The past as future, and Friday before the Lions

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2017 – 3:03 pm

The past is the past, and each team is different, and I get that. Matthew Stafford isn’t the same guy who was benched the last time the Cardinals visited Detroit in 2015, and that’s not just because he got a new mega-contract. The Cardinals aren’t the same team that floundered disappointingly in 2016.

But the past still can be fun to revisit. The last time the Cards opened up in Detroit was a memorable one for me. That was the day Anquan Boldin burst on the scene with his 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, back in 2003. How about you, Tyrann Mathieu? Do you have a memorable opening game at any point in your life?

“I always think about my rookie season and nobody thought I was going to be able to play, and I go ahead and make that big-time play against St. Louis,” Mathieu said. “That was one of those special moments for me.”

See, that moment, to me, does have some bearing. That Mathieu that burst on the scene in 2013? That Mathieu who dominated in 2015? That’s the guy we’ve been seeing in camp and the preseason. He’s a big reason why there is optimism about this defense. Sometimes, you look backward to see what is coming. With the Badger, that seems fitting as the Cardinals finally get started in the regular season.

— To me, the keys Sunday are fairly simple. Offensively, can you allow Carson Palmer to have time to throw the ball down the field once in a while, protecting against an at-best average pass rush? I know John Brown keeps saying he’s not totally healthy, but I think Smoke is healthy enough to make at least some sort of impact.

— Defensively, it’s that defensive line. If I had to guess, I’d guess Robert Nkemdiche wouldn’t play, but we are still two days away. In the end, with seven defensive linemen, at least one is probably inactive every week anyway, and I just don’t think they’ll risk Nkemdiche coming back too fast when there is confidence in the other guys. That said, they have to hold up. This defense has the pass rushers. They definitely have the playmakers in the secondary. But to get there, you have to lock down the run, something this defense has done well the last couple of years.

— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, on newcomer Alex Boone – who was a right guard those years in San Francisco when playing with old/new teammate Mike Iupati, and then went to the left side after Iupati came to Arizona: “We all know that’s Mike’s position,” Goodwin said with a chuckle. “Kind of funny, I was talking to Mike, he said, ‘Alex called and he wants to come here but he’s not playing left.’ ”

Reminded me of Evan Boehm insisting he wasn’t going to be displaced on the right side either.

— Goodwin said Boone fits the Cardinals’ style, but “you know I don’t like anybody,” he added. “That’s just my nature. I won’t like anybody until I’m standing on the podium holding a Super Bowl trophy. Then I’ll start liking guys.”

— The Lions have a pair of former Cardinals tight ends. Darren Fells is there as a starter, a guy who will try and get going again after having a disappointing 2016 in Arizona, which is one reason the team let him leave in free agency. The Lions also signed Hakeem Valles to the practice squad this week. Any little edge, right?

— Speaking of tight ends, Goodwin chuckled again when asked if the tight ends would be more involved in the passing game. (In my opinion, I wouldn’t hold your breath.) Goodwin knows Jermaine Gresham got a big contract, and Troy Niklas has looked solid and stayed healthy. But as he as mentioned before, from a long ago warning from Arians in a meeting, “We pay Larry (Fitzgerald) a whole lot of money.”

— Stafford’s numbers since being benched in Week 5 against the Cardinals in 2015: 50 touchdown passes, only 15 interceptions, 67 percent completions and a 99.1 quarterback rating. Also, in what is coincidence, but take it for what it is worth, that 2015 Detroit game was a late kickoff – 4 p.m. locally, 1 p.m. in Arizona. It wasn’t early, like Sunday’s will be.

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, like the other coaches, is convinced Justin Bethel has earned that starting job. The reason, among others, is that health allowed him to practice.

“When you are finally healthy, and you get a whole offseason to work your craft, it does wonders how you progress as a player,” Bettcher said.

— Fitzgerald needs 82 yards receiving to become only the fifth player to have 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over a career in season openers. The fabulous four so far? Don Maynard, Andre Reed, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.

— Finally, back to Mathieu. One of the things the Cardinals lost last year when the Honey Badger was not Badgeriffic went beyond dynamic play in the secondary. It lost an emotional jet engine, which Mathieu simply couldn’t be when he isn’t playing like he knows he can. That component is back.

“I try to feel out games,” Mathieu said. “Some games I won’t say a word. Other games I’m pretty well vocal. I won’t know until I actually get to game day.”

