TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s not a well-kept secret that the Cardinals have struggled against tight ends.
St. Louis’ Jared Cook, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis have torched the team for a combined six touchdowns and 455 yards, while Carolina’s Greg Olsen (five catches, 79 yards) and Seattle’s Zach Miller (five catches, TD) also had good days.
Next up: Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, whose importance to the club has been magnified since a season-ending injury to receiver Julio Jones.
Gonzalez was set to retire but decided to return when the Falcons essentially let him skip training camp. He has 24 catches for 276 yards and two TDs in his last three games.
“He’s a great player; he’s a Hall of Famer,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “He’s seen it all — double-(teams), triple-(teams), two high (safeties), one high — he’s seen everything, but with the great quarterback they have, you can’t just key on him, so you’ve got to pick your spots.”
Cardinals players told reporters earlier this week that the struggles have come mainly because of mistakes in coverage and scheme rather than an inability in individual matchups. That’s a well-worn NFL excuse, and it’s one that plays well because mistakes can theoretically always be corrected. But we’re halfway through the season, so if that is indeed the case, why are those mistakes still being made when the cost is so high?
“It’s frustrating as a coach any time you try to practice something and it doesn’t go right, or communicate it and it doesn’t go right,” Bowles said. “We’re working. We’re on the same page. We just have to get it done.”
NO EXCUSES FOR FITZ
Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t fully recovered from a hamstring injury that has been bothering him the last few weeks. But he’s practicing in full again, and he won’t use the injury as an excuse for decreased production.
“Am I where I want to be? No,” said Fitzgerald, who has just 32 catches in seven games. “But I am better than I was, and that’s progress.
“I’m not one to make excuses. I don’t use it as an excuse at all. I have to study harder, I have to run faster, I’ve got to get out of my breaks better. I’ve got to do everything at a higher level, higher sense of urgency and be better for (QB) Carson (Palmer) and the rest of my team. It’s plain and simple.”
LONDON NOT IN THE CARDS
The NFL announced the six teams that will play in London in 2014, the first year when three regular-season games will be held in the city. Despite earlier speculation, the Cardinals will not be one of them.
The Jaguars will host the Cowboys, the Falcons will host the Lions and the Raiders will host the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium.
The Cardinals are scheduled to play at Oakland, and they may play at Atlanta, too, since they are set to face an NFC South team that finishes in the same position in that division as the Cards do in theirs. That created the speculation that Arizona might be one of the teams slated for a trans-Atlantic flight.
Earlier this week, the team signed wide receiver Teddy Williams, released linebacker Kenny Demens (and then re-signed him to the practice squad) and released linebacker Zack Nash from the practice squad.
ROTATING RUNNING BACKS?
On the official injury report, running back Rashard Medenhall (toe) did not practice for a second straight day. During the open portion of practice, he was riding a stationary bike. This latest injury, coupled with Mendenhall’s lack of explosiveness this season and an upcoming bye week have fueled speculation that running back Ryan Williams could finally be active for this Sunday’s game.
If Mendenhall is, in fact, playing through pain in the toe and in a knee on which he has been wearing a brace, this might be a good time to let him rest and heal.
Aside from Mendenhall, guard Daryn Colledge (back) linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) and guard Earl Watford (knee) were upgraded to limited after missing practice Wednesday. Watford missed practice after being rear-ended in a car accident but was back working with the offensive line and on special teams.
Wide receiver Brittan Golden (hamstring), linebacker Karlos Dansby (quad) and running back Alfonso Smith (hamstring) also were limited.
Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) and Jaron Brown (ankle), defensive end Ronald Talley (wrist) and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu (hip) practiced in full. Brown and Ta’amu were limited on Wednesday.