ARIZONA CARDINALS

Hard Knocks recap: Cardinals focused on getting most out of final stretch

Dec 21, 2022, 10:51 PM
Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals leaves the field during the third quarter in the game again...
Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals leaves the field during the third quarter in the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on December 18, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals were back on HBO’s Hard Knocks for Episode 6 on Wednesday night, and the message around the team for the final stretch of the season was loud and clear.

The playoffs are out of reach, so Arizona’s coaches and players stressed getting the most out of the final four games throughout Week 14.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who had much of the spotlight in this episode, framed it as being selfish. He told players to take time to study, play as hard as they can, leave no doubt about their abilities, help Arizona win games and strive to earn a contract or become a starter.

He noted early in the episode that momentum toward 2023 is possible.

Quarterback Colt McCoy said motivations for players include their jobs and each other.

J.J. Watt in a team huddle after Friday’s practice ahead of Sunday’s Broncos matchup told his teammates that the end of the season will test them as pros.

“We’re out of the playoffs and we’re not where we want to be,” Watt said. “Who are you when the cards are against you? Are you skipping lifts, showing up late, blowing off meetings? Or are you still doing what you need to do as a professional?

“Take care of business … we’re out here still trying to win football games.”

Bidwill addresses team

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill spoke to the team at the beginning of the episode regarding general manager Steve Keim’s health-related leave of absence.

The owner said he did not know how long Keim’s absence would last but explained that vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson will split GM responsibilities for at least the rest of the season.

McBride back home

Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride’s return to his home state of Colorado was a prominent storyline in the episode. Cameras caught him talking about his hometown of Fort Morgan and how it was so small that Wendy’s was a date spot.

McBride grew up going to Broncos games, starred at Colorado State where won the Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end. He had friends and family who were Broncos fans at Sunday’s game rooting for Arizona, including his parents who were decked out in Cardinals gear.

With Zach Ertz out for the season, McBride said he felt a responsibility to fill very large shoes.

Tight ends coach Steve Heiden told him in a meeting room that he was no longer looked at as a rookie and there were no room for mental errors. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told him to play faster in practice.

McBride had four grabs for 55 yards on Sunday, a career-high for yards and second on the team behind DeAndre Hopkins.

Joseph’s walks

The episode started with Joseph on a walk with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and cornerbacks coach Greg Williams early in the morning in Tempe before the sun rose, a regular occurrence with the DC to reflect on the season with peers, the show explained.

“These years are so precious, man, you can’t walk by any opportunity to prove your worth in the league,” Joseph said. “That’s our job, to spell a future for these players and coach them through it … If you can push through these last four weeks and play better ball in all three phases, it is going to benefit you.”

Hard Knocks dove into Joseph’s psyche at this point in the season and ahead of returning to Denver, where he was a head coach for two years.

Of that, he said what he’s explained before, that he felt he did not get ample time to right the ship but appreciated the opportunity and has no ill will.

He also spoke about his football past, from backup quarterback at Colorado to a defensive back in the NFL. He said his history on offense has helped his career on the other side of the ball.

Joseph’s walk after the loss in Denver closed out the episode. He said he did not get back from the trip until 11:30 p.m. the night before but was up for work at 4:30 a.m. When his wife asked why, he said because they have to win a game.

Watt’s throwback showing

Watt said he felt like his 2015 self on Sunday, as he racked up three sacks and a forced fumble in the first half of a dominant performance.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year said in the locker room before the team ran out that he wanted to see some juice, and he provided more than his fair share.

“You Hall of Famer,” Joseph said to him after the strip sack.

After the 24-15 defeat, Watt told his teammates to not let up, work toward next season and fight for each other over the final three weeks.

Quick hits

  • The Cardinals had three available corners Sunday due to injuries, and Christian Matthew went down during the game. Hopkins offered to fill in if needed.
  • Kyler Murray was at the Cardinals facility on crutches, and QB coach Cam Turner said the injury is the toughest thing Murray has gone through.
  • Defensive tackle Leki Fotu made waffles from scratch for the defensive line room one by one. They looked pretty good.

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Hard Knocks recap: Cardinals focused on getting most out of final stretch