Cardinals Win With Help From the Old Guys

So, the Cardinals played their best game of the season and almost blew it in the second half.
After the massive news of the trade for Adrian Peterson from the saints for a 6th round pick, you could feel the buzz of excitement. On AP’s first carry he burst through the hole and carried a couple of defenders with him for eight yards, and the fans exploded. That energy gave the Cardinals what they needed the rest of the first half when they went up 24-0.
It was the first time in NFL history that three players with 40,000 yards passing, 10,000 yard rushing and 10,000 yards receiving all started a game for the same team. The same is true for touchdowns also, 300 total TDs for Carson, 100 total for Fitz, and 100 total for AP is the largest combination of career touchdowns on any team, ever. In yesterday’s game, they all played amazingly. Carson went 18/22 and three TDs, AP had 136 yards 2 TDs, while Larry made ten catches for 138 yards and a touchdown look easy.
Those are all fun stats, but the real change came on the offensive line. You guys all know that rant and rave about line play. They stepped up. Carson was not sacked until their final drive of the first half, and it was a coverage sack. He was sacked twice and hit four times in the game. That was better than a couple of drives the Cardinals had in previous games. I love that the Oline is coming together at the right time.
Finally the bad. We let them score 33 points in the second half. 27 in the fourth quarter. Patrick Peterson injured his quad that he was nursing all week in practice and didn’t play in the fourth. Larry fumbled, and it was returned for a TD, and we punted twice. Even after all of that, the game never felt like it was out of Arizona’s control.
I am hoping that this momentum will help them as they travel across the pond to London to play the Rams next week. This is a huge division game that the Cardinals have to win. The vibe has changed in Arizona, and I love it.
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Cardinals Offensive Line Woes

The Cardinals are in trouble. The team has spent significant resources to find the right pieces on the offensive line. They have missed on almost every single one. Jarrod Veldheer and Mike Iupati were the first two substantial free agent acquisitions that the Cardinals put together on the O-line in years. Both players were significant upgrades at the time and helped the Cardinals put together the winningest stretch of seasons the team has ever had in Arizona.
The misses have far outweighed the hits. Starting with the number seven overall draft pick in Jonathan Cooper. In training camp and preseason he looked as good and as athletic as any guard I have ever seen. I was sending text messages to friends from training camp raving about the guy. Then he broke his leg and was never the same. They have also drafted Earl Watford, DJ Humphries, Evan Boehm, Cole Toner, Dorian Johnson, and Will Holden in that time.
DJ Humphries and Evan Boehm still have a chance to be solid pro lineman, but Boehm is out of position at right guard, and Humphries can’t stay healthy. The Cardinals scouting department and coaching staff have failed to find and teach any top-tier offensive line talent. We have watched Jarod Veldheer go from potential pro-bowl left tackle, to barely able to play at right tackle.
Then the free agency pickups. Evan Mathis (always injured, retired), AQ Shipley (smart, but undersized), Alex Boone (Injured), John Wetzel (not starting NFL talent) and some practice squad guys that never saw the light of day.
Steve Keim has committed to building the trenches, and he has tried. But at some point, fans have to question what the Cardinals are looking at when evaluating line talent. What is Harold Goodwin teaching them when they get here? I don’t care who you put at QB, if the offensive line is terrible, your team is going to struggle. The Cardinals need to figure it out, quickly.
If the Cardinals lose this week to the Tampa Bay Bucs, the season is all but over. The only hope is that our division is so bad, that we can squeeze out a few more wins before David Johnson returns. If Arizona can be 6-5 when he returns, they have a fighting chance. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
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Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts Preview and Prediction

Ok, I didn’t do so great last week with my prediction, but it happens. I predicted a 27-20 win for the Cardinals and they fell flat on their faces. I did not expect the Lions run defense to be so effective and I certainly didn’t see the Lions secondary being third in the league in pass breakups after one week.

So with a week under our belt and getting to see some real football action, let’s try again.

Arizona Made Some Moves

The Cardinals have completed a handful of moves this week to deal with injuries. The Cardinals have re-signed Chris Johnson and added DJ Foster from the Patriots practice squad. Arizona added much-needed depth after David Johnson was placed on injured reserve. I wrote earlier this week about how the Cardinals have a group of guys that each has similar skill sets to David Johnson, but it takes all four guys to do what DJ does on his own. I would look for a lot of rotation at the running back spot this week, trying to figure out what works.

The Cardinals have ruled out Mike Iupati this week and recently signed veteran Alex Boone will fill in for him at left guard. Iupati did not look like himself last week and had two big penalties that cost Arizona big time. I have always been a fan of Boone and his tough-nosed approach to the game; I am excited to see what he can do.

Finally, the last move to the roster I will mention is the re-signing of Jim Dray. The tight end comes back to Arizona and will most likely impact the run game. Dray was always a block first style tight end, and I assume that hasn’t changed with age. Ifeanyi Momah will also get some action as well since Gresham and Niklas are both ailing.

Arizona Offensive Breakdown

Now that we have covered the moves, the analysis. Offensive line play across the whole league has been terrible. The Cardinals have made countless transactions trying to find the best five linemen that they can, but they still struggle. It is not like the Seahawks who have neglected the position on purpose to bolster other areas; the Cardinals just can’t stay healthy. John Wetzel is not good at tackle. He has done an admirable job playing guard in the past, but on the outside, he struggles. He was beaten badly on a sack of Palmer where the defender reached out and ripped Wetzel’s hands down and got a straight line rush to the QB. On the pass to DJ that he was hurt, Wetzel got beat again to the inside, I show it in the video below.  He must protect better for the Cardinals to avoid getting embarrassed again.

