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
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »
When I was covering the Cardinals for the East Valley Tribune, the team held the 10th overall selection in the draft. There was much talk about whether the team might take a quarterback of the future. Kurt Warner was, after all, getting older and was only OK in 2005. The Cards had signed a big-name running back in Edgerrin James, however, and Kurt — understandably — wanted to see the Cards go in a different direction with an eye on maybe reaching a Super Bowl.
“What’s the best way to do that?” Warner said at the time. “Not to take a guy who’s going to take over my job. Go get somebody who can help us next year.”
(The Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart. Leinart was inserted for Warner early in 2006 at QB. Then Leinart struggled in 2007, Warner got his job back, and eventually, Warner got his Super Bowl trip regardless.)
It’s not always an easy decision. Heck, it’s hard for a team needing a QB right now sometimes to pull the trigger in the draft — see the Browns, who desperately need a quarterback yet are likely to take defensive lineman Myles Garrett with the first pick instead, because there isn’t an Andrew Luck available. That decision gets that much harder for a team like the Cardinals, who have Carson Palmer in place and will sit any quarterback they might draft in 2017. Meanwhile, if the Cards want to gear up for a potential run this season, with the clock ticking on Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, finding an immediate impact guy (on defense) makes a lot of sense with the first-round pick.
Still, the glaring long-term need for a quarterback doesn’t go away.
The Cardinals are in a good spot with Palmer. He is willing to mentor a young quarterback. He’s made that clear recently, and said the same back in 2014, when he still knew he was going to play a few more years.
“I know I’m not going to play forever,” Palmer said at the time. “It’s hard for us players to admit that. The older you get the harder it is to admit it. You don’t see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy. But that’s the reality. That’s the business. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don’t care. That’s the game.”
The first round, and the 13th pick, await.
Tags: Carson Palmer, draft, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, quarterback
Posted in Blog | 49 Comments »
Fitz said he’s coming back and it seems like only a matter of time before Carson Palmer does the same. I get why some have trepidation that Palmer has yet to officially say anything, but knowing Palmer, he really didn’t want to even make coming back a “thing” if he could’ve helped it; if Bruce Arians hadn’t mentioned that Palmer was on the fence, I’m not sure anyone would even be thinking about it.
(As a side note, on Friday Palmer’s 2017 salary of $15.5 million becomes fully guaranteed. Fitz’s $11M salary also becomes guaranteed that day.)
It’s important to have Palmer, of course. I’ve heard from fans who think otherwise, who want to move on, but that makes no sense to me. Not that it matters — Palmer, if he wants to play, is the quarterback. But anytime that subject comes up, it makes me think of the lengthy list of QBs this franchise has had since moving to Arizona. So, as the 2016 season fades and we wait for the 2017 season to gain steam, I thought I’d do a power ranking of the QBs this team has had since 1988, the year they came to the desert. My one requirement: A QB had to have at least 10 starts (eliminating some half-season greats like Boomer Esiason, Derek Anderson and Jay Schroeder. Feel free to insert them into your own list if you choose.) There have been a few.
- 1. Kurt Warner: He’s a Hall of Famer and the lone guy to get the Cards to a Super Bowl. So, yeah. He’s the best.
- 2. Palmer: He has plenty of critics. But he’s been pretty good. He’s won a lot of games. And, save for 2014, he’s been durable.
- 3. Neil Lomax: Oh, that hip.
- 4. Jake Plummer: Beloved local hero finally got the Cardinals to the playoffs. So fun to watch. Sometimes, frustrating to watch.
- 5. Kevin Kolb: He was usually solid — he could just never stay healthy. Beat the Patriots in New England.
- 6. Steve Beuerlein: Maybe things would’ve been a little different if Buddy Ryan hadn’t shown up.
- 7. Josh McCown: The man Denny Green believed in enough to justify drafting Fitz.
- 8. Timm Rosenbach: Another guy you wonder about had he had health.
- 9. Matt Leinart: He did just fine his first two starts. But post-Monday Night Meltdown, and after Kurt, everything changed.
- 10. Dave Krieg: To be a QB on a Buddy Ryan team couldn’t have been easy.
- 11. Kent Graham: Had the misfortune of trying to be the placeholder for Jake the Snake.
- 12. Chris Chandler: One year as full-time starter got 15 TDs, 15 picks and 12 losses.
- 13. Jeff Blake: Once, I asked him about his career. “It’s not like I’ve played bad ball,” he said. “I’ve just been on bad teams.”
- 14. Gary Hogeboom: Those years after Lomax were tough.
- 15. John Skelton: Cards managed to go .500 with him taking over for Kolb in 2011. Fitz helped.
- 16. Tom Tupa: He was a punter first for a reason.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Chris Chandler, Dave Krieg, Gary Hogeboom, Jake Plummer, Jeff Blake, John Skelton, Josh McCown, Kent Graham, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Neil Lomax, Steve Beuerlein, Timm Rosenbach, Tom Tupa
Posted in Blog | 50 Comments »
First-round draft pick D.J. Humphries signed his contract earlier this week, the last of the seven Cardinals draft picks to do so, and the June 1 date was a couple of days earlier than Deone Bucannon’s scribble on the dotted line in 2014. Clearly, the timetable has shifted with rookie signings, as we went over a few weeks ago. In the spirit of those one-time rookie signing sagas (and today being a Throwback Thursday and all) I recall one interesting moment in 2006 when Matt Leinart was still unsigned as a rookie, the Cardinals were in training camp and Denny Green — still two months from letting the world know the Bears may or may not need to be crowned — wasn’t all that thrilled.
So Green brought a memorable (if less publicized than the one about the Bears) rant, letting everyone know he wanted Leinart signed already. The question that elicited the response? Well of course, it was someone asking about how Karlos Dansby was doing with his nagging toe injury.
That’s why I remember it so much. The question was about Dansby.
Some quick background. The Cardinals were about to head to New England to play the Patriots in a Saturday night preseason game. On this Monday, someone wanted to see how Dansby was doing. Green, who may or may not have planned ahead of time to say something about Leinart one way or the other (rumors say he did), began his nearly four-minute monologue, which can be heard by clicking here. Measured to be sure (unlike that other answer) but sure in its tone. Green also made it his last comment of the presser — just like that night after the Bears.
A morsel from that day: “I look forward to going to New England. I look forward to Kurt Warner going on the field, looking over and seeing Tom Brady — who was not the 10th pick in the draft, he was in the (sixth) round, so it’s not always about the draft,” Green said. “It’d be a shame if Matt Leinart is still sitting there as the only guy in the National Football League who is not in the National Football League.”
It only mattered for about six hours. By the early evening, Leinart had agreed to terms. As you can see here in my story from the next morning (remember newspapers?) the quarterback’s side insisted Green’s comments had nothing to do with moving things along. Either way, it made for great theater.
Tags: contracts, Dennis Green, Matt Leinart
Posted in Blog | 9 Comments »
It’s been a while since the Chiefs have come to Arizona. The last visit was in 2006, in the first season of University of Phoenix Stadium. It, like this Sunday’s visit, comes a week after the Cardinals made a trip to Atlanta and lost. Back then, the Chiefs’ game was the first NFL start of a first-round draft pick – quarterback Matt Leinart. This week it’s the first NFL start of first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper.
It’s an interesting parallel even if it doesn’t relate directly to Sunday’s game. Leinart actually played well that day with a couple of touchdown passes (even though Larry Fitzgerald left with a hamstring injury that would ultimately keep him out three games, the longest down-time of his career) and should have had a third if Bryant Johnson didn’t let a throw go right between his arms.
But that was then, this is now. Game-day decision Fitzgerald should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two games – keeping that three-game stretch back in 2006 as his career-high (or low?). And Cooper’s play, while important, won’t be as important as the play of quarterback Drew Stanton, who needs to bounce back. The QB is in the crosshairs, especially with the Cardinals without running back Andre Ellington and his problem hip.
