What Bruce Arians said about the run game Monday in terms of the fourth-and-1 that didn’t get the 1 is what got the headlines. But before that, Arians again brought up the overall struggles of the Cardinals running the football.
“When you look at the game, that tells the story,” Arians said. “When (the Texans) have 10 out of 16 third downs and six or less, and we have three or four, whatever it was, six or less, because they’re running the ball, and we’re not. You want to stay in manageable down and distances, whether penalties or whatever, we’ve got to play the game at better, manageable third downs.”
Adrian Peterson started the game with carries of six and then seven yards. But after that, the Cardinals could not grind out yards. He had 12 carries after that, for 16 yards. Up until his final carry — the infamous fourth-down try, where he lost a yard — his four carries before that had been 3, 4, 3 and 4 yards. (So perhaps there was some reason why Arians felt the Cards could get one.) Still, the Cards need more production.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell tweeted out this stat: The Cardinals are averaging only 3.01 yards a carry this season from their running backs, and only three teams since 2001 have averaged less than that (one of which was the 2005 Cardinals and their 2.98-yard average behind Marcel Shipp, J.J. Arrington and throwing to Fitz and Anquan Boldin every play.)
There is a lot that goes into this — David Johnson’s injury early and the loss for the majority of the season from run-blocking tackle D.J. Humphries, in particular. That Peterson averaged 5.2 and 4.3 yards a carry in his two big games — and had 63 total carries in those games — and the average is still low just highlights the issue.
It makes it tough to get manageable third downs. One thing that sticks out to me, however, was the comment by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin a couple of weeks ago, saying from Peterson he only needs two yards and then two yards to get the offense to third-and-6. That would be something he could work with.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, J.J. Arrington, Marcel Shipp
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Somehow, it turned into 2009 again. It shouldn’t have, not with the Cardinals having built a 34-17 lead and holding that lead with less than four minutes to play, but I’ll say this, the Titans kept going and Ryan Fitzpatrick looked damn good.
So, like 2009, when the Titans drove 99 yards to score on the final play of the game and rip one away from the Cards, there the Titans were, heading for the same end zone, facing a chance to score a touchdown and rip a win away from the Cards. Sure, it would just be temporarily since overtime was coming (and there was a moment there where the Titans looked like they were contemplating going for two and ending it one way or the other), but it still hurt.
The Cardinals prevailed, though, leaving Tennessee with a win that keeps their playoff hopes alive. That life span is shrinking though. The other results the Cards really could have used across the league did not happen Sunday. So the monumental task of winning in Seattle is now saddled with the realization that the Cards are going to need a sequence of events to unfold to make the postseason regardless of what they do.
— Because I’ve found on Twitter some confusion, here’s the deal: The Niners have already clinched the tiebreak over the Cardinals because of a better record in the division, regardless of the outcome of the team’s Week 17 contest. The way the tiebreaks work, a three-way tie – say between the Cards, Niners and Panthers – first checks to see if there are two of the teams in the same division. Because the Niners and Cards are, that tie is broken first, and as we already know, the Niners win that tiebreak. Cardinals are out. Which is why any tie involving the Niners is playoff death.
— Just as an FYI, I’m not interested in debating whether that’s fair or not. That’s the tiebreak procedure. It is what it is.
CLARIFYING: The three-way tiebreak does get only the first spot determined. Which does eliminate Arizona. But head-to-head between Carolina and SF is Carolina because the Panthers won head-to-head. So Carolina would be the No. 5 seed, leaving SF tied with Arizona for the No. 6. We know how that turns out. So again, a three-way tie between those teams leaves the Cards out (and by the same breakdown, the same goes for a three-way tie between SF, AZ and NO.)
— Lost a bit in the end of that thriller were the injuries to Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington. Fitz got a concussion when he was hit trying to recover the final onside kick. Ellington left with a thigh bruise. Ellington was fantastic running (7.1 yards a carry) or receiving (21.8 yards per catch on four catches). The Cardinals need both of them healthy and ready in order to beat the Seahawks.
— Spare me the comments that Fitzgerald shouldn’t be out there for an onside kick. It’s called the “hands” team for a reason. You want the guys with the best hands grabbing the ball.