Jabaal Sheard is no slouch rushing off the edge. The former Patriot is a good football player and will give the Cardinals offensive line trouble. They must communicate well and always know where he is to be successful. T.J. Green has made a move to corner from safety to and has all the athleticism to play the position. He had a rough game last week giving up a long touchdown to Cooper Kupp. I expect the Cardinals to pick on the young player this week.

This is the fourth consecutive week that the Cardinals are on the road, but I expect them to clean up their act. The Cardinals have enough firepower to put up 35 on this team, but they won’t. I expect them to score 24 against this Colts team.

Cardinals Defensive Breakdown

The Colts offense was thrashed by the Rams last week. They moved the ball well on a couple of possessions but were stalled in the red zone twice. The Cardinals will most likely shadow TY Hilton with Patrick Peterson and take away the Colts best weapon. That leaves tight end Jack Doyle and running backs Frank Gore and Marlon Mack to contend with. I like those matchups with Robert Nkemdiche coming back from injury, and Tyrann Mathieu has the athleticism to stay with Doyle.

The Cardinals pass rush should shred this beat up Indy offensive line, but I have thought that before. Arizona can’t afford to have Golden and Jones disappear for stretches of the game like they have done in the past. The Cardinals defense will have to carry this team if they want to succeed while David Johnson is on the mend. Rodney Gunter and Corey Peters will need to play well to control the run and put Indy into bad third and long situations to force mistakes. I don’t see them putting up more than two touchdowns on the board.

Final Thoughts

The Cardinals are in a bad spot if they lose this game. I don’t think that they need to blow out the Colts to prove they are a contender still, but they must win. The possibilities of where this season can end up shrinks dramatically with a loss to this beat up Colts team. The Cards should win this 24-17, and I hope they make it look easy.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions: Preview and Prediction

Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions: Preview and Prediction

The wait is finally over, and the Arizona Cardinals will start the regular season tomorrow. Arizona will face the Lions for the eighth time after seven consecutive wins dating back to 2006 when the Cardinals met them for the first time at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Last year I made an entire season prediction before the first game, and it fell apart after a missed field goal by Chandler Catanzaro led to a week one loss to the Patriots without Tom Brady.

So this year let’s go one week at a time. We will take a deeper look at each game and what matchups you should watch.

Cardinals Offensive Breakdown

It is no secret that this season will revolve around the success of Carson Palmer. Winning will starts up front with the offensive line. The Cardinals have made some significant changes to the line this year, and nobody knows what to expect fully.  DJ Humphries has become the starting left tackle which has forced Jarrod Velhdeer to the right side. Humphries is a natural left tackle from his college days and has the chops to be very good. But we only got to see him in one preseason game, and he did well, but not great. Now that the real games have started Humphries success will be critical to this offense.

That is why I am so excited to have the Lions up first this year. Of all the teams we face this season, the Lions and Colts may have two weakest pass rushes on our schedule. This should give time to for Humphries to learn and grow on the fly and hopefully build some confidence.

The Lions best pass rusher has just been removed from the physically unable to perform list and has been limited all week at practice. Glover Quin is a good free safety and has played well against Arizona in the past, but he does not have much help. Including Quin, there is nobody on this Lions defense that can match up with David Johnson.

I expect the Cardinals to score at least 27 points on this shallow defensive squad.

Cardinals Defensive Breakdown

Arizona’s defense will not be at full strength with Deone Buchannon out for the season opener. This is going to put rookie Hassan Reddick into the starting lineup against two of the best receiving running backs in the NFC. Theo Reddick and Ameer Abdulla are two very talented backs. Every remembers that the Cardinals almost took Abdulla ahead of David Johnson in the draft.

Physically, the rookie linebacker can match-up with either of these two backs, but he has to have great eye discipline and not get pulled out of position with fakes.

Golden Tate is a beast of a receiver and is great running after the catch. The Cardinals put a huge emphasis on tackling this offseason, so we will see if it pays off. Tate does a lot of work from the slot which will make his battle with Tyrann Mathieu very enjoyable. I am expecting the Cardinals to play a lot of zone against the Lions. New offensive coordinator Jim-Bob Cooter has changed the Lions attack to a west coast style. The short drops by Mathew Stafford and quick routes are tough to defend in man coverage. Also, the Lions don’t have a real outside threat for Patrick Peterson to shadow in this match.

I like Stafford, and I expect a great game plan from the Lions, so the defense may need time to adjust. I think that Arizona has the more talented team and will make the big play on defense when it is needed. The Lions should be able to put up at least 20 points tomorrow.

Special Teams Breakdown

Arizona has had a major overhaul and in my opinion, upgrade on special teams. Phil Dawson is a very accurate and confident kicker. He may not have the leg strength that Catanzaro had, but he is much more dependable. Andy Lee is aging and coming off of an injury, but he is a former all-pro punter and has exceptional talent with directional kicks. Lee has held for Dawson in San Francisco, so there should be no issue with the mechanics on kicks like we had last year.

On Coverage, Justin Bethel is back to full strength after playing with a torn ligament in his foot last season. Britton Golden is on the roster as well as Scooby Wright III for special teams coverages. These three guys are exceptional at covering kicks and punts and should give the Cardinals a field position edge tomorrow.

Final Outcome

The Cardinals win 27-20, and we see how well the defensive and the offensive line can mesh. They are the key tomorrow as they are in most games, but getting off to a good start is critical.

Let me know what you think on The Long Ball’s Facebook page or Twitter @lennyletcher.

Finally, I will be doing some commentary during the game on Snap Chat @lennyletcher there as well if you have questions live.