Gameday leftovers: Cardinals praise OLB gang; DT Phillips has setback
We are that Paul Rudd meme at this point of watching the Arizona Cardinals’ pass-rush for 13 games.
You know, the meme that came from Rudd’s visit to the “Hot Ones” set.
“Hey, look at us. Who would’ve thought?” Rudd said as his face physically steamed from eating too many hot wings. “Not me.”
Remember how last year we couldn't stop watching that Paul Rudd Look at Us video pic.twitter.com/dJdIgDWTaV
— Emily Cummings (@emilyrcummings) December 7, 2020
Us neither — not after watching the Cardinals tee off on New York Giants quarterbacks for eight sacks on Sunday.
Heading into Week 5, Chandler Jones led the NFL in total sacks since he joined the Cardinals before the 2016 season. He went down in Week 5 with a biceps injury having just one sack this year.
Look now, and through Week 14, Arizona has 37 sacks on the year. It’s the sixth-highest total in the NFL.
With a pressure rate of 24.7%, the Cardinals are tied for third.
Much credit goes to the outside linebacker group that’s helped replace the production lost with Jones’ season-ending injury.
“It’s been fun to watch those guys really take the next step, if you will,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “Charlie Bullen there, our outside linebackers coach, has really rallied those troops and done a great job with that group. They have that group mentality where it’s not about who gets there, it’s just about getting there. It’s been awesome.”
It helped juice the season stats that Haason Reddick set a franchise record with five sacks on Sunday in the 26-7 win over the Giants.
Reddick now has 10 sacks on the year — he’s one of six players league-wide with double-digit sacks as of Monday morning — to go with 16.5 tackles for loss.
Little-used backup Dennis Gardeck is second on Arizona with five sacks, and eight Cardinals have two each, including outside backers Markus Golden and Devon Kennard.
For @BurnsAndGambo crew, via PFF: Dennis Gardeck almost exclusively plays on pass downs (59 of 69 total snaps).
5 sacks, 3 QB hits, 5 QB hurries.
That is pressure on 18.9% of all snaps and 22% of passing downs. It is lot of the time.
— Kevin Zimmerman (@KZimmermanAZ) December 14, 2020
Kingsbury said Bullen’s effort to learn his players at a personal level has helped the Cardinals get the best out of that position group.
“First and foremost, they know that he cares about them,” Kingsbury said. “He puts a lot of passion into each and every one of those guys trying to find out what makes them tick, how to get the most out of them and they feel that. When you watch the way he works the drills, the way he works the meetings, he just has a lot of passion for the game, and it rubs off on those guys that he’s coaching.”
Haason Reddick gets teared up
Just because this might’ve been missed, here’s FOX catching Reddick’s emotions catching up to him after the game.
.@Haason7Reddick was emotional on the sidelines after breaking a @AZCardinals franchise record with 5 sacks today 🙏 pic.twitter.com/55AIG45o2G
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 13, 2020
DT Phillips out vs. Eagles
Cardinals defensive lineman Jordan Phillips came off injured reserve this week and played four snaps before he reinjured his hamstring.
It will keep him out on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Kingsbury said.
“We definitely did not anticipate him getting hurt again,” the head coach added. “It’s unfortunate. He worked really hard to come back and had looked really good in practice.
“He’s a great person, been a great teammate and I know he’s down that he won’t be able to play this week. We’ll kind of go from there with that situation.”
Cardinals take advantage of injured Giants QB Jones
Arizona teed up on Giants quarterback Daniel Jones for six sacks on Sunday, and while the Cardinals knew he was coming off a hamstring injury, they didn’t know the severity.
Kingsbury told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta that it was clear Jones wasn’t himself before the game even started.
“Warmups, you could tell he couldn’t really get through his throws like you see it on tape,” Kingsbury said. “We knew he was going to try to tough it out. He still had plenty of arm, he’s still a very effective pocket passer.
“I have a ton of respect for him the way he tried to attack that game and tough it out, but it definitely limited his game in some ways.”
Jones went 11-of-21 for 127 yards and lost one of his three fumbles. It was his first game he didn’t record a rushing attempt.
Cleaning it up
The Cardinals might be able to clean up their third downs after converting 7 of 18 against the Giants on Sunday, but they also got 14 of their 22 first downs on early downs.
Part of it was penalties. Arizona had four for only 22 yards.
Part of it was giving up a single sack of quarterback Kyler Murray.
Either way, early down success was a step in the right direction for the Cardinals offense, even if it did struggle in the red zone.
“I felt like we stayed on schedule for the most part, which definitely helps in that regard,” Kingsbury said. “I’m not sure if we had a sack on first down, which is a huge plus and for the most part limited our penalties.
“I felt like our guys executed. That’s a tough front, and some of those runs weren’t popping early, but our guys continued to battle and kept us on schedule late in the game.”
Kicking conundrum ahead?
While the Cardinals might let on to the status of kicker Zane Gonzalez later this week, they can celebrate one game of success without him. The starter was scratched from the game on Saturday due to a back injury, and backup Mike Nugent didn’t need to knock off any rust.
Nugent, a 15-year NFL veteran, knocked in all four field goal attempts, which were each inside 40 yards.
“I was really excited for Mike,” Kingsbury said after the game. “I was a teammate of Mike’s in New York with the Jets (in 2005) and so I’ve known him for a long time, so to see him come back to New York and have that type of afternoon was awesome.
“He’s been great since he’s been here, brings great energy, veteran presence to the building, so I couldn’t be more impressed by the way he handled that today. Zane had the back injury this week and so we have to get back and see kind of what his status is.”