Tag Archives: Michael Floyd

Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd and other Desert Mysteries

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Veteran Cardinals scribe Darren Urban writes that receiver Michael Floyd’s season “will go down as one of the greatest mysteries in recent Cardinals history.”  There are other desert mysteries, like the large sliding stones of “The Racetrack” in Death Valley, or the massive Nazca Lines–the Pre-Colombian geoglyphs of monkeys and spiders and hummingbirds etched into the desert sands of Southern Peru, which can only be comprehended from the air. Arizona fans would settle for simply solving the Floyd Enigma.

After his consecutive sparkling seasons at Notre Dame, the Cardinals selected Floyd 13th overall in the 2012 draft. He and Larry Fitzgerald were to be the double-barreled weapon flanking an Arizona touchdown machine, but too often this year Floyd has misfired. From 65 catches and over 1,000 yards in 2013, Floyd has regressed to 28 grabs and 410 yards this season. Most troubling are the dropped balls and the difficulty in creating separation, and now he has a balky hamstring.

But Floyd has not struggled alone. After 1,003 yards receiving and seven touchdowns last year, speedy wideout John “Smokey” Brown has managed just 399 yards and one touchdown this season, due largely to being slowed by leg pain from battling the Sickle cell trait. Without the disruptive zip and deep threat that Brown can provide, routes have been shorter and defensive coverage has been more focused on Fitzgerald, who has had to scuffle to get open enough for QB Carson Palmer to try to thread balls into tight windows. And due to injuries and shuffling of the offensive line, Palmer has had less time to throw. Less time, less separation and dropped balls are not a potent cocktail for NFL offensive success.

This was not in Arizona’s plans. In the glow of the off-season following a 13-3 record, there were visions of Palmer and Fitzgerald hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year amid a swirl of confetti, bathed in a cascade of cheers, savoring a moment on the mountaintop before the twilight of their careers was snuffed out by the talents and desires of younger men. Instead there are retirement murmurs and the Cardinals sit at 4-6-1, needing a winning streak like Secretariat’s just to make the playoffs with five games left.

Any run for the postseason must begin this afternoon at 1:25 p.m. PST, when the Cardinals square off against the visiting Redskins. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is the second biggest story to come out of Washington since November 8th. At 28 years old and in a contract year, Cousins has quietly emerged as one of the best QBs in the NFL. He’s thrown for over 3,500 yards, and he’s just 47 yards from surpassing Drew Brees for the NFL lead. He’s also just a tick behind Brees with 322 passing yards per game, and has one of the best QB ratings in the league. The ‘Skins are 6-4-1 despite losing their first two games, and Cousins dropped 449 passing yards on Dallas last week. Sporting News writes that we should not be surprised if Cousins becomes the highest paid player in the game next year.

The Cardinals’ defense has performed admirably, and they know they must stop Cousins today and operate at peak efficiency the rest of season. This stat leaps off the page: they’ve allowed the fewest yards per game in the NFL. Impressive, but a closer examination reveals that Arizona has allowed 20.7 points per game, which ranks a more pedestrian 11th. The Cardinals’ offense is averaging just over 22 points per game, and even the math-impaired can discern that at this rate, every win will be hard-earned.

Whatever the result today, with 19 yards Larry Fitzgerald would move into the NFL’s top ten in all-time receiving yards—and with eight catches, he would stand third in receptions. Those close to Larry will tell you he’d gladly trade those personal milestones for a win. Same goes for the gathered throng in University of Phoenix Stadium today. With a loss, the Cardinals’ playoff hopes would die along with the late afternoon light in the Sonoran desert.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals Pause, Reflect, and Return to War

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Christmas Truce – The Illustrated London News

As dawn broke on Christmas morning, 1914, entrenched British troops on the Western Front of World War I heard singing from the German side, across no man’s land, accompanied by a brass band. Soon after, German soldiers rose and walked toward the British side, calling out “Merry Christmas.” Eyeing them with suspicion but noticing the troops were unarmed, British soldiers lowered their rifles and took to the field themselves, their linguists calling out “Fröhliche Weihnachten.” Plum puddings and cigarettes were exchanged, carols were sung, and a soccer game broke out. The “Christmas Truce” was a welcome respite from the brutality of the Great War.

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off their much-needed bye week, a ceasefire in the hostilities of a long NFL season. The Cards sit at a disappointing 3-4-1, but some wounds are healing, such as speedy WR John Brown’s achy legs after treatment following diagnosis of the sickle cell trait. All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu was expected to be out several more weeks with a shoulder injury, but the Honey Badger was observed prowling the practice field this week. He’ll miss today’s home game against the 49ers, but his progress is encouraging.

Another beneficiary of the week off may have been Chandler “The Cat” Catanzaro, the Cardinals’ beleaguered placekicker. Cats are not known for their kicking, except perhaps for certain European breeds, but Catanzaro performed well last year, converting every kick from 46 yards and in. This season he missed game-winners in weeks one and seven, the latter a chip shot against rival Seattle that now surely visits his dreams. Arizona GM Steve Keim could be forgiven if over the break he had auditioned former NFL kickers, a couple of Rockettes and a mule.

To clear his head, Catanzaro retreated home to South Carolina during the break to visit family and friends and to “self-medicate.” No word on the nature of the medication but Cardinals Nation is praying for its potency.

Coach Bruce Arians and his staff settled in over the bye week to review game video, noshing and gnashing and trying to solve the puzzle of an underperforming offense. The films are unlikely to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but they may reveal clues to a team that has fallen from number one in offense last season to 16th this year.

Even to the naked eye, the receiving corps has vastly underachieved after being one of the league’s most feared units last season. Michael Floyd has declared himself a top receiver in the NFL, but his numbers (19 catches, three TD’s, multiple drops) have yet to reflect that in the last year of his rookie contract. Larry Fitzgerald has gone 15 games without a 100-yard effort, his longest such streak since 2004.

Field General Carson Palmer simply hasn’t looked like himself all year. He’s been slowed by ailments and he hasn’t connected on the big plays that lit up scoreboards last year. The Cardinals aim for at least five “explosive” plays per game—22 yards or more—but that feature of their attack has been muffled so far. It doesn’t help that 6’8”, 321 pound offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is on injured reserve with a torn tricep, giving Palmer a tick less time to throw.

Arizona continues to lean heavily on running back David Johnson, the only player in the NFL with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this season. And despite its share of injuries, the defense has sparkled, allowing the fewest yards in the league.

Arizona hosts the 1-7 San Francisco 49ers today at University of Phoenix Stadium, which may be just the tonic to settle the nerves. It’s a must-win game for a team still stocked with talent and with playoff aspirations. After today, the Cardinals set off on a lengthy road peppered with land mines—three early games in the Eastern Time Zone, a looming skirmish in Seattle, and five of their last seven contests away from the comforts of home.

After a welcome break, it’s back to business for Arizona today at 1:25 p.m. PST for the season’s second half. Cardinals Nation is hoping it only faintly resembles the first.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer is not Tom Brady

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Ah, 2015.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer dominated opposing defenses last season—and players, coaches and fans clustered around his reflected glow like desert moths. He was the brightest light in a constellation brimming with talent and confidence. The Cardinals regularly occupied opponents’ end zones after precision air and land attacks, and Palmer drove the offense to a 30 points per game average. He finished with 35 touchdowns and a league-best quarterback rating of 104.6.

Enter 2016.

To the surprise of some, it now seems that Palmer is human after all. He has underthrown too many receivers this season, causing some observers to question his arm strength. And he has fumbled three times in his four games. There are murmurs that he has committed the great sin of being 36 years old in a young man’s league, and a glance at his birth certificate confirms it.

But savvy observers know that Palmer hasn’t hit full stride yet, nor enjoyed his full complement of weapons. The offense has missed the presence of Pro-Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who remains out. Speedy wideout John Brown was hurt early in the year and has yet to sync up with Palmer. And receiver Michael Floyd has vanished like Blockbuster Video, or perhaps civility in this political season. Floyd’s disappearance has put more pressure on Larry Fitzgerald to carry the receiving load.

Then there’s the unpleasant business of the Los Angeles Rams summarily slamming Palmer’s head into the turf in week four, putting him into the league’s mysterious concussion protocol and forcing him to sit out the October 6th game against San Francisco. His numbers this season are downright unPalmerian—six TDs against five interceptions—and the Cardinals have crawled out of the blocks with a 2-3 mark. But capable backup Drew Stanton led the Cards to a win against the 49ers, and Palmer is now back on the field.

Despite his slow start, faith in Palmer abounds, from GM Steve Keim to Coach Bruce Arians and all through the locker room. 36 years old? So what? Tom Brady is 38 years old, and he’s still performing at a high level on the field—and likely at home. Face it: Tom Brady married supermodel Gisele Bündchen and you didn’t. What did Brady do after being suspended for air pressure transgressions? Flew to Rome with Gisele and sunbathed nude, to the delight of the Paparazzi. What did Carson Palmer do when he missed time with a mild concussion? He studied the playbook.

Carson Palmer is not Tom Brady. And neither are you.

Still, Palmer has the resume, the tools, and the horses around him to lift the Cardinals out of their sluggish start and into contention.

Arizona hosts the New York Jets this evening under the lights. The Monday Night game has given Palmer an extra day to clear his head, and given the coaches more time to dig into the playbook and try to unearth remnants of last year’s offensive wizardry. Vegas likes the spot, installing the Cards as a touchdown favorite.

Fans have grown restless for the brand of success Arizona enjoyed last year. There is a faint gloom in the collective mood so far this season. The dust devils that swirl up from the desert floor seem more ominous. Cactus flowers seem duller.

Still—for Palmer, the Cardinals and their fans, there is hope. Stubborn, imperishable hope.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals, Week Two: Back on Track or Panic Time?

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Arizona’s last-second game-winning 46 yard field goal attempt in Sunday night’s opener was a four-step process: Low snap, late hold, wide left, heads hung.

Kicker Chandler Catanzaro had converted 100% of his kicks from that distance and closer last season. Not this time, and the Cardinals sputtered out of the 2016 gate with a 23-21 loss to the visiting Patriots. Without offensive stalwarts Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Coach Bill Belichick had tricks up his sleeve—he’s Houdini in a hoodie—and too often he left the Cardinals mystified. Damage had been done well before that kick.

After the disappointing result, many Arizona fans fashioned a two-step process of their own:

Step one: Locate panic button.
Step two: Press it, with vigor.

Catanzaro’s wide-swinger was the final act of a special teams unit that was sub-par all day. The return game offered little. Punts were short. Coach Bruce Arians will tell you that, and he’ll regale you with tales of poor tackling, missed assignments, third down defensive laxness, vanishing receivers, lack of sustained offensive flow, and much more. Monday morning, GM Steve Keim used words like “disappointed” and “embarrassed” when he assessed the effort.

Still, Arizona came within a whisker of beating the vaunted Patriots and helping to wipe away the foul memory of last year’s NFC Championship smack down at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.

Don’t press that button just yet, folks.

Keep it handy though, just in case. Tampa Bay’s wunderkind QB Jameis Winston rolls into town today with his aerial circus in tow. Winston is fresh off Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 23 of 32 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a Buccaneers win over the Falcons last week. Arizona’s cornerbacks will have their hands full as Winston slings it to talented Buc receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, who are both tall and can stretch the field.

The Cardinals’ mood is more anger than panic. They aim to prove they still belong in conversations about the NFL elite.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  1. More touches for running back David Johnson. Johnson gained 89 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for a 10.8 yard average last week. Johnson may be the most elusive 225 pounder on the planet and he can plow over you if needed. He has a flair for first downs and touchdowns. Get him the ball.
  2. Help Larry. Larry Fitzgerald hauled in eight catches last week and scored twice. He has sticky hands and he’ll be in Canton someday. But he needs some help right now. Michael Floyd caught three passes last week. No other Cardinal wide receiver caught more than one.
  3. Boost Brandon Williams’ confidence. The rookie cornerback won the job in the preseason, though it would likely be Justin Bethel’s if he wasn’t playing with pain in his surgically-repaired foot. Williams blew a coverage and misplayed a pass last week, both leading to Patriots scores. Tampa Bay will want to throw his way, and the Cards will have to play more zone to help Williams.

KNITTING DOG SWEATERS
The following players will be unavailable Sunday and may be otherwise occupied:

Frostee Rucker, DT (knee).
Kareem Martin, LB (knee).

The season is young, but this feels like a pivotal game for Arizona. A win over Tampa Bay makes the Patriots game a blip. A loss makes it a trend.

Fans: If you need to push that panic button, please wipe the BBQ sauce off your fingers first. It’s mannerly, and simply good hygiene.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation