Dealing Cards: Offensive line must man up, Peterson returning punts

Sep 28, 2017, 7:19 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2017, 11:14 am
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. – The offensive line of the Arizona Cardinals is under fire, and not just by fans and media. When it comes to that five-man unit, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin doesn’t mince words.

“Everybody is probably licking their chops to get to my offensive line right now, so I guess I’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better,” he said Thursday.

And when it comes to the on-field play, it’s simple, according to Goodwin.

“It’s no magic pill. It’s just man versus man,” he said.

The entire offensive line has been beaten at one time or another this season, but no player has lost his one-on-one battle more often than right tackle Jared Veldheer. The transition from left tackle, where he played his previous seven seasons, has been a difficult one. It’s led many to think out loud that perhaps Veldheer should return to the left side.

“Why is the pass rush different on the left than it is the right?” Goodwin asked rhetorically, before adding, “I don’t buy into the excuses of left or right. At the end of the day, to be honest with you, it’s me and you in a parking lot, which is every snap in one-on-one pass rush situations, who’s going to kick whose [expletive]. Period. Alright? Technique is involved, but at the end of the day, at a certain point, I’m going to drop and I’m going to kick your butt. I’m not going to take it anymore. So, we’ve got to man-up there a little bit.

“(Veldheer) is doing his best as he can. He’s got to do better. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re left side, right side; everybody is a little bit comfortable on every snap. You got to persevere and you got to win, that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Goodwin said he and Veldheer talked this week in his office. Part of their discussion included film study with Goodwin showing Veldheer tape of him last year at left tackle compared to him this year at right tackle.

“What he claims is deficiencies on the right are the same deficiencies on the left,” said Goodwin, who mentioned Veldheer must use his hands better.

Injuries have also affected the offensive line.

Starters D.J. Humphries and Mike Iupati have each missed the past two weeks, while their backups at left tackle and left guard, respectively, both got hurt against Dallas on Monday. Tackle John Wetzel is dealing with a bicep issue and Alex Boone suffered a chest injury which has kept him off the practice field the past two days.

Humphries and Iupati hope to play Sunday.

“I don’t really care who’s out there,” Goodwin said. “There’s a certain expectation we have when you play this game to protect the quarterback and run the football, so it could be you, it could be, we got to get the job done and so far we haven’t gotten it done and we got to get it done.”

Finding Fitz

The 13 catches by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Monday were his most since 2015. Four of those receptions went for 16 or more yards, with a long of 37 to help set up his third-quarter touchdown, the 105th of his career.

The week prior at Indianapolis, Fitzgerald had only three catches.

“I’m good with whatever (head coach Bruce Arians) decides to do,” Fitzgerald said Thursday. “Whatever role he has for me, I’m just going to do the best I can to play that role and try to help my team.”

Those 13 catches, by the way, came on 15 targets, a number that even surprised Goodwin.

“It snuck up on me. I really didn’t realize it was that many balls,” he said. “The thing about Larry, he’s a competitor. He likes getting the ball but at the end of the day, he wants to win just like we want to win. But, Larry is a big part of our offense. B.A. does certain things to get him the ball and he showed up the other night. He made plays. Every time we came his way, he made it.”

P2 on punt return

After Dallas went 3-and-out on its third possession of the second half on Monday, it was Patrick Peterson, not Kerwynn Williams, who took the field to return the punt. The kick went out of bounds, probably by design upon seeing Peterson back there, according to Arians.

Two more times Peterson got himself ready for a punt, fielding one for no gain.

“I’m just always eager to just touch the ball with me being kind of an offensive-minded guy playing defense. I feel that it’s special — anything is liable to happen when 21 is back there and have an opportunity to return the ball,” he said. “And coach does a great job of keeping me in tune of when he’s thinking about putting me back there in certain situations.”

Robert Nkemdiche hurt (again)

The name Robert Nkemdiche showed up on the Cardinals injury report Thursday. The second-year defensive tackle was limited with a calf issue, a problem he dealt with in training camp.

Otherwise, the same seven players who were limited Wednesday were once again limited Thursday: Humphries (knee), Iupati (tricep), Wetzel (bicep), wide receiver John Brown (quadriceps), tight end Jermaine Gresham (ribs), linebacker Chandler Jones and wide receiver J.J. Nelson (bicep).

For the 49ers, starting safety Eric Reid (knee) and rookie linebacker Reuben Foster (ankle) did not practice for the second straight day, while linebacker Pita Taumoepenu (ankle) missed Thursday’s work. Also, linebacker Brock Coyle (concussion), running back Carlos Hyde (hip), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (concussion) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (concussion) were limited.

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Dealing Cards: Offensive line must man up, Peterson returning punts