Chandler Jones is off to a smoking start this season, with three sacks in two games and causing consistent havoc. Markus Golden, the team’s sack leader from 2016, definitely made an uptick in pressures in Week 2, after struggling to make much of an impact in Detroit Week 1. Pro Football Focus had Golden with a single QB pressure against the Lions, and had him with five against the Colts. After re-watching Golden’s play in both games, I’ll agree with the assessment.
Originally, watching in real time, I thought Golden had missed out on maybe three or four sacks already. A review changed my mind, and put the number at two (although I’m sure Golden is disappointed he didn’t get those two.) I thought Golden was closer on one in Detroit, a third-and-12 play in which Lions QB Matthew Stafford spun away and was able to get a pass off when it looked like a sack was inevitable. Golden was close, but Corey Peters was closer and it’s still hard to believe Stafford got away.
Against the Colts, Golden’s two near-misses came early in the game. The first came with Golden face-to-face with Jacoby Brissett and getting both hands on him, only to have the QB sidestep long enough to throw the ball away. The second (pictured) was even more painfully close, although Brissett was eventually “sacked” by linebacker Josh Bynes because he was forced out-of-bounds behind the line of scrimmage. Both were second-and-long plays.
The sacks will come. As Bruce Arians said, “one thing about Junk, you know he’s going full speed.” (Junk is short for Golden’s nickname, Junkyard Dog). Watching every Golden pass rush, that’s what you notice, the effort. It’s got to land, though. With the Cardinals’ offense suffering through fits and starts, the defense has to lead the way, and Golden needs to be near the front of the line.
Tags: Chandler Jones, Colts, Jacoby Brissett, Lions, Markus Golden, Matthew Stafford
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So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?
These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?
Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?
Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.
Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.
Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.
And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Bengals, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Kurt Warner, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Steve Keim
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Matthew Stafford. Tim Tebow. Andrew Luck. And now Carson Palmer.
If Drew Stanton was hoping his path would finally be cleared to be an NFL starter, well, another name is in front of him. Palmer is officially a Cardinal. He’ll collect $10 million guaranteed on a two-year contract that the Cardinals can easily shed after one year if need be. He gives the Cards a veteran signal-caller and their most proven QB since Kurt Warner. He steadies the offense even if he isn’t quite the guy he used to be. Palmer is in the building, attending meetings with his team and isn’t even behind, since today was the first day the players were going to be able to talk football with their new coaches anyway. Palmer is starting in the same place on the learning curve as Larry Fitzgerald, so that’s good.
We’ll have much more on Palmer later. This is about Stanton, the man who less than a month ago was hoping to have a shot at being a starter.
Stanton knows the NFL business better than anyone. (And in fact, apparently was told when he signed a Palmer arrival could indeed be in the Cards’ plans.) Stanton was a second-round pick in Detroit who missed his rookie season with knee surgery and fell behind in his second year as a Lion (behind Jon Kitna and Dan Orvlosky) when a thumb injury kept him out of the preseason. By 2009, Stafford arrived as savior and permanent starter. Stanton hoped he could at least be the backup with the Jets when he signed as a free agent last year — and with Mark Sanchez’s issues, maybe an opening at some point — but the Jets traded for Tebow five days later and, writing on the wall, Stanton asked to move on. The Jets sent him to Indy, where he was inevitably going to sit behind Luck.
Stanton hoped the combination of Bruce Arians and the Cards’ QB situation might be a little different. Arians talked him up but left the door ajar, the space within which Palmer now walks through. Palmer is going to be the starter. But Stanton will be the backup, and who knows, maybe Stanton will — through injury or otherwise — get a shot to start at some point.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow
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The regular season has arrived. And frankly, it’s impossible to know what the next four months holds for this team.
There can be no opponent/road trip better for a team in transition to play/go than the St. Louis Rams. Yet there can be no opponent/road trip worse. This feels like a no-win in some ways; if the Cards dominate, the thought will linger, “Yeah, but who was it against?” If they somehow lose … ugh.
Of course, I’m probably overthinking things. If the Cards play well Sunday, I am sure there will be a collective sigh of relief more than anything. As Adrian Wilson once said in his famously deep voice during an infamous radio interview the morning after the Monday Night Meltdown, “It’s hard to win in the NFL.” (There might have been an expletive thrown in there, but that’s a tale for another day). It is hard to win, and the Rams have some positive vibes with their new quarterback Sam Bradford.
But the Rams also have 14 rookies on their team and frankly, I am probably selling short this Cards’ defense, which is anxious to have a crack at a rookie in his first game. Bradford is a rookie. By the end of the season, who knows, maybe he does become another Matt Ryan in his first year. He’s just starting out though. No better time to get him than right out of the box.
(Ryan may be a bad example. In his first game, he was 9-of-13 for 161 yards and a touchdown. I’m thinking – and the Cards are thinking – more like Matt Stafford’s 16-for-37, 205-yard, three-interception showing.)
That’d make for a fun afternoon, wouldn’t it?
— I know Larry Fitzgerald told Sports 620 KTAR, in defense of himself in the whole Matt Leinart-was-cut scenario, that he hadn’t even taken any snaps with the newbie, Derek Anderson. Technically that’s true in the preseason-game sense of the situation. But as coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out Friday, the two did work together sometimes in OTAs and in training camp.
“We said we were going to get Derek some reps with the ones just so he could get a feel for those guys,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously you’d like to have more reps than we have, but I don’t see it as a situation where we haven’t gotten reps. We’ll see how it plays out Sunday.”
I think Fitz will be just fine, as long as Anderson gets the ball near him.
— Speaking of that, Whisenhunt said earlier this week the Cards have worked hard on Anderson’s footwork, which in turn is supposed to aid his accuracy. Whiz said he has seen results. That’s key. Missing out on chances – like the errant throw to a wide-open Early Doucet in the Chicago preseason game – can’t happen too often.
— I can’t see Beanie Wells playing with his bad knee. But Tim Hightower has been itching to have the load on his shoulders and now it will be, although I’d expect a heaping helping of Hyphen with no Beanie. LaRod Stephens-Howling should be a bigger part of the offense this year anyway, and they’ll need him if/when Beanie is sidelined. Looking forward, it’s hard to tell if there should be long-term Beanie concern. Which, if you think about it, is how Whiz likes it (the part about being hard to tell, not that there could be concern about Beanie).
— The wait to see who returns punts will happen game day. We’ll likely know by who is active; I am betting on Max Komar as the fifth receiver, with Andre Roberts inactive for now.
— I expect Calais Campbell to have a big season, and this game would seem to be a good starting point, with Bradford and everything.
— The Cards have to stop Steven Jackson, although they know that. Since Whisenhunt has taken over, Jackson has missed two of the six meetings, had one 100-yard game, and has averaged 63 yards rushing against the Cardinals. Yes, the Cards need more of that.
It always seems harder to “preview” the opening game because it seems, in some ways, that training camp and the preseason has been one long preview. There really doesn’t feel like much to say here, not until a game is played for real and the play of some of the new guys filters out. It will be strange going back to St. Louis without the Kurt Warner subplot (OK, let’s be honest, the game always felt like the subplot to Warner’s return – and then he’d rip up his old team).
It’s time to go, though. Finally. (P.S. Here’s a video to inspire you for the weekend.)
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Derek Anderson, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Max Komar, Rams, Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Tim Hightower
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