Defensive opportunity, Friday before the Colts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2017 – 4:21 pm

So it was a week about the Cardinals’ offense and the struggles last week and the injuries they already have endured just one game into the season. This is a defense that is healthy – save for the nearing-a-return-but-not-yet Deone Bucannon – and about to face a Colts’ offense Sunday that scored only nine points in Los Angeles last week, has a quarterback crisis and a decimated offensive line.

It’s the kind of offense a defense can get after pretty hard, especially one like the Cardinals, which may be asked to shoulder a bigger load going forward.

“You’d be crazy if you thought like that,” linebacker Markus Golden said. “This is the NFL, man. That’s the real part about it. If you think like that, I don’t even want you on my team. That’s how I feel about it.

“It ain’t like we’re a super-team. We’re like them. We lost last week and we’re trying to get back on the winning side.”

The Cardinals get it. They get the position they are in, what they face after injuries. Anyone concerned about a trap game – which to me can’t be, no matter how rough the Colts looked, because of where the Cards are – shouldn’t be.

“We understand it’s the NFL,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “The Rams’ defense is tough on everybody. We don’t really look at that. If you look at it that way you’ll probably lose some respect for those guys (on the Colts).”

This was always going to be a big game. Bruce Arians back in Indy and all that. It was supposed to be Andrew Luck vs. Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, a clash of two playoff hopefuls. The Colts are anything but, thanks in large part to Luck’s injury. The Cards want to make sure their hopes aren’t dashed so soon themselves.

— Players like Golden and Mathieu were all saying Jacoby Brissett would be the QB they face, which was what had been reported by multiple outlets. Colts coach Chuck Pagano would not name a starter Friday, however, and Bruce Arians took his friend at his word.

“We’ll see who steps into that huddle,” Arians said. “Chuck hasn’t said s*** yet.”

— Given all the offensive shuffling, it’s almost lost that Robert Nkemdiche will be getting a chance to play. He’ll have a chance to go against undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond, who is playing center with Ryan Kelly injured. If Nkemdiche can show a little of what he showed in the preseason, that’d be a nice start. Given everything he’s been through, he needs a good game in this situation.

— Not much more to say about Palmer this week. The injuries around him do not help. This is why you sign an Alex Boone, to fill in for Iupati. You hope John Wetzel plays better. Offensive line play across the league is not been great. The Cards are not alone. But they have to make it a little better for Palmer, and Palmer has to be a lot better.

— The blocking also has to be better for the running game, which didn’t produce much even before Johnson got hurt. Andre Ellington/Kerwynn Williams was the 2014 running tandem once Jonathan Dwyer was released, so it’s not unfamiliar. The Cards leaned on the defense that season a lot (Palmer only played six games because of injuries) but you need some production on the ground. Where Chris Johnson fits in — especially after Arians said Elijhaa Penny will have an offensive role — is anyone’s guess.

— We will see how much of a role Chad Williams actually has on offense with Smoke out. Still, the pass catching will probably come down more to Fitz, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson, with Andre Ellington out of the backfield. Nelson actually has eight touchdowns in his last 10 games (Thanks for the stat, Whiz!) He can’t be dropping bombs like he did last week, but Nelson has gotten better with Carson Palmer and as a deep threat, the Cards need him. Badly.

— Speaking of potential pass catchers, curious to see if Ifeanyi Momah can be a factor. Every time he plays in the preseason, he seems to have a few receptions. Now, with Jermaine Gresham missing practice all week, he’s got a chance to be involved. We talk “Next Man Up,” but the next men up understand more people fret about those injured than are comforted by who is stepping in.

“It almost can be a chip on the shoulder sometimes, but honestly, I just try to do the best I can every day,” Momah said. “It was a good experience for me, first game of the preseason, starters didn’t play and I got to play into the second half. From that game, I was able to build off that, someone who can fill in.”

Ring of Honor member Roy Green is being inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame tonight.

— Speaking of former Cardinals, this came out last week, but if you have not seen it, it is a well-produced mini-documentary into the free-agent decision of Calais Campbell when he left the Cards in the spring. It’s worth a watch.

— I’ll leave you with this: Defensive coordinator James Bettcher grew up in a small town (Lakeville) in Indiana, and told a story this week about the first time he went to an NFL game when he was a kid.

