The tale of the two players facing their former teams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium also is a tale of their teams.
Calais Campbell comes back to the Valley with the Jaguars, after his nine seasons with the Cardinals and beloved by the fans. He’s already got a career-best 11½ sacks, he leads the best defense in the NFL and they are in first place in their division. Blaine Gabbert is long removed from his time in Jacksonville and he’s the starting QB for the Cardinals now – despite beginning the season third-string – as the Cards have endured so many injuries and have moved in a lot of ways to evaluation mode with many players.
On paper, it’s an uphill battle Sunday for the Cards. There is no other way to look at it. The Jags might be without top CB Jalen Ramsey, but in the end, they are playing better than the Cardinals right now and have momentum and the carrot of trying to secure the division. The Cardinals are without their top … well … too many to have it not matter.
The Cardinals can’t let Leonard Fournette run all over them, and they have to protect Gabbert. Maybe Adrian Peterson can get loose – the Jaguars are only middle-of-the-pack in run defense, although they give up a paltry 14 points a game. The spotlight will be on Campbell and Gabbert in a lot of ways, and the Cardinals have to reverse each player’s narrative to get a win.
— Another spot to watch Sunday is what running back D.J. Foster can do on third downs. Foster gets his chance now that the Cards let Andre Ellington go. He had nine snaps (and two catches) a week ago and he’s probably a better pass catcher than straight runner at this point. Coach Bruce Arians said receiving is what Foster does best.
“He’s a little bit small to be a pass protector but he’s tough enough,” Arians said. “That’s all you can ask a guy at his size, fight your tail off and get your ass kicked with dignity.”
— We all know Chad Williams, the third-round pick, will get snaps this weekend with John Brown injured. It’s a crucial time for Williams, who frankly is being counted on in as a key component of next year’s receiving corps. Larry Fitzgerald had good things to say about Williams’ maturity and work ethic. Now we see it on the field.
— Carlton Agudosi, whom Fitz and Arians also praised, also could play Sunday with Brittan Golden dealing with a groin issue – although the last time Golden battled that groin injury, he didn’t practice Friday and still played Sunday.
— If you didn’t see Fitz’s comments about Campbell, please check them out.
— Unfortunately for Fitz, he was fined $24,309 for the crackback block he was flagged for Sunday in Houston. The Adrian Peterson rush gained no yards, regardless.
— There has been a lot of talk about Campbell’s ability to get to play defensive end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 scheme and how it was his natural spot. Campbell was in a 3-4 in the base defense here in Arizona and then played inside in the Cards’ four-down-linemen passing down packages. Campbell still moves inside for the Jags on obvious passing downs. Here was his take:
“All of it plays a role,” Campbell said. “I always thought it’d be nice to play on the outside in the 4-3 scheme. That’s where I played in college and pretty much most of my life, but at the end of the day, I’m a football player. Put me anywhere you want me to, and I’m going to give my best shot. But, it’s cool being able to play on the edge a little bit, and I still get the rock inside and go back to the three-technique on third down, which is fun. I think that’s been beneficial. It’s a combination of a few things. A lot of good players around me make my job a lot easier.”
— There is one other “revenge” scenario for Sunday. Cardinals right guard Earl Watford signed a free-agent deal with the Jaguars last offseason, got $1 million guaranteed and was still cut at the end of the preseason. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: “Unfortunately, he was hurt for a long period of time. Then, we just had players that were playing, and he did a nice job. It was a tough decision.” Watford declined to talk about his time in Jacksonville, brief as it was.
— Through 11 weeks, Fitzgerald had more receiving yards – 546, of his 768 – out of the slot than anyone else in the NFL, according to ESPN.
— A note from our esteemed social media manager Brandon Naidus, who once worked for the Jaguars (and who would undoubtedly be disappointed if I did not drop this in): The Jaguars have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round during their history, and all three will be on hand Sunday. Blake Bortles (2014) is their current starter. Gabbert (2011) is the Cardinals starter. And Byron Leftwich (2003) is the Cardinals’ quarterback coach.
