It is unquestionably a harsh reality the Cardinals and Tyrann Mathieu were officially handed Monday, with the news Mathieu had torn his ACL and was done for the year. Mathieu has had a fantastic season. They will miss him on the field. But what struck me is how personal this is, for Bruce Arians and players. This cuts them, because Mathieu is such a great person. This is ground that has been covered many times, but it makes sense why people want to root for this guy. He has a charisma that few have. He is genuine. Add in the fact he can play football, and it resonates. I’m not afraid to say he’s one of my favorite guys to cover in my 16 years around this team.
This is why the news is extra painful.
“Luckily we have the next couple of days off to let this emotionally sink in,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “Not so much not having our guy to play in the playoffs, but our hearts go out to him because of everything he’s been through and how hard he has worked to get back to this point and having the season he’s having.”
As for on the field, the Cardinals have to find a way to make due defensively without Mathieu. You can’t replace the playmaking ability. That’s innate. You do have — assuming no more serious injuries — depth, however. Johnson should be back from his ankle injury. Jerraud Powers plays more slot. Justin Bethel gets on the field. And new safety D.J. Swearinger plays more with Tony Jefferson.
Also part of the equation: This happens. Take a look around the top teams. Almost all have lost at least one significant player, if not for the season, for an extended period of time.
— Seahawks: TE Jimmy Graham, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Thomas Rawls
— Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin
— Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell
— Packers: WR Jordy Nelson
— Bengals: QB Andy Dalton
— Patriots: WR Julian Edelman, every decent running back they had
— Broncos: LT Ryan Clady, QB Peyton Manning (yes, I understand you can quibble with the Peyton pick.)
The point is it’s the living example of that well-worn quote coaches and some players have been saying for years: “The other team isn’t going to feel sorry for us.” The other teams have their own personnel losses. It’s the business.
Tags: Andy Dalton, D.J. Swearinger, Jerraud Powers, Jimmy Graham, Jordy Nelson, Julian Edelman, Justin Bethel, Kelvin Benjamin, Le'Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Peyton Manning, Rashad Johnson, Ryan Clady, Thomas Rawls, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »
When the game was over in Detroit last Sunday, cornerback Jerraud Powers had taken part in, officially, 104 plays against the Lions. Ten on special teams, and 94 of the 95 snaps the Cardinals’ defense was on the field. He didn’t know the exact number but “I felt it. I feel it.”
“I knew we played a lot,” Powers said. “But when I saw the stat they threw 70 times, and I was like, ‘OK, I’m supposed to feel this way.’ In the secondary, we only have a limited number of guys. We’re each other’s subs, so you can’t really take us all out. It’s one of those things we just accept it. We don’t have much room to complain.”
It made this week in West Virginia even more important in prep for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Seven defenders played at least 72 snaps, four played at least 92.
“Coach did a good job of taking care of us earlier this week,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “We’re going to be fine.”
If there was a tangible reason for staying out at The Greenbrier instead of flying back to Arizona, the snap-happy secondary was it. No one could’ve predicted it when the plans were made, but that’s why you do this kind of thing – to have shorter flights (a little over an hour from Detroit to West Virginia, a little over a half-hour from here to Pittsburgh) so players don’t get dehydrated and swell, which happens on flights. Their bodies have been taken care of.
It doesn’t hurt the weather has been spectacular this week too, in complete contrast to the rainy swamps the Cards had to practice in in Florida in 2013.
It was still a tough week to rally from, but the Cardinals insist they are ready for the Steelers.
“Makes you want to go upstairs and be like, ‘Y’all should pay us more if we’re all going to play this much,’ ” Powers said with a grin. “But it’s something we all accept. We know what it is.”
— Mike Vick will be playing quarterback for the Steelers Sunday. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Cardinals will put their defensive focus on running back Le’Veon Bell – arguably the best back in the league these days. Bell’s ability to wait for the right time to hit a hole – and then shoot through it – is unparalleled.
“You have Bell, who is the most patient runner we have seen as a defense,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “He creates holes himself by how patient he is and how he jumps out and jumps back in to get guys out of their gap.”
— Larry Fitzgerald is one of the few guys who has been on all three of the Cardinals’ week-long, practice-away-from-home excursions. His power rankings: 1. Greenbrier. (now). 2. Bradenton, Fla. (2013). 3. Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (2008). Of course, Fitz noted that the Cards were 0-2 on the ends of the Virginia trip, and 1-1 on the ends of the Florida trip.
“Hopefully we can get to 2-0 on this trip,” Fitz said. “That’d be nice.”
Of course, the 2008 season ended not too bad, with a trip to the Super Bowl. Not that this will end that way, but you never know.
— Bruce Arians ended the week the way he began – downplaying his return to play the Steelers for the first time in a game that counts since he was let go by the organization. “It’s all about the players on the field,” he said Friday.
Still, he hasn’t convinced his own players he doesn’t want to, in the words of Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, “put on a show.” That’s another piece of motivation for this team this week.
— Todd Haley is the former Cardinals offensive coordinator who is now the Steelers offensive coordinator. James Harrison is the long-time Steelers linebacker who nearly became a Cardinal last August (he visited Tempe even) before declining and going back to Pittsburgh.
So, if you can handle it … there is this.
— Arians, who loves golf, spent Thursday evening talking with golfing greats Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. All were here to talk Friday about a new golf course being built at The Greenbrier. Trevino is The Greenbrier’s club pro.
“It was on the bucket list for me to have a cocktail with Arnold Palmer,” Arians said, grinning about being able to talk about the sport with such luminaries.
Did he think about ordering an Arnold Palmer, he was asked? “Not without anything in it,” Arians said.
— The Cardinals are happy guard Mike Iupati will be healthy enough to play after his back tightened up Thursday. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin also said Iupati is getting better because he lost some weight. You figure Iupati was going to gain some because of his knee surgery and his limited work while he rehabbed. But also …
“Earlier in training camp I was harping on him,” Goodwin said. “He had Oreos hidden in his bag. We took his Oreos, whipped him into shape. Buddy (Morris, the strength coach) has done a good job with him. Lost a ton of weight.”
— Dwight Freeney will play Sunday. We’ll see what kind of impact he can make, but it was interesting to hear Arians when he was asked about Freeney and what the Cardinals got out of another veteran pass rusher, John Abraham.
“It’s very comparable,” Arians said.
If Freeney can come anywhere close to the 11½ sacks Abraham had that year – granted, Freeney already has missed five games – it’d be a big deal. If Freeney can be a five-sack man, I think it turns into a great pickup.
— Time to wrap this up from West Virginia. Almost time to fly to Pittsburgh. The Steelers await.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Dwight Freeney, Greenbrier, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Le'Veon Bell, Mike Iupati, Mike Vick, Rashad Johnson, Steelers, Todd Haley
Posted in Blog | 17 Comments »