“I remember Pops took me to my first Colts game, one of my best friends and his dad,” Bettcher said. “It was in the RCA Dome and like I said, from a small town of extremely hardworking people and to be able to go to a game like that was something special. Then you see the size of the stadium and you think, ‘Wow, how could I ever be down on the sideline?’

“To think now how fortunate I am to be a coach in the National Football League. It means something to me to work with the players I work with here and how fortunate I am to be a Cardinal. Maybe that’s what I get out of (this trip). To reflect back.”

See you in Indy.

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23 Responses to “Defensive opportunity, Friday before the Colts”

  1. By Scott H on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply

    Well, nice to hear that Nkemdiche is playing. Nice to hear that someone we need is making it BACK onto the field.

    Man, this is going to sound really negative but….here goes. I don’t even think there is a way to feel good after this game. If we win via a blowout, it will be nothing more than us beating up on a really bad team. What good did doing that to some bad teams last year do us? If we win via a close, kinda ugly game, where we are still flat, then we should remain very concerned. If we lose to this team? We should be ashamed or ourselves. Heck, we SHOULD be ashamed of ourselves if we win but barely.

  2. By creditcard on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply

    Defense fixes:

    Lots of posts about the 2nd CB. My opinion Tyrann Mathieu has to play much better than abyssmal. I’am not sure who is slower, Dansby or Bethea. Somehow need to get an interior (up the gut) pass rush.

    Offense fixes:

    Left side of offense line, middle of offense line, right side of offensive line both in pass protection and run blocking. Better QB play, Better WR and TE play.

    On a positive note Lee punted well.

  3. By creditcard on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply

    The textbook manner on how to stop the Cardinal offensive:

    An interior pass rush up the gut. Palmer is not comfortable in not having an ability to set into the pocket.

    Right now, I think St. Mary’s School for the Blind can beat the Cards, if the oppentant’s defense can have a sufficient up the gut push. Unfortunately with who knows at LG, Shipley at Center and Boehm at RG this is not a difficult task.

  4. By michael on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H, you gotta relax. One game at a time. A win means just that – a win. Let’s get the win, and go from there. Don’t worry about what the win means or doesnt means because at the end of the day, it means just one thing: it means we got a win. Get enough of them and you make the playoffs. Get more and you win the super bowl

    so lets just go out there and get a win

  5. By dynosoar on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply

    Friday before…

    Ad all is right with the world. Now for a win, then on to the next opponent and a win and on and on.

  6. By James samuels on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply

    reply to Creditcard post,
    Lots of post about 2nd CB………..

    It’s funny how this blog of Cardinals fans are so Biased and can’t even mention ANY good on how our 2nd CB played in Detroit.
    Bethel is Dogged out on his mistakes but Patrick and Tyrann are always excused for their bad plays.

    “We’ve got to get to the quarterback when they run that deep corner route,” Arians said. “We’ve got to get pressure. Bethel covered him long enough. That’s on the defensive line.”
    Yes Bethel gave up plays in the last 5 minutes and it was horrible … but We still can’t ignore the fact that Bethel did play Great Otherwise.
    Pro football focus(a non-bias team of analyst) gave Bethel a 80.0 PFF score against Detroit and also gave Peterson a PFF of 80.0.
    HoneyBadger received a PFF score of 45.8.
    Golden Tate had 10 catches for 108yds on The Badger?
    No body mentions Patrick Peterson who gave a Detroit touchdown?

  7. By jeff on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    baring injury the cards have some of the best skill players in the nfl…what if instead of drafting those guys the cards had built the best ol in football-then we would all be complaining that we needed skill position players. so much of the nfl is luck or just random chance or a single error….however, when an ol struggles all year and then the next year you don’t do much about it, guess what’s gonna happen?.

  8. By drblogubc on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    I remember the game against the Steelers in 2015. Big Ben was injured so Michael Vick started. Then he got hurt and Landry Jones came in for the second half. Should have been an easy win for the Cards but Jones threw for 168 yards and 2 TDs, passing at will against our defence. Carson threw for a lot of yards but only one TD and 2 critical interceptions. Steelers won 25-13. Later that season Gabbert outplayed Palmer and in what should have been an easy victory, the Cards barely squeaked out a win in the last few minutes. Then we all know what happened last year against New England. Garoppollo looked almost Brady-like against our defence even without Gronk.
    So it wouldn’t surprise me if the game against the Colts was a close one.