— If the Cardinals win, they remain the NFC’s top team, regardless of any other game, with three games to go. If they lose, they will no longer be the NFC’s top team regardless, because Philadelphia and Seattle play each other and a win with a Cards’ loss puts either ahead in the standings. The Cardinals don’t want that.
— One running back the Cards won’t have is Michael Bush, who was released Friday. That could be a short-term thing, but for now, the non-Ellington backfield will feature Stepfan Taylor—who will get the start in a running-back-by-committee scenario — and Marion Grice. Arians had some praise for Grice Friday. And all season, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he saw Grice as a player who could fill the Ellington role. Now he has to.
“We have a lot of trust in him,” Goodwin said.
— This is interesting: Cardinals punter Drew Butler was fined $8,268 for facemasking Falcons punt returner Devin Hester on Hester’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back. It was called back because Hester was flagged for facemasking Butler. Except … Hester wasn’t fined for the penalty.
— So to recap, the man who was penalized was essentially exonerated with no flag, and the man who should have been flagged wasn’t. Throw in the fine-but-no-penalty for William Moore on Cards’ wide receiver Jaron Brown, and it doesn’t seem like the officials had the best game.
— For those who want to know, the Cardinals will again wear their red pants Sunday (with the normal red home jersey.)
— The Cardinals are holding their annual toy drive Sunday at the game. Partnering with The RoomStore, volunteers will join cheerleaders to collect unwrapped toys and donations for underprivileged children outside each entrance at University of Phoenix Stadium.
— If the Cardinals win, they will have seven home victories. That would be the most for the franchise since 1925, when the Cards had 11. Eleven home wins. It helps that the Cards that year played 13 of 14 games at home (which was in Chicago at the time.)
— In 59 career games before he infamously lost the tip of his finger trying to make a tackle in New Orleans, safety Rashad Johnson had three interceptions. In 22 games since, he has seven interceptions. To be fair, Johnson didn’t start really playing a lot until the second half of the 2012 season, but still.
— Larry Fitzgerald, asked if he takes pride in his run blocking in the offense: “I take a lot more pride in catching passes.”
Fitz laughed as he said it, and he did say he does want to help with his blocking. But let’s not confuse this. Later, Fitz said “I have nothing to do with the run game. I’m a wide receiver.”
— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the game in Atlanta was a “bad day at the office” for his unit. Bowles said they forgot it quickly, and have to move on. The defense needs to. They will be crucial down the stretch, especially as offensive injuries mount.
— Bowles was on the staff of Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in Reid’s final year as Eagles’ head coach. It didn’t go well – the Eagles were bad, and Bowles, who eventually took over as interim defensive coordinator, was hammered by fans and media as the defense struggled – but Reid said now Bowles was the best interview he’s ever had. Bowles returned the compliment.
“It was great working for him,” Bowles said. “I probably learned more from him in one year than I have from a lot of people over a long time.”
— Hopefully for the Cardinals, it also means Bowles learned Reid’s tendencies. The Cards need every advantage.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andy Reid, Bryan Johnson, Chiefs, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Falcons, Jaron Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Michael Bush, Rashad Johnson, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 32 Comments »
The timing made all kinds of sense for the Cardinals to put Kurt Warner in the Ring of Honor this season. There is a high-profile “Monday Night Football” game in which to do the ceremony (if you have forgotten, Aeneas Williams also went in at halftime of an MNF game) and this is the first year Warner is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame — which would happen in downtown Phoenix the day before the Super Bowl here in Arizona, if it were to happen. In a lot of ways Warner was a supernova in Arizona considering he played just five seasons (and barely played in one of those, 2006, when Matt Leinart was trying to make his way in the league.) It was an incredible run though (as this timeline and this top 10 list of his best games says more tangibly.)
So who is next?