— Justin Bethel did not get a hand on the shanked 50-yard Rob Bironas field goal attempt. “Unfortunately I didn’t,” Bethel said. “If he would have kicked it (straight) I probably would have blocked it.”
— But it is easy to make the argument that without Bethel’s hard push from the right, Bironas would not have kicked the ball like he did.
“A miss is a miss,” Bethel said. “It’s as good as a block so I’ll take it.”
— Antoine Cason with a hero game. Two important interceptions, and he recovered Jay Feely’s “mortar” pooch kickoff to start the second half. Great kick by Feely by the way, and great timing by special teams coordinator Amos Jones to call it there.
— Ryan Fitzpatrick with 402 yards passing? Yeesh.
— The Cardinals had no penalties in the first half. Then they got four on the Titans’ 16-play touchdown drive to begin the second half — two of which negated third-down stops – and the Cards were not happy. They cooled down a bit postgame (winning tends to do that) but didn’t forget.
“There were some weird things that happened,” QB Carson Palmer said. “Some weird things that weren’t called in this game. I don’t know what the penalty, as far as who had more penalties. I’m pretty sure we had more penalties than they did. It was just a weird game, kind of an eerie game like that.”
Said S Rashad Johnson (who was ticked off after his penalty for an illegal hit of a receiver near the goal line and screamed at the officials), “No matter what happened out there, what calls were made, we were going to go home with that win. It just shows the maturity of this ballclub and how much we’ve grown through the year.”
— Ellington led the Cardinals in rushing (71 yards) and receiving (89 yards). The last guy to do that? Running back Marcel Shipp in December of 2002, when he had 79 yards rushing and 79 receiving in St. Louis against the Rams.
— Palmer surpassed three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in career passing yards: Troy Aikman, Y.A. Tittle and Steve Young. Palmer now has 33,154 yards passing, 27th in NFL history.
— The Cardinals just keep winning.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antoine Cason, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcel Shipp, playoffs, Rashad Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Young, Titans, Troy Aikman, Y.A. Tittle
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Trying to figure out the depth chart in the offseason is always a sketchy thing, especially early on in the process. What happens in May can impact where the team is in September, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the lineup.
A quick story (and those of you who remember back to 2004, this may ring a bell): In Denny Green’s first offseason after taking over the Cardinals, he came in and made a host of changes right away, which you would expect, one being benching long-time left tackle L.J. Shelton and taking guard Leonard Davis (the same Davis who would later become a Pro Bowl guard in Dallas) and putting him at left tackle because, as Green put it, you can’t take a lineman No. 2 in the draft and pay him left tackle money to be a guard. So they made him a tackle.
That wasn’t unexpected. But at the end of OTAs that summer (in those days, minicamp was first, before OTAs, whereas now minicamp is the last part of the offseason), Green made a big deal about his depth chart. The Cardinals called an impromptu press conference on the final OTA day (most media would not have attended). First, Green called his team together and made a point of announcing his starting lineup heading into training camp — remember, the vets were about to disperse until then. He then did the same in front of the media.
Most spots were as expected. Two moves caught the attention at that point. One was the naming of Quentin Harris as free safety instead of Dexter Jackson. Jackson was coming off a six-interception year in his first season as a Card, but he had some back issues and more importantly, he and Green didn’t see eye to eye at all. Jackson was gone before the season started (and with all due respect to Q, now the team’s director of pro scouting, he was mostly a place-holder, starting the first three games that year before being benched for Ifeanyi Ohalete.) The other big deal at the time was Green naming Emmitt Smith the starting running back, a surprise to everyone (including Emmitt) after Marcel Shipp — now interning as a Cards’ coach — had run first-string the entire offseason until that point.
One move that didn’t bring any attention. Pete Kendall was named starting center.
That was a big deal six weeks later, when Kendall — who again, hadn’t been on the field since that day Green named him a starter — was cut on report day for training camp. Green said it was because the Cards needed a change; It was likely because Green thought Kendall had said something to the NFLPA about breaking rules in OTAs, which led to a league punishment. Whatever the reason, it was a drastic upheaval. (Alex Stepanovich was not Pete Kendall.)