  9. By clssylssy on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    I get where you’re coming from as I think most of us old timers do, and I’m trying to stay positive about this game but get this gut feeling that the people who should be concerned about a bunch of issues, aren’t taking this game seriously but, rather as a time to “experiment” and give new players more game time.. Is this really a time to be playing around and experimenting when the business at hand should be to play four quarters of a game we can be proud of. It always makes me nervous when I hear BA promoting his pet projects when he has barely been able to keep them on the roster over proven players with skill sets we desperately need. I get that we need to develop players but, at what cost?
    We quit blitzing as much in the second half against the Lions when we could have pinned Stafford down but didn’t? I’m worried about the play calling as much or more than the players executing But, I am still concerned about our D-line and linebackers w/o Buc.
    Historically, the Cards have had trouble with these kinds of “gimme” games, and we’re on the road, so I just hope, we have enough leaders to keep our guys on track and focused at the task at hand.
    I have a feeling that if the Rams get two games up on us, the Division will be lost, so I’m just wanting to come out of this with a W.

  10. By Jack on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    Great article. The story from Bettcher was the best part. Keep up the good work.

  11. By shannon robinson on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    This is all part of winning.

  12. By dynosoar on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    James Samuels,
    great observations on Bethel and our secondary.

    General (meaning everyone),

    The Rams will come out of the gate like a hare and we’re coming out like a tortoise. You see where I’m going? Hehe.

    It’s one game against Matthew Stafford who has better stats last year than the great Tom Brady. The Lions will be a playoff team this year and so will we.

    I don’t see the Rams or the Colts in the playoffs. I believe we’ll meet the Lions again in January. That’s the game we need to win, not last week.

    I could be wrong about the Rams, but I can only base my predictions of the future on observations of the past and my observations show me we’ll be playing for the Big Dance, so will the Lions, but not the Rams. Our O-Line held up better than the Texans O-Line, so that’s a success.

    I see us winning the division (sweeping eve), but am willing to dream big and at the same time believe in one game at a time.

  13. By Joe Cardea on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    I think the offensive issues rest on Palmer. He played awful. He knows it, coaches know it, we know it. He’ll play better, God he has to. Its a long season. Hopefully he’ll not have many more stinkers like Detroit.I’m sure he has at least one more in him! I thought Dray was pretty serviceable in his last stint. He’s no all pro. I thought the defense did okay. One well timed 80 yard drive by the offense and we’d have won that game.

  14. By Amir on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    Great video on Campbell’s free agency decision making… Thanks for the link!

  15. By JTDG on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    James Samuels;

    If you read my post, multiple times I pointed out how poorly Badger played. Golden Tate ate Badger for lunch. I even pointed out that the announcer said they should put Pat P on Tate.

    As for Pat P, yes, he gave up one catch for 6 yards that was a TD. He got caught looking into the backfield to see if the play was over and was beat for the TD. He will say that should have never happened.

    The difference with Pat P is this. He takes the other teams best receiver and shuts them down game after game (I only remember Julio torching him). The other catch that Marvin Jones had was in a zone coverage. Why Betchler loves these zones is beyond me.

    Bethel, on the other hand, has been beat just about every time he has been out there. He drew the number 3 receiver and was beaten for two game crushing forth quarter TDs. Oh, btw, the 3rd receiver was playing his first game in the NFL ever.
    Great???? Golladay dropped a early TD and a big play down the sideline, or it would have been so much worse for Bethel.

    So, I will say again, if you think a 6th year CB going up against a rookie 3rd receiver in his first NFL game, who gives up 2 forth quarter TDs, is good, well that is the thinking that keeps the cardinals as the longest franchise in any sport to win a championship now that the cubs won. Embarrassing.

    Again, because Badger was bad, somehow we shouldn’t “dog” on Bethel makes no sense. He is good because others are bad is a terrible argument.

  16. By JTDG on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply


    Good Point.
    This is the NFL. Brissett is a good QB, but has only been there two weeks.
    Injured Olineman and a young QB usually means disaster.