— It’s interesting to see the dichotomy between the fan bases on Gabbert this week. Cardinals’ fans are (rightfully) encouraged by Gabbert’s play last week and are anxious to see him play again. Jaguars’ fans also are excited to see Gabbert this week – mostly because they feel he will not succeed. Clearly there are still hard feelings there with Gabbert’s failures as the Jacksonville QB.
— Don’t forget there is a food drive Sunday, so bring your canned goods and/or a monetary donation. They will be accepted at all stadium entrances.
— Might the Cardinals be able to run the ball a little? Adrian Peterson has a combined 55 yards rushing the last two games. If Gabbert’s task isn’t hard enough in the first place, another sluggish running effort could cripple the Cardinals.
“It’s something those guys are taking personal up front, and I’m taking it personally as well,” Peterson said.
— See you Sunday, where you come for the reunions, and stay for how the season begins to play out for the Cardinals.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, Calais Campbell, Carlton Agudosi, Chad Williams, D.J.Foster, Earl Watford, Jaguars, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Fournette
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The focus going in to Sunday’s game was the quarterback. That made sense. The Cardinals were on their third one of the season and it is the most important position on the team. And for the most part, Blaine Gabbert acquitted himself pretty well. There were the two picks late, and you can’t have those, but the Cards were chasing 10 points by then.
No, it was the issues that have been around all season that doomed the Cards in Houston. A running game that has echoed the struggles of the pre-Adrian Peterson ground game. A defense that makes some plays but just can’t clamp down when the team desperately needs it. An offense that needs to find more consistency overall.
— Drew Stanton was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday. Could that mean he’s healthy enough to start next week – and does Bruce Arians drop him right back in? (I know the public-at-large’s answer.) Gabbert did look very comfortable, and he clearly has some chemistry with rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. That makes sense, because Seals-Jones and Gabbert have been working together on third team since the offseason. We’ll see. It’s fair to point out the Texans secondary has struggled quite a bit against the passers it has seen, and next week’s game against the Jaguars will feature one of the better secondaries the Cardinals have seen.
— Speaking of secondary, the Cardinals sure look like they have a star-in-the-making back there with rookie safety Budda Baker. He was everywhere Sunday. He was great on defense and continues to play so well on special teams – I repeat that he deserves (heavy) consideration for the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams spot.
— Bruce Arians opened his press conference by taking the blame on the failed fourth down. I’ll admit I was on the move when the play happened, seeing it on the TV screen as I made my way down to the field. But I agree that the Cards had been stuffed all day inside. There wasn’t much to get, but the Texans made it obvious the wanted Gabbert to try and beat them. It was going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson on every run play, and the fourth-down try was only the one in the spotlight.
–Peterson ended up with 13 yards on 12 carries after his first two totes gained six and seven yards.
— I do think the absent D.J. Humphries makes a big difference when it comes to the run game.
— The Patrick Peterson vs. DeAndre Hopkins battle was exactly how it was expected to go. Peterson did give up the back-to-back big plays, finishing with Hopkins’ TD. But he broke up/defended a bunch of other tries, and nearly got a second interception late in the game with perfect technique. It’s funny that his first pick was on a pass that wasn’t even thrown to Hopkins or at Peterson. A deflection, and the right place, right time.
— Speaking of missed chances on turnovers, the Cards were there. There were a couple of other fumbles on the ground by the Texans that the Cards just couldn’t fall on, in addition to Peterson’s near-pick. Tyrann Mathieu also dropped a deep pass that could’ve been an interception, although the play was wiped out by an Arizona penalty. The Cards need all the turnovers they can get. At least they converted their two short-fields into TDs.
— Arians said he’d be going to different receivers this next week. That would seem to me that Chad Williams has a chance to be active, but other than that, I’m not sure where you turn. Maybe more Brittan Golden? I don’t see them bringing up Carlton Agudosi from the practice squad, but who knows.
— As much as Tom Savage had struggled this season, it hurts to give up a 97.1 passer rating to him, and 31 points to the Houston offense without the aid of turnovers.
