Monthly Archives: December 2017

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The way to fix the Arizona Cardinals’ woes from the past two seasons isn’t cut-and-dry.

There isn’t one tweak the organization can make or one position to shore up. There are five areas the Cardinals need to address this offseason if they want to get back to their winning ways in 2018, regardless of who the head coach is.

Quarterback: It won’t be a surprise if Arizona signs Blaine Gabbert to a multi-year deal to keep him on the roster, even after benching him in favor of Drew Stanton on Monday. Arians has been intrigued by what Gabbert could do when playing in a second year in the same scheme — something he has not had an opportunity to do during his career. However, the Cardinals need to start preparing for the long term, whether or not Gabbert pans out. Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler are among the quarterbacks in this year’s free-agent class. The gems of this year’s quarterback draft class are well known, but the Cardinals, who currently sit 11th in the first round, would likely have to trade up to get a quarterback they’d want. Should Carson Palmer decide to return in 2018, he’d still be under contract, giving the Cards a built-in option, but if Arizona wants to start playing for the future, they need to figure out a new avenue at quarterback, especially since Gabbert and Stanton are scheduled to hit free agency after the season.

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Wide receiver: Aside from Larry Fitzgerald, who has 92 catches and 982 receiving yards this season, the Cardinals’ don’t have anyone with more than 33 catches or 490 yards. John Brown has consistently dealt with his health. J.J. Nelson has been up and down. Jaron Brown hasn’t emerged as the consistent WR2 the Cardinals had hoped he’d become in the wake of Michael Floyd’s departure last season. And before he went on injured reserve, Brittan Golden didn’t have a large enough role in the offense to make a significant impact. The two Browns and Golden are all pending free agents, giving the Cardinals an opportunity to revamp the receiving corps while finding Fitzgerald’s successor. They could spend some money in free agency and sign someone like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins, Davante Adams, Danny Amendola, Eric Decker, Ryan Grant, Donte Moncrief, Paul Richardson, Deonte Thompson, Mike Wallace or Tyrell Williams, or see if Alabama’s Calvin Ridley drops to them in the draft.
Offensive line: A lot of the blame for the Cardinals’ offensive line issues this season can be blamed on injures. On Sunday against Washington, the Cards were starting four backups alongside starting center A.Q. Shipley. Even still, there are areas of the line that need to be addressed, namely right guard and right tackle. Evan Boehm and Earl Watford have started at right guard this year, but veteran experience could be beneficial for Arizona. Jared Veldheer is a natural left tackle, so his switch to right tackle this season took a long time for him to adjust to. And then when he found his footing there, he was moved back to the left. Watford and Alex Boone will be free agents this offseason but Boone is one of the few the Cardinals should keep. And while injuries hit the Cardinals in waves during 2017, adding more depth would be necessary for Arizona to be a prosperous offense on a weekly basis.

Cornerback: Even though they’ve received plenty of production from veteran cornerback Tramon Wililams opposite of Patrick Peterson, Arizona can’t rely on a 34-year-old’s body to continue to hold up like it has this season. Adding another lock-down cornerback to go along with Peterson, who made his seventh straight Pro Bowl, would make it even more difficult for quarterbacks. It’s still early, but few corners have emerged as potential first-round picks. Arizona could sign one from a free-agent class that includes Brandon Boykin, Tramaine Brock, Morris Claiborne and Alterraun Verner.

Inside linebacker: The Cards traded a young inside linebacker for an older one when they let 27-year-old Kevin Minter go in free agency last year and signed 36-year-old Karlos Dansby. There has been little consistency at inside linebacker. Deone Bucannon’s lingering ankle injury forced him to miss four games, and Haason Reddick’s versatility has seen him to play at outside linebacker in the wake of Markus Golden’s season-ending ACL injury. With Dansby scheduled to be a free agent in March, Arizona will need to replace him in the starting lineup or find depth to take his spot on the roster.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — No matter where he’s been in his career or who he’s played for, the scouting report on Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert has always included one simple fact about him: He had a big arm.

It was on display during Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, especially late.

Gabbert’s 52-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaron Brown with about 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter traveled 45 yards downfield — the second longest throw in the air of his career. The longest traveled 46 yards in Week 13 of 2015.

On Monday, coach Bruce Arians said Gabbert’s arm strength is hard to compare.

“I thought Blaine’s play to the 50-yarder to Jaron was one only a few guys can make because [Jaguars defensive end] Calais [Campbell] came fairly unblocked, and he knew,” Arians said. “He had enough instinct not to draw back with the ball and still had enough strength to put it out there and not get it tipped. That was a fantastic play by him.”

Gabbert threw 16 of his 38 passes 10 yards or longer downfield, according to ESPN Stats and Information, including two on the Cardinals’ final drive that set up kicker Phil Dawson’s game-winning 57-yard field goal. He completed eight of them, tying his career high for deep completions in a game, which he also reached last weekend in Houston, for 170 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“It was a big play,” Gabbert said of his 52-yarder. “That was a big momentum play.”

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TEMPE, Ariz. — When Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians sits down after this season to decide whether to return in 2018, the past two seasons won’t play a role in his decision.

“It won’t have any effect on it,” Arians said Monday. “If anything, it makes me hungrier because I know what’s coming back, all those guys come off that list.”

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That list refers to injured reserve, which currently includes six starters: quarterback Carson Palmer, running back David Johnson, outside linebacker Markus Golden, safety Tyvon Branch, left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Mike Iupati.

Arians was “extremely excited” about the team he had coming back for 2017, but “you just can’t control those injuries and the way the ball bounces.”

As for next season, Arians’ health will play a primary role in his decision.

“There’ll [also] be other factors,” he said.

Whenever his decision is made, Arians said he’ll tell the media first. Then he corrected himself. So who’ll be the first person to know?

“My wife,” Arians said.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — When the Arizona Cardinals first meet as a team every year following final cuts, coach Bruce Arians shares the same message: The most important players in the room are the backups.

Linebacker Josh Bynes exemplified that Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Josh Bynes led the Cardinals in tackles Sunday after replacing an injured Deone Bucannon. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
After inside linebacker Deone Bucannon left the game with an leg injury in the first quarter, Bynes took over his role and shined for the rest of the game, recording a team-high nine tackles (eight solo) while playing a season-high 53 snaps. For his effort, ESPN Stats & Information recognized Bynes as one of its “Unsung Heroes” of Week 12.

Bynes entered Sunday’s game with 75 defensive snaps through the first 11 weeks of the season. He helped spearhead the Cardinals’ effort up front to slow Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette, who was held to 25 yards on 12 carries.

Bynes also had a forced fumble, a pass breakup and defended a pass.

Arians will give Bynes a game ball when the team reconvenes Wednesday after their victory Monday.

“He played lights out, especially in that sub-package, which he hasn’t played in yet, but he got mental reps,” Arians said. “And he had no mental errors, just had unbelievable stats, but he led the team and was truly a true ‘next man up’ mentality. And he was more than ready to play and played as a starter and played a very high level.”