    But your point is well taken. Let’s just hope you are not correct.

  17. By Scott H on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply


    You are absolutely right, I do need to relax.

    I’m pausing to do some deep breathing….

    Yes, getting the win is all that matters. That is true for any team, every week. My point is, we blew out a bad ( at the time we played them, anyway ) Buccs team in Week 2 last year and many people ( MYSELF included ) took that as our team having their mojo back. But we all saw that was not the case.

    Hence, my assessment that – despite getting what should be a win – I will not be breathing any signs of relief over a win against the Colts. IF we are truly the contender we believe we are, we need to show a lot more than that against much better teams than that. And that comes in Week 3.

    Breathing in…..holding it…..exhaling……

  18. By steve on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    Darren: I know you have mentioned that Smokes health issues are not related to last years ailments but I get the feeling that his sickle cell issues are still hindering his ability to stay healthy. Is there any truth to my suspicions that you could agree with?

  19. By Darren Urban on Sep 17, 2017 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: Sickle cell

    There is no question the sickle cell is a drag on his ability to come back from an injury. That is true.

  20. By TucsonTim on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply

    James –

    Interesting that PP and JB had the same rating. Also interesting the Badger was so bad and everyone gives him a pass.

    Frankly, win or lose (and this should be a W) I don’t see how this team will get another 4 wins this season. Yes, O-lines around the league may be playing poorly, but look how teams have responded with young quick mobile QBs. Other coaches also use RBs and TE to protect and chip.

    Having grown up in Cincinnati, I am a long time Palmer fan. I love that he plays to win and was willing to walk away rather than play for that idiot Mike Brown. Palmer is tuff as nails, as we got to see last season.

    Palmer needs protection and a stable pocket… oh yeah, and some receivers who can get open. What did BA/SK do to enhance Palmer’s effectiveness??? Flip flopped the tackles and drafted a WR who came to camp out of shape and would have been cut elsewhere. And the buzz word is “intelligent” football this year…really!?

    This o-line couldn’t protect Palmer when we had a running threat. Get ready for lots of A gap blitzing. Hope Palmer can get the ball out in about 1.5 secs and doesn’t get hurt.

  21. By shannon robinson on Sep 17, 2017 | Reply

    I just imagined Chad Williams catching a long post, jump ball, TD. Reddick lots of tackles on the outside. Leadership shows. Wetzel holds his own, we run successfully over Boone. A running back for big yards. Palmer magic. Good D, sacks, Turnovers. Wish list or propitious?

  22. By JTDG on Sep 17, 2017 | Reply

    Tucson Tim and James Samuels;

    Do you guys work for CNN , because you like to push fake narratives.

    From James;
    “It’s funny how this blog of Cardinals fans are so Biased and can’t even mention ANY good on how our 2nd CB played in Detroit.
    Bethel is Dogged out on his mistakes but Patrick and Tyrann are always excused for their bad plays.”

    From Tim;
    Also interesting the Badger was so bad and everyone gives him a pass.

    By JTDG on Sep 10, 2017 | Reply Under Lions aftermath.
    Bethel had a solid game???? What ? ……………..
    But he wasn’t the only one. How about the Badger? Tate had 10 catches for over 100 yards. Even the announcers said maybe they should move Peterson over on Tate. Badger had 3 tackles and Zero passes defensed.

    By JTDG on Sep 14, 2017 | Reply
    …………….The Badger didn’t make any plays and the defense watched a 17-15 lead disappear in the 4th quarter to a 35-23 loss.

    By JTDG on Sep 15, 2017 | Reply
    ……..I also will point out that Badger was picked on worse. He struggled in the slot.

    By JTDG on Sep 16, 2017 | Reply
    If you read my post, multiple times I pointed out how poorly Badger played. Golden Tate ate Badger for lunch. I even pointed out that the announcer said they should put Pat P on Tate.

    Yeah, you are right. Everyone picks on Bethel and gives Badger a pass.

  23. By TucsonTim on Sep 17, 2017 | Reply

    Did I say 4 wins? What was I thinking.

    And I thought they would have to blitz to get to Palmer…wrong

    I love Palmer, but I think there is something wrong with his arm. I don’t think it is just age.

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