It’s meaningful. Said Patrick Peterson, “He finds ways to pass his energy to his teammates.”

See you Sunday. The regular season is here.

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15 Responses to “The past as future, and Friday before the Lions”

  1. By Scott H on Sep 8, 2017 | Reply

    Ah, those magic words…..Friday Before whoever. It’s back! And all seems right with the world.

    Tons of things to watch with interest, Darren pointed out some of them, no need for me to list them all. BUT one of the things I WAS looking forward to on opening day was Nkemdiche. And now he’s out. I’m trying to shake the ominous feeling that this has for me, but….that’s not coming easy right now. His first season was a wash out and that leaves a bad taste. With him now injured as year two starts…..that just sucks. You never know how any injury to any player may linger during a season, ya know? I just wanna see this kid play! And it’s not like we don’t need him AND the impact he needs to have. We lost a beast of a player in Campbell and this kid is pretty much the guy we need to make up for that loss. And now our season is starting and he ain’t gonna be there.

    BTW, first game in what seems like a VERY long time without Calais Campbell. All you folks who were constantly complaining that he was over-rated and that he disappeared too much…..well, you’re quite possibly about to find out just how over-rated he was NOT.

    I just want this to be a win, that’s all. I note that Seattle has a tough road game in Green Bay this week and I’m hoping Aaron Rodgers is at his un-stoppable best on Sunday and can deal them a loss. It would be nice to jump ahead of them right out of the gate. We need to be in the race for this division right from the bell. Falling behind Seattle early on just isn’t gonna go well. We all know they tend to start slowly and then hit their stride over the 2nd half of the season. We can’t be trailing them at that point. Simple as that. Because it’s a safe bet that even if we’re winning our games, they aren’t likely to be losing enough of theirs for us to catch them.

    Watching that game last night, BOTH teams took significant hits via injuries. In Week One. Please don’t let that be a theme throughout the NFL this weekend.

    Palmer and Stafford seem to be very similar QB’s in that they can both play at superior levels that put them among the best QB’s in the game, capable of taking a team anywhere. BUT…..they have also BOTH been maddeningly in-consistent and BOTH have shown tendencies to fall off for long stretches. Or, long enough to ruin seasons, anyway. Palmer was at his best in 2015, Stafford at his in 2016. Will be interesting to see if Palmer can find it again and if Stafford can sustain it. Maybe they both will, maybe neither one will. Place your bets at your own risk.

    Anyone else irked by our OC chuckling in response to being asked about using the TE’s more? Really? Is that funny?? It shouldn’t be.

    Would love to see Fitz get those numbers to join that group mentioned above. Fitz always seems to start fast, so…..let’s see a 100 yard game and a score for him on Sunday. Heck, with Fitz, you pretty much expect him to do that.

    We don’t have to do it all right on Sunday, it doesn’t have to be a work of art. But let’s NOT see the lethargy on offense and the blown coverages on defense and the ST’s errors that cost a win in Week One last year. Simply avoiding THOSE things should allow us to be the better team and win this game. So…get it done.

  2. By NJAzCardsFan on Sep 8, 2017 | Reply

    Darren- Why was Wheeler cut rather abruptly? Will Scooby play or sit?

  3. By Darren Urban on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    NJAz —

    RE: Scooby

    I do not think Wright will be active. Wheeler is a vet who could very well be re-signed next week. Vets on the roster for the first game have their salary guaranteed for the season. If the Cardinals believe there is a chance later in the season they could make a move with Wheeler, this is one way to keep flexibility. We will see Monday or Tuesday.

  4. By faster on Sep 8, 2017 | Reply

    ….In my opinion, I wouldn’t hold your breath. …..

    agreed, i will try it for you. …..:-)

    and thanks good for a early game, guaranties a nice sunday evening (19.00) with beer and hot salzstangerl.

    salzstangerl =

  5. By mal on Sep 8, 2017 | Reply


    You know where this Cap Capi mania came from?

    Go back at watch the Zoom video that Lisa did with Capi — right before cuts happened! It just about brings a tear to your eye rooting for the guy.

    This Capi thing is all Lisa’s fault, and I think you should let her know about it.

  6. By dynosoar on Sep 8, 2017 | Reply

    I loved that play, forget a tackle that allows a potential touchdown in a play or two, Tyrann stopped them!