— Fitz was asked about playing in 2018. He did not answer, one way or the other, and wouldn’t even say if he’s still thinking about it. So he leaves everyone in suspense – and makes sure the questions keep coming probably more often than not the rest of the season.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Carlton Agudosi, Chad Williams, D.J. Humphries, DeAndre Hopkins, Drew Stanton, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ricky Seals-Jones, Texans, Tom Savage, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals have a roster. I expect it to change by Sunday night, but as usual, we will see. There is a possibility they look at signing veteran punter Andy Lee, who was cut Saturday by the Panthers and who has a history as a holder for Phil Dawson. They could grab an outside linebacker, because they only kept three thus far. The likelihood is that T.J. Logan will go on IR too, so that’ll quickly create an opening.
In the meantime, some thoughts on the roster as is:
— The numbers breakdown:
— Other than Logan on the roster (I did not know a player could not be put on IR immediately and be able to return later in the season, so that was a new one for me) this was basically what was expected at running back. Chris Johnson was let go as Andre Ellington seemed to find his rookie vibe. Ellington can catch the ball better and ultimately, I think that was a big thing.
— The receiving corps ended up being the six most likely candidates, but someone will end up on the practice squad. My guess would be Carlton Agudosi, but Bruce Arians likes how Chris Hubert gets open too.
— The offensive line may have delivered the most surprises, but then again, Arians was happy with his starters plus John Wetzel and the rest was up in the air. I thought Cole Toner would be the swing guy but instead, the Cards kept C Daniel Munyer (who they liked, obviously) and T Ulrick John, as well as rookie T Will Holden. G Dorian Johnson, the fourth-round pick and the only choice not to make the roster, really struggled in camp and preseason and it cost him a chance to stick.
— The Cards only have three outside linebackers. I’d guess Cap Capi will be a practice-squad candidate, and they very well could find an outside linebacker somewhere as a cut from another team. Philip Wheeler was the guy who beat out Scooby Wright as a fifth inside linebacker. Wright could be practice squad. He does well on special teams but his athletic limits hurt Wright on defense.
— Matt Wile is the punter. Will that change?
— Rudy Ford makes it as safety over Harlan Miller. Ford has a lot of speed, and that shows up when he plays center field on defense and on special teams.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andy Lee, Cap Capi, Carlton Agudosi, Chris Johnson, Cole Toner, Daniel Munyer, Dorian Johnson, Harlan Miller, John Wetzel, Matt Wile, Philip Wheeler, Roster, Rudy Ford, T.J. Logan, Ulrick John, Will Holden
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The Bears, the Cardinals and really, who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bullspit? Bullspit!
I know it’s only Week 2 for the Bears — and frankly, for the Cardinals, who aren’t marching their main guys out for a half until next week’s Week 4/Week 3 game in Atlanta — so again, this is more of a ramp-up game. Bruce Arians isn’t calling plays until next week (that falls on QB coach Byron Leftwich again.) There will be around 20 plays for the starters, although as usual it could be less if each unit is effective. The biggest story in the game will probably be Chicago QBs Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky, so we can see how Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and company can mess with the immediate Bears future.
(In ’06, that Bears preseason game was Matt Leinart’s second appearance in the NFL, after playing on only a couple of days of practice — he signed late — in New England the week before. Leinart vs Warner. Those were the days.)
— It’ll be the first game for left tackle D.J. Humphries. Arians said Humphries did fine in his first practice Wednesday. I thought he had a slow start to Thursday’s work. As with the whole offensive line, he needs to ramp up — although again, with so much camp, there is plenty of time to get ready.
— Speaking of getting ready, the same goes for linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has been bothered by a leg issue. Deone Bucannon is ostensibly still on target to return to practice likely after the preseason games are over. Maybe a couple of days before. That inside linebacker crew could be a juggling situation for the first game. Haason Reddick is clearly still learning, and Scooby Wright, while solid on special teams, has shortcomings on defense. Both are players to watch against the Bears.
— DT Robert Nkemdiche has played well in the preseason but this week, the coaching clearly got harder. Nkemdiche is doing the right things as far as effort and intensity. But the technique must improve, because that is what will beat the better players in the regular season. Everyone has the talent.
— Others I’ll be watching in particular this week: Both punters; Kerwynn Williams on another punt return or two; the down-depth-chart receivers like Carlton Agudosi and Chris Hubert in particular since Brittan Golden (groin) likely won’t play; Justin Bethel and Tramon Williams (I haven’t forgotten about CB No. 2); and more Budda Baker.
— It’d be nice to see a little David Johnson but not too much.
— I’ll be curious to see how much John Brown plays. Smoke did much more in practice this week. But he certainly is not 100 percent, and the trainers keep a close eye on that quad injury. Still, Brown made some plays Thursday, and after one touchdown Larry Fitzgerald made sure everyone knew it was Smoke and then made sure to give Brown the side-five.
— Fitz, by the way, seemed like he was having a great time Thursday. For a guy who is usually tops on the list of wishing training camp wasn’t so long, it didn’t seem to be impacting him. That’s probably good, because after the game, there’s still one week left.
Tags: Bears, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Byron Leftwich, Carlton Agudosi, Chris Hubert, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche, Scooby Wright, Tramon Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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Bruce Arians had just said earlier Thursday the wide receivers as a whole had to pick up their level of play. It was a little easier for the wideouts at practice because, with the team in shells, there wasn’t a lot of tight coverage (contact was relatively limited, especially downfield.) Rookie Krishawn Hogan stood out with a couple of nice early catches, but he couldn’t corral a couple others later on. It’ll be interesting to see how much certain guys play against the Raiders, especially given all the injuries. Chad Williams and John Brown are iffy, Aaron Dobson is sidelined, and there was another guy going down in practice.
— That guy was rookie wide receiver Carlton Agudosi, who suffered some kind of right leg/knee injury. I didn’t see what happened, but after one play Agudosi was down in the end zone. Larry Fitzgerald came over to see if he was OK, and eventually, he and Brittan Golden helped Agudosi up and served as crutches so Agudosi could hobble over to a cart, where he was driven to the locker room. Arians doesn’t talk again until after the game Saturday.
— Quarterback Carson Palmer was off of practice for a second straight day, interesting since Palmer will get the start Saturday. Arians didn’t mention at lunch Palmer would be sitting. Linebacker Karlos Dansby was also sitting out.
— Quarterback Drew Stanton had a beautiful deep ball early in practice, hitting J.J. Nelson well down the field.
— Assistant equipment manager Jeff Schwimmer made an outstanding one-handed grab of a Fitzgerald pass after one play. Fitz needs to get his passes down for his shorter receivers.
— C Daniel Munyer also limped to the locker room with a trainer at the end of practice.
— There was a nice TD pass from Trevor Knight to Golden at one point, but the pass only happened because Robert Nkemdiche wasn’t allowed to complete the sack he was inevitably going to get. The defense would have had quite a few sacks Thursday.
— Finally, a Knight bullet intended for Agudosi near the back of the end zone instead was picked off quite nicely at the goal line by leaping linebacker Josh Bynes.
Tags: Aaron Dobson, Carlton Agudosi, Carson Palmer, Chad Williams, Daniel Munyer, Drew Stanton, Jeff Schwimmer, John Brown, Josh Bynes, Karlos Dansby, Krishawn Hogan, Robert Nkemdiche, Trevor Knight
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Early in practice Tuesday, J.J. Nelson dropped a touchdown pass from Carson Palmer in the red zone. The wide receiver was clearly bothered, and walked slowly behind the line of scrimmage where the extra players stood — the second unit’s turn had come up — with his head down. Immediately, Palmer found him. What was said is unknown, but the message was clear, especially when Palmer imitated Nelson’s hanging head: Keep your head up, Palmer was saying, because it’s on to the next play.
Indeed, the next time Nelson was on the field, he caught a pass and Palmer — who this time was not the QB — made sure to seek out Nelson for the congratulatory slap. It’s one of the underrated parts of Palmer’s game, the leadership in such situations.
— It was an eventful practice. The defense was into the battles given that the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense faced off. Linebacker Markus Golden, who loves to talk, was talking quite a bit when the defense was winning its plays.
— The Cardinals slid rookie safety Budda Baker into the first unit in their dime package. One time, both he and Tyrann Mathieu blitzed. Afterward, Baker talked about how much he loved to blitz — another parallel between he and Mathieu.
— Phil Dawson easily drilled a 58-yard field goal among his attempts (without a miss).
— This is how you cultivate a fan base. After the first unit got through part of one period — and Patrick Peterson knew he’d have a few minutes on the sideline — he sent an equipment intern to the sideline where a man and his two boys were sitting. All had Peterson jerseys. The intern fetched the jerseys and took them to Peterson, who quickly signed them all. It was such a brief moment, but the fans were thrilled.
— Interestingly, quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich got to call some offensive plays into the walkie-talkie during one period. It really shouldn’t be a surprise. Bruce Arians likes to groom his young coaches, and getting Leftwich a few reps in the middle of a practice is a good start. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin called the plays in the Hall of Fame game, and I’m guessing he’ll do at least one other game in the preseason.
— The practice ended with a special situation: Offense on the defense’s 8-yard line, 6 seconds left, third down. The first unit started with David Johnson drawing a pass interference in the end zone and then a fade to Larry Fitzgerald for a TD. The second unit was stopped when rookie Chad Williams couldn’t hang on to a pass at the goal line. The third unit scored on a laser from Blaine Gabbert to Carlton Agudosi.
— Newcomer Tramon Williams also got his first interception as a Cardinal, playing zone and jumping on a Drew Stanton pass. “Was able to kind of see the whole picture,” Williams said. “Read the quarterback and just kind of came off. I had a good jump on the ball.”
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker, Carlton Agudosi, Carson Palmer, Chad Williams, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Phil Dawson, training camp, Tramon Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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There is no new veteran cornerback yet. But who knows, maybe one will become inherently necessary sooner rather than later. Justin Bethel ended up sitting out practice Friday — he had a brace on his left knee — and interestingly, Ronald Zamort was the one in his place with the first unit and not Brandon Williams. Zamort actually had a decent camp a year ago, but he was cut and not brought back to the practice squad. (The Cardinals ended up bringing in a bigger defensive back, Trevon Hartfield, for the PS.) Zamort was re-signed to the practice squad later in the season after injuries. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in preseason games, and how Williams does as well.
(Not sure how Bethel was hurt. Bruce Arians didn’t mention anything at the lunch presser. Bethel did have a play Thursday when he and tight end Jermaine Gresham collided and seemed to bump knees/legs, but Bethel finished practice after getting up slowly.)
— Carson Palmer was technically back at practice but he threw little. Very little. He didn’t go in during any of the 11-on-11 work, and he didn’t throw much before that either. (Again, as Arians said earlier in the day, given the early start, all this work is “bonus” time for Palmer. I wouldn’t read too much into the inactivity.)
— Tyrann Mathieu had another pick in a drill, grumpy at one point that he was flagged for a hold he didn’t think he should have. Mathieu is trying to be more low-key, but he’s playing better and better.
— Practice ended with a pair of situational periods. The first started around the defense’s 30 with 22 seconds left and the offense down 6. That ended up all offense: A David Johnson TD catch for the first unit, a Troy Niklas TD catch for the second unit, and a clutch fourth-and-10 TD catch down the seam by tight end Ifeanyi Momah for the third unit.
— The other sequence started on the offense’s end of the field needing about 15 yards for a long field goal try and 19 seconds left. First unit’s possession ended with a interception by Antoine Bethea. The second ended with a Josh Mauro sack. The third unit succeeded, with a Carlton Agudosi catch setting up a 56-yard field goal by the ageless Phil Dawson.
Tags: Antoine Bethea, Bruce Arians, Carlton Agudosi, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Ifeanyi Momah, Josh Mauro, Phil Dawson, Ronald Zamort, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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