All-Access with Bruce Arians: Solid performances in win over Saints
In this space we will highlight some of what Arians had to say, and Monday he talked about his team following a 31-19 season-opening victory over the New Orleans Saints.
He started with an opening statement:
“After reviewing the film, a lot of good things on the tape and a lot of things we can improve. It’s always nice to win and teach about mistakes. They go down a little bit easier. But overall I thought we really played hard. I thought we had a great week of practice last week and set a good tempo in this ball game the way we practiced. Game balls, Carson (Palmer) and Darren Fells offensively, and Patrick (Peterson) and Ty (Mathieu) on defense.
“I thought our kicking game was solid — it was nice to see our kickoff return. I thought our guys blocked extremely well on it, David (Johnson) brought it out of there pretty good. Punt return, J.J. (Nelson) should have fair caught that last one — that wasn’t a time to try and make anything happen — and he would have had his average where it needed to be, but I think we’ll get better there too.”
Any word yet on Andre Ellington (who left with a knee injury)?
“Andre has a mild sprained PCL. There’s no timetable because it’s so individual. Could be a week, could be three weeks, never know. He’s a very tough guy, we know that. He played last year with a lot worse. It actually happened on the play before when he slammed his knee into the ground, and then as he went to make the cut he knew it wasn’t right. We’ll just wait and see.”
You wouldn’t rule him out for this weekend?
“No. That’s one kid I never rule out until it’s game time.”
If Ellington is out, would Chris Johnson be the starter or would you go running back by committee?
“No, Chris will be the starter. Everybody bumps up a spot.”
How do you feel about the running game in general in Sunday’s win?
“Very pleased. We left a lot of yards out there, though. It should have been easily 150 yards. We missed some holes. We had a couple blocks if we just finished a little bit better we’ll have bigger runs. I thought Andre was very explosive, Chris was decisive. He could see a couple more things. Once we watch the tape, they’ll see where the creases were. Andre made a great run, an 18-yard run on the one counter, but if he takes it around the corner he may go 50. Little things like that. But I thought up front and the tight ends blocked extremely well.”
You don’t want Andre to get hurt, but this is why you have Chris and David Johnson, right?
“We wanted depth in that room, we have it. We don’t want to have to use it, but hopefully it’s just a very short-term thing.”
Between the run game and the pass blocking, did the offensive line exceed expectations?
“Yes and no. There were still too many pressures, but overall Carson did a good job moving in the pocket, his eyes were in the right spot so he was able to avoid and get out of there. But we can do a better job in both.”
How did Earl Watford do?
“Earl did fine. His first start, he gave up a couple pressures against a really good player. But overall he battled. He really helps us in the running game because he’s so athletic.”
Is there concern over Andre Ellington continually dealing with injuries?
“No. No, it’s just part of playing running back in the National Football League.”
How did Jonathan Cooper play?
“Coop was solid. He had the one penalty. Again, he got tossed on a pull one time, he got his feet crossed up. But overall he was solid for a good start for him.”
How did you decide how to play your middle linebackers, Kevin Minter and Sean Weatherspoon?
“It was just by feel. Kevin was playing extremely well, Spoon went in, gave him a blow a couple times.”
Making plays in the fourth quarter to win the game is becoming a trademark, how does that happen?
“I think it speaks to the character of the team. We’ve talked about it from Day 1 of finishing games. Most game in this league are decided in the fourth quarter, if you want to be a contender every year you’ve got to win the fourth quarter.”
When did you develop your penchant for having an aggressive style of play calling?
“I guess the first time I ever started. Same way I play golf. I don’t lay up. Hit a lot of balls in the water, but you ain’t going to hit a great shot if you don’t try.”
Do you have more freedom to be like that now that you are a coach and not a coordinator?
“Oh yeah, that’s an easy question. Hell yeah, I ain’t got nobody to answer to but Michael.”
Do you see A.Q. Shipley getting more opportunities this year, maybe as an extra blocker on the line?
“He has that ability, and he did a hell of a job on that goal line play, he knocked the middle linebacker backwards. So yeah, Q’s a good football player. We can use him all the time.”
Was there a time in practice or games last year when you knew Darren Fells would be a solid blocker?
“Yeah, probably Week 7 or 8 after the open date. (Assistant tight ends coach) Steve Heiden said he’s really starting to get it, and he still can get so much better. He got whiffed one time when a guy jumped out of the way and then he got a little tentative coming off the ball. Just keep coming off the ball, don’t worry about. But he’s still getting experience every time he goes out there.”
If Chris Johnson plays well, could he take the starting RB job away from Ellington?
“It will always be a 1-2 punch. Who starts, who doesn’t, doesn’t matter to me who’s getting the carries.”
How did Chris Johnson look to you?
“I thought he was fine. He hit his holes. He missed one on a play he’s not used to running, but overall he was solid.”
Jermaine (Gresham) made a crushing block on a big Darren Fells catch.
“Yeah, he did a very smart thing. They’ve changed the rules on peelback blocks, you can only hit him from the numbers to the waist basically and he came back, peeled back and shoved the one guy right into the other guy and got his body, so he got two guys with one. That was a big block and extended that play for about 20 more yards, so that was a huge play for him.”
What does that say about your tight end position as a whole?
“I’ve always said I thought our tight end room was really good, and Jermaine’s just a piece of the puzzle. Troy (Niklas) got in there for a couple plays on the goal line and the last play when David (Johnson) scored did well. So we have a solid room at tight end.”
Was D.J. Humphries being inactive a numbers issue or is he not ready for action?
“You can’t dress them all. Somebody’s got to sit down. He was not ready.”
So you’re more comfortable with Bradley at that swing tackle spot over Humphries?
“It could be him this week.”
Could you see an expanded role for David Johnson in the backfield?
“In time, in time. I don’t want to put too much pressure or take rookies and give them too much piece of the pie too early, they have to earn it. It’s not healthy to put him in that situation too much. They’ll earn it. If they’re ready for it, you put them in there. But they’ve still got to earn it.”
Chris Johnson said Friday he’s still learning the pass offense, how would things change with him?
“He’s a different pass receiver than Andre or David, and we would use him differently.”
On trying to keep RBs from bouncing runs to the outside but then knowing that bouncing outside would have led to a big gain. Do the backs ever get frustrated with that?
“No, because the reads tell you that. When the guy’s heads inside, you go outside. It’s real simple.”
If you have to use David and Chris Johnson in the backfield for an extended period of time, how does that change the offense?
“Really not much. Andre obviously is very, very explosive in the passing game and he showed in the running game. But I think both those guys can pick up that slack easily and are more than qualified.”
Will you see if Andre can go Wednesday or will you give him multiple days off?
“It’ll be up to him. If he can practice Friday then he could play.”
If no Ellington would you activate Kerwynn Williams?
“We’d have to make a lot of roster moves in a hurry, so it’s a possibility but I’m fine with playing three (running backs).”
After watching the tape, Patrick Peterson had a pretty good game?
“Outstanding, I thought. The short yardage fades are a really tough route and it was a great throw by Drew (Brees) so he was going to hit one of those. I thought he shut him down pretty good.”
The trouble on screen and swing passes, what happened?
“Our outside linebackers were supposed to be peeling when we’re blitzing up the middle, they’re supposed to peel on the backs and they just kept on blitzing. And then two of them on the screen passes were really good offensive plays that Sean (Payton) got on us, but that’s going to happen. The great thing was we hustled down the field, we tackled them and they kicked a field goal.”
Darren Fells had a record-setting performance Sunday. Was that Palmer looking for the open guy or Fells being a mismatch with his basketball background?
“A little bit of both. He was the primary receiver on the one that he took down the sideline across the field and Jermaine got the block. He’s always in the passing game, backside one-on-one he’s a heck of a threat. So Carson just found him in the right time where the coverage was dictating. Like I’ve said, