs to on underneath plays, although he can over-pursue at times.

    Jamal Adams, LSU.

    Got beat deep by James Quick and there are questions as to whether he can play FS. As a box safety, he is dynamic in all phases. Watching him chase down Lamar Jackson was a treat.

    John Johnson, Boston College.

    Good size/strength and can play well in both zone and man coverage. Has CB skills and is a big hitter.


    JK Scott, P, Alabama.

    Superb leg. Booms the ball.

  13. By dan on Jan 1, 2017 | Reply

    Great Michael Floyd TD……if he was in a Cardinals uniform he would have gotten blasted and lost the football.

  14. By JTDG on Jan 1, 2017 | Reply


    Probably the most disruptive player I saw over the bowls so far is Taco Charlton from Michigan. He stood up like a 3-4 OLB and went down as a DE.

    The guy lined up against Florida St’s LT Roderick Johnson (a possible 1st rounder) and dominated him. Very impressed. We do not need an OLB, but some team will get a good one in Charlton.

    I also was impressed with Raekwon Mcmillian. Solid ILB.

    But our first round pick still needs to be Mike Williams, WR from Clemson.

  15. By CARDS62 on Jan 1, 2017 | Reply

    Mitchaz and JTDG

    Thank you for your list. Did you guys watch # 9 Barnett for Tennessee against Nebraska? He seemed to be in their backfield on every play. Him and the DL from Stanford really stood out to me this bowl season plus Taco Charlton from Michigan, and JTDG he played just as well if not better against Ohio State as he did Florida State. I know we do not need an OLB, but if he is there in the second round I do not see how we do not take him.

    If we get Fitz. back which I think we will we really have to nail this draft and free agency.

    Go Cards!.

  16. By Scott H on Jan 2, 2017 | Reply

    Hey, wait a minute….I did a post that wished for a Cards win….hope that Fitz will return next year….a happy & safe New Year for everyone…..nothing but positives….and nobody gave me a thumbs down yet????

    That’s weird…..must be losing my touch! 🙂

  17. By Scott H on Jan 2, 2017 | Reply

    Ah, THAT’s more like it! Now, I know I’m in the right place. Home again!

  18. By JTDG on Jan 2, 2017 | Reply


    I have the Tenn game taped, along with all of them. I figured I would watch a game here or there, so I haven’t seen them all.

    Seems the best players are pass rushers or running backs. Jordon Lewis looked like a good Cb in round two till his bowl game. He is only a slot Cb imo and will struggle outside.

    Right now I am watching this running back from Penn St, Barkley, just tear it up. Great speed and electric moves.

    Love the USC QB (Freshman) . He might be the best QB in college football right now. If he avoids injury and any kind of let down, this kid will be the number one pick in a couple of years.

  19. By CARDS62 on Jan 3, 2017 | Reply


    Rose Bowl is a great game, and I agree with you about these 2 studs. Freshman QB is best looking pro style QB I have seen all year. Penn State QB will also get better so keep an eye on him next season and what do you think of Oklahoma QB Baker Maysfield? He says he is not turning pro this year.

  20. By JTDG on Jan 3, 2017 | Reply


    Is Baker Maysfield and the kid from Penn St, McSorley, remind me of Johnny Manzel (hopefully, without the antics)

    I am not sure how they transfer to the pro game, but both are exciting and worth mid round flyers if you run an offense like the Browns or bills. Can’t see them in Cardinal red.

    They both could have Jake Plummer type careers. I’m not sure, but they both will be good next year for their college teams.

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