We already know Adrian Wilson will get there. Michael Bidwill has already said as much. First, though, Wilson has to retire, and he’s not ready to do that quite yet as he hopes to find a job somewhere in 2014. At some point, you figure Larry Fitzgerald is a lock, regardless of what happens in the future. Obviously the hope is that Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona, but the NFL is a business and Fitz staying is anything but a guarantee. Certainly, he’s done enough on and even off the field that he’ll be Ring-bound some day.
Beyond that, though, I don’t see any sure bets. It’s way too early to think about Patrick Peterson. Does Darnell Dockett warrant a discussion? Could Calais Campbell some day be worth it? I think Anquan Boldin was headed in that direction, but the way his tenure (and his last two seasons) ended in Arizona I’d call that a very long shot, which is too bad. He was a part of the renaissance of this franchise. I don’t know if some of the other guys from the 1998 team — a Larry Centers, a Jake Plummer — would fit.
Again, with Bidwill noting that 11 of the 13 previous Ring members before Warner are in the Hall of Fame, that means something. They are, Bidwill said, “the best of the best” and that’s a lofty ideal. The franchise has been around since 1898, and only 14 guys have gone in. It’s not an easy honor to obtain. It is a fun subject to debate.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Aeneas Williams, Darnell Dockett, Jake Plummer, Kurt Warner, Larry Centers, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Ring of Honor
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »
The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.
— 2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.
— 2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.
— 2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.
— 2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?
— 2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.
— 2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ’em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.
— 2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.
— 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …
— 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.
— 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.
— 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.
— 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.
— 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, Dan Williams, draft, DRC, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Wendell Bryant
Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »
Ken Whisenhunt gets his second chance. The news came down Monday evening that the Titans had hired the Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach to be their new head coach. It was a surprise on a lot of levels, not the least of which that so many reports came out linking Whisenhunt with the Detroit opening and the fact the Lions are the lone team with a (more or less) established quarterback in place. It’s impossible to know if Whiz chose Tennessee over Detroit or if the Lions never really were that interested in Whiz. It doesn’t mean much now.
It will be interesting however to see how Whisenhunt works with QB Jake Locker. Can Whiz develop Locker, who thus far has not shown enough signs of being a long-term answer? Clearly, the inability for Whisenhunt (and to be fair, General Manager Rod Graves) to figure out the post-Kurt Warner QB situation in Arizona killed his tenure here.
What really struck me about the hire when I first heard it was the link between Nashville, the Titans, Whiz and the Cardinals. That too goes back to the QB problems Whiz had in the desert. Back in the preseason of 2010 — that first go-round of football after Warner retired — the Cardinals had Matt Leinart as the starter, Derek Anderson as the backup and back-to-back exhibition games in Tennessee and in Chicago. In between, there was a few days in Nashville, a joint practice versus the Titans and then a final practice at Vanderbilt.
The relationship between Whisenhunt and Leinart was already fraying. In the joint practice, Leinart struggled against the Titans — at the time, Titans defenders started noticing how quickly Leinart went to his checkdown receiver — and the next day at Vandy, Whisenhunt shocked everyone by giving Anderson first-team snaps. Afterward, it became official that Anderson would be starting in Chicago. Leinart was angry. And things devolved from there.
Now Whisenhunt starts it over. Whiz had a very good run in Arizona, getting the franchise to places they had never been. He also made mistakes. It will be interesting to see if Whisenhunt learned from those missteps and apply that with the Titans.
— There is a lot of speculation about Whiz and if he would reach out to try and bring over current Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott. It wouldn’t surprise me, but we’ll see how that develops.
— There are still job openings in Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland, the latter two of which have interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. But I am guessing Bowles stays put in Arizona.
Tags: Jake Locker, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, Lions, Matt Leinart, Titans, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 29 Comments »
The last time the Cardinals were on pace to win 10 games, they went to Tennessee. You remember that one don’t you? Kurt Warner was coming off a concussion and the Cards shut him down that day, putting Matt Leinart under center for what turned out to be his final time as a starter in Arizona.
