Cardinals off to fast start, but line changes loom
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have scored a league-best 79 points in two games. They have scored 11 touchdowns and are a perfect seven TDs in seven appearances in the red zone. They haven’t allowed a sack.
At 2-0, the Cardinals are alone in first in the NFC West with a chance to add some distance between their pursuers with upcoming home games against conference foes San Francisco and St. Louis.
But as good as the team has been, some changes could be coming this week on the offensive line.
Left guard Mike Iupati, a major free-agent acquisition in the offseason, has been out since tearing the meniscus in his left knee in training camp but might be back to face his former 49ers teammates.
”Yeah, I would think he’d want to get in to this one,” coach Bruce Arians said on Monday, ”his style of game, too.”
In Iupati’s absence, the left guard has been Ted Larsen, the starter at the position all of last season.
Another starter from last year, Bobby Massie, is eligible to return after being suspended for two weeks for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Arians planned to meet with general manager Steve Keim and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to discuss whether Massie will replace Earl Watford, the starter the first two games.
Arians said Watford ”played solid” in his first two NFL starts.
”He is giving up too many hits on the quarterback, but he is really helping our running game,” the coach said. ”For him to do the job he did I thought was outstanding. Whether it was good enough for him to maintain it, we will see.”
Arians saw much to like in his team’s 48-23 victory over the Bears in Chicago on Sunday. He opened his Monday news conference mentioning the achievements of David Johnson and receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Johnson became the first player to score on a pass reception, kickoff return and running play in his first two NFL games. The rookie’s 108-yard kickoff return to open the Bears game was the longest play in Cardinals history and matched the second-longest ever in the NFL.
Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 112 yards, becoming the 10th player in NFL history to top 12,000 yards receiving and 90 touchdowns. His three TD catches gave him 92, moving him to 11th on the all-time list.
”You always want to take time when something like that happens and acknowledge it,” Arians said, ”because history of the game is a damn long time.”
Johnson, a third-round draft pick from Northern Iowa, added a 13-yard touchdown run on Sunday. In the season-opening win against New Orleans, Johnson caught a 55-yard touchdown pass the first time he touched the ball in a play from scrimmage. He said on Monday that he had signed his jersey from the Bears game and it was sent to the NFL Hall of Fame.
”It was an amazing feeling,” he said. ”I was just there. … I was thinking about myself maybe down the road of hopefully being in there, and two weeks in the season it already happening is a great feeling.”
Johnson said he didn’t realize at first how deep he was in the end zone when he took the opening kickoff.
”If I see great leverage and great blocking from my teammates, I’m definitely going to take it out,” he said.
Arians gave the special teams game ball to the entire kickoff return team because of the great blocking on Johnson’s run.
Carson Palmer completed 17 of 24 for only 185 yards but four went for touchdowns. He was intercepted for the first time this season, compared with seven TD passes. Palmer won his eighth straight game, the longest active streak in the NFL and the most by a Cardinals quarterback since Ray Mallouf won 10 straight in 1948.
The Cardinals are 15-2 in Palmer’s last 17 starts.
Notes: Arizona is 18-4 under Arians in games against teams outside the NFC West. … Arians said rookie wide receiver J.J. Nelson is out two to four weeks with an injured shoulder. … Arians said the defensive breakdown that led to Chicago’s first touchdown was a missed assignment by cornerback Patrick Peterson, who later intercepted a pass. … The 48 points were the most by the Cardinals in a road game in 50 years.
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