  7. By creditcard on Sep 8, 2017 | Reply

    I don’t feel so good about this game. I think the lack of practice and play for David Johnson, Fitzgerald, Palmer, Dansby, Nkemdiche, and others not only doesn’t make the players sharp, but also subject in getting leg cramps.

    It is one thing playing 1 – 1/2 qts in a preseason game, to then playing the entire game.

    Nkemdiche has now posted two very impressive preseasons and looks like now starting his second very forgettable regular season.

    Anxious to see new starters like Boehm, Niklas, Jaron Brown, Riddick, Baker, Dansby, Branch, Bethel, Lee, and Dawson’s playmaking abilities. (Geezo thats a lot of new faces).

  8. By shannon robinson on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    Got to say Scooby first. He’s got a chance to make his mark in the transition game. I hope for that big time hit, hand on the ball, fumble recovery. I’ll go with Kareem the Dream as my next stand out player to hold the edge and surprise everyone with a closing sack. Gotta call out Justin Bethel to close the door on all the misapprehension. Josh Bynes gets a nod because there were a lot of tears when Detroit let him get out of their building – shock the home crowd! Tyvon Branch is the longer and faster guy we expected last year so we’ll reap the benefits of the organization’s patience now. Evan Boehm, got to shake your hand and we both agreed your time is upon us so deliver for your fans the steady competent right side guard we need so badly. Finally a Tip of the Cardinals’ Wing to our Over the Hill Gang of sweet spot kickers in Phil Dawson who just puts it through and coffin corner Andy Lee who used to nail us at will, hooray for our side! There’s more difference makers but they’ll show their hand and let’s win on the road to get this going. Uno, dos, tres, Cards!

  9. By Big Ken on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    Lets get some helmets and pads and get it on!!!

  10. By Scott H on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    creditcard –

    RE: Playing / practice time

    Of the guys you named, the only one I would really worry about is Dansby. Seems like he barely worked at all during camp, pre-season. That worries me. There is rest, and then…..there is not getting enough work to be in football shape.

    Palmer will be fine. We learned last year that it is better when his arm is rested.

    Fitz? Please. When is he NOT ready?

    DJ? Again, better he be rested and fresh now. Because he’s gonna be getting plenty of work staring tomorrow.

    The guy I am MOST worried about right now is Nkemdiche. He seemed to have such momentum going and now…..who knows?

  11. By dynosoar on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    I watched our playoff win against the Packers from two years ago, my only game I’ve been to in my life and my son was with me (He went in a Packers fan and left a fan of both teams, thanks ya’ll!) and I have to say, that is still one of my favorite games to watch.

    There’s the 2009 Stafford (Lions) win over the Browns when Stafford left with seconds left at the goal line with a dislocated shoulder, then pushed himself back on the field to throw the game winning touchdown as time expired and fell to the ground. It was a shoot out just like the one I name below.

    Then of course, the battle between Warner and Rodgers to see who was best in Warner’s last home game in Arizona.

    And while we lost the last game, I’ll add the entire playoffs leading up to and the Big Dance named Super Bowl 43. The game against the Panthers was my birthday present.

    Looking forward to watching this game tomorrow. Looking forward to the first win of what I hope and anticipate to be a nineteen game season. One game at a time, nineteen times.

  12. By dynosoar on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H,

    I won’t be worried about Nkemdiche until I see him play in a regular season game this season. OR until he’s inactive (for whatever reason) for several games. If he’s not playing by the bye, I’ll join you in your worry. I so want to see him perform the way the articles and optimism of our drafting gurus passed on to us.

    Ad I appreciate your assessment in the first post of this blog. Well said and as you referenced Aaron Rodgers (who’s been beaten by Warner and Palmer in his last two playoffs in our nest), I’ll quote him. “relax.”

  13. By Scott H on Sep 10, 2017 | Reply


    Regarding Nkemdiche….yeah, that is reasonable.

    I’m a big fan of Aaron Rodgers this week! And most others, to be honest. He is probably my favorite non-Cardinals player on the planet right now. LOVE that guy.

    GO Cardinals, and GO Packers!

  14. By Scott H on Sep 10, 2017 | Reply

    Just a little factoid related to today’s game that said the Cardinals have won their last 7 games against the Lions. Pretty impressive. But ya wonder who that favors TODAY, ya know? The Lions aren’t a bad team…..they’re playing at home today….so, are they due to put an end to that run?

  15. By Coach K on Sep 10, 2017 | Reply

    Offensive line is a huge concern for me. Especially run blocking. No push.

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