Now, Bruce Arians is not Denny Green. I wouldn’t expect anything like the Kendall situation. But things are in flux. Jonathan Cooper is running second string right now. But yes, I expect him to be the first-string left guard sooner rather than later. Will it be by minicamp? By the start of training camp? By mid-preseason? We’ll see. Is Daryl Washington running second string as a message or because they want Karlos Dansby ready for those first four games? We’ll see. The same goes for other spots (like cornerback. Or outside linebacker). There is a long way to go before September rolls around and games count. One thing to keep in mind: Arians has reiterated a couple of times that he sees “starters” in all his different packages, offense and defense. It gives you a sense of how he views the depth chart.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Dennis Green, Dexter Jackson, Emmitt Smith, Jonathan Cooper, Karlos Dansby, L.J. Shelton, Leonard Davis, Marcel Shipp, Pete Kendall, Quentin Harris
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The Cardinals have a handful of coaching interns on hand to help them through the offseason and training camp. One of the faces is very familiar — former Cards running back Marcel Shipp.
“It’s weird,” Shipp said after a recent workout. “Just being out here, it felt like I’m hurt and just not practicing.”
It’s been a while since he’s practiced as a Cardinal. Shipp made the team back in 2001 as an undrafted rookie out of UMass. He outplayed Thomas Jones early on, and just when Jones was dumped and Shipp thought he was going to get his chance, Emmitt Smith was signed. Then after 2003, when Smith was hurt all year and Shipp played pretty well, Denny Green came in in 2004 and dropped the post-offseason work bomb on Shipp that — despite Shipp running first team all offseason — Smith was indeed the starter. Oh, and to add injury to insult, Shipp suffered his ugly broken ankle/leg during the Red-White Scrimmage in training camp, ending his season. (I still have the photo of Shipp lying in pain with teammates trying to help him, his foot at an angle it should never be for a human being.)
That’s ancient history now, though. Shipp actually stayed with the Cardinals through training camp of 2008 before being released, and after a brief camp stop with the Houston Texans, moved on to an effective stint in the UFL from 2009-2011 with the Las Vegas franchise. In 2012, he was the running backs coach for Vegas until the UFL finally went under. But it gave Shipp the coaching bug.
“I always thought about it,” said Shipp, who often works youth football camps, including some through the Cardinals. “The opportunity on the professional level, though, you can’t put that into words.”
There was a small connection with Bruce Arians too, since both Arians and Shipp were born in Paterson, N.J. With the Cards, he’s working with the wide receivers.
“I’m just blessed to be back in, especially with the Cardinals,” Shipp said.
With Shipp around in coaching (for now), Josh Scobey working in the team’s personnel department and Damien Anderson the team’s Alumni Relations Manager, it’s like the Cards are getting the running backs room, circa 2004, back together. No word on whether Emmitt is on the way.
Tags: coaching staff, Marcel Shipp
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We’ve just gotten started with the season but this blog post by former NFL front office guy J.I. Halsell does a nice job breaking down what the uncapped year would mean to free agency. If there won’t be a new collective bargaining agreement by early next year, the NFL will deal with no salary cap (before there is a potential work stoppage in 2011, but we won’t fret about that — yet). He even ends up using free-agent-to-be Neil Rackers as an example. It would really wreak havoc on free agency, which is why it exists in the first place. It’s supposed to be motivation to get a new CBA done.
A couple other things:
— The Cardinals have converted only 10 of 37 third-downs this season, an astounding low mark of 27 percent. Last year, they were at 42 percent, which shows you how much the passing game isn’t clicking.
— Ever wonder what happened to Marcel Shipp after he was released in training camp 2008? He has resurfaced in the UFL (and is on the same team as Arizona local and Arizona State product Adam Archuleta).
— Finally, please welcome in a new member of the Cards’ broadcast and web departments. Pete McElroy will be doing both video and written pieces for azcardinals.com after spending the past few years covering the Washington Nationals.
Tags: Adam Archuleta, J.I. Halsell, Marcel Shipp, Neil Rackers, Pete McElroy
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