(It was in Tennessee the following year in the preseason, with a game, joint practice and then benching for Derek Anderson, that essentially ended Leinart’s tenure with the Cards, but that’s a rehash for another day.)
Leinart played well enough to win, but the defense allowed Vince Young and the Titans a 99-yard touchdown drive culminating in a Kenny Britt touchdown catch on the final play of the game. It was a heartbreaker, and stopped the Cards from being 7-0 on the road at that point. They did, however, still win 10 games.
The Cardinals have to win in Tennessee this weekend to reach 10 games, you’d think. Mathematically that isn’t true, but with a road trip to Seattle and a home game against San Francisco left, this is one the Cards should get. Beyond that, they have to get it. We’ve covered the playoff situation, and while it tends to look bleak even if the Cards win all three of their remaining games, they can’t be eliminated this weekend if they win.
— Carson Palmer should play Sunday. If he did last week without throwing a pass in practice, he will this week barring something unforeseen. He was limited again this week – no one is saying if he threw some in practice or just took another week of rest – but Palmer said he didn’t like doing it last week at all.
“Completely different, kind of eerie,” Palmer said. “I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not enjoyable. When you are practicing you are always looking at the guys that aren’t practicing, and you are jealous. But, then when you are that guy standing on the sidelines, you want to actually be out there. You kind of get stuck in that, ‘Well, I wish I wasn’t, but I wish I was.’”
— Here’s where we find out defensive life without Tyrann Mathieu. I actually think it will be a little less important against the Titans than against the final two NFC West opponents, but don’t forget that Mathieu was arguably the Cardinals’ best tackler. Now that’s gone.
— I know veteran cornerback Antoine Cason has been itching to play more defense. He’s going to get a chance now.
— If the Cards keep getting the same kind of play out of Karlos Dansby and John Abraham, the Mathieu loss can be mitigated.
— Darnell Dockett was fined $7,875 for intentionally stepping on the hand of Rams offensive lineman Chris Williams last week. Defensive end Eugene Sims (who was called for a personal foul for hitting Palmer during the Jim Dray fumble-runback-that-wasn’t), Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (who was flagged for spiking his helmet at the feet of an official) and Dansby (who was called for a personal foul) were not fined.
— With the end of the regular season in sight, it will be interesting to see if a few offensive players can reach yardage milestones. Palmer needs 542 yards passing to throw for 4,000 yards with his third different franchise. That seems doable, even with games coming against Seattle and San Francisco. Michael Floyd, gimpy ankle and all, needs 114 yards receiving to reach 1,000. That too seems reasonable.
More interesting is the case of Larry Fitzgerald, who needs 226 yards to reach 1,000, a not easy number given the Niners and Seahawks. You know Fitz wants to get there.
— Pro Bowl voting ends Dec. 26. Click here if you’d like to have your voice heard.
— The Cardinals have benefited big-time by the return of cornerback Bryan McCann, who was cut at the end of training camp. His special teams work replacing the injured Teddy Williams, especially at gunner opposite Justin Bethel has been impressive.
“You kind of got to,” McCann said. “It’s part of the business. The whole point is that you don’t have a drop off in production when the next man steps in.”
McCann said he wasn’t frustrated with getting cut when he had had a pretty good camp. “It’s the way the business goes. Can’t complain. I’m back here, I’m back working and I’m happy for it.”
— The weather is supposed to be 36 degrees and clear Sunday for the late afternoon start. We’ll see if the Cards can make sure it ends a little differently than last time.
Tags: Antoine Cason, Bryan McCann, Carson Palmer, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Titans, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »
That’s five years worth of hair growing on the head of Andre Ellington, so he doesn’t want to lose it. He especially doesn’t want to lose it on the football field, but he lost
some of his beloved dreadlocks Sunday, which might have been the strangest part of a strange game. The rookie running back was tackled, Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin ended up with a handful of it (right) and it ended up on the ground, only to have Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker rescue and return it.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it back,” Ellington said. “I was talking to (Jaguars defensive end) Andre Branch, we are pretty good friends, I told him, ‘I’m gonna get your boys, they pulled my hair out.’ But it’s all good.”
Amazingly, Ellington said he didn’t feel it, although “you don’t feel it when you are being tackled by 300-pounders.” He didn’t even realize it had happened until he saw Babin holding it up. “I was like, ‘Oh man.’ He was like, ‘It’s part of the uniform.’ I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll remember that.’ ”
Ellington later tweeted out he’d just stich back in the loose part. I didn’t really know you could do that, but hey, Rucker is a hero, apparently. Ellington did say he was just happy with the win, which is good, because not only did he have hairs yanked out (ouch, by the way) but he was held to three yards on eight carries (ouch again.)
This game had a little of everything. Big plays, bad officiating, crazy calls, a few turnovers and yet another dominant defensive showing after not exactly a bad but more of a weird start. But lookie here: The Cardinals are 6-4, reeling off three wins in a month after that Seattle loss. The schedule gets tougher, with division leaders Indy and Philly next. But the Cards are where they want to be.
— The Newark Star-Ledger reported the Cardinals game in Philly will be flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” Not a surprise. It is supposed to be Giants-Redskins, and with all the Thanksgiving games (and with Chiefs-Broncos Part II unavailable after Part I was on SNF tonight) there aren’t a ton of choices better than two potential playoff teams. It would be the Cards’ first Sunday night appearance since the Vikings game in Arizona was flexed into the spot in 2009. UPDATE: Here’s an opposing report saying it won’t happen. We’ll see this week. UPDATE II: Monday morning the NFL announced that “Sunday Night Football” was going to stay Giants-Redskins, and the Eagles-Cardinals game is staying as a 1 p.m. kickoff in Philly.
— Michael Floyd was spectacular Sunday. Forget the 91-yard play for a moment, he made a catch on the sideline for 22 yards that was incredible. He made a nice play on the long TD, too. His 193 yards are a career-high, and that threat means a lot for the Cards going down the stretch.
— Carson Palmer did not throw an interception Sunday. (OK, he did, but it didn’t count.) First time that’s happened this season.
— Palmer looked good. He said afterward he had a clean pocket, and again, that’s the book on Carson – if you give him a comfortable place within which to throw, he will do well. That’s exactly what happened.
— The Cardinals didn’t have a turnover for the first time since the third week of last season.
— The lopsided way the Cards had their offense today – 419 yards passing, 14 yards rushing – reminded me of the 2006 game in Minnesota when Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards but the Cards just ran the ball five times. The Cards lost that game. It’s not like the Cards didn’t try Sunday, with 24 attempts, but against the worst rushing defense in the league? It was surprising, to say the least.
— Special teams did not have a good day at all. The Cards allowed 36 yards a kickoff return, Dave Zastudil looked like he didn’t hit some punts as solidly as usual and more importantly – much more importantly – there were injuries. Justin Bethel went out of the game early after an illegal blindside block left him with a possible concussion, while fellow gunner Teddy Williams was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles. It hurts to lose Williams. Bethel’s status is up in the air, but it was clear how much the special teams need him after he left the game. That’s what happens when a Pro Bowl-caliber player goes down.
— Among the special teams problems, Patrick Peterson muffed a fair catch. He got it back somehow, but punt returning has turned into such tough sledding for him.
— One of the reasons the Cards had a tough time putting the game away? Field position was rarely in their favor, at least until late. The Cards started possessions on their own 3, 16, 9, 10, 2 and 10.
— There wasn’t a big crowd. It was kind of sad. “It’s like a morgue,” Cardinals tackle Eric Winston said. “It makes a three-point lead seem like 20.”
That’s good for now. Lot of flight left, but I have some other stuff I need to get to. Tomorrow, it’s Colts week, Arians against his ex-team week. It will be fun.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Jaguars, Justin Bethel, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Sunday Night Football, Teddy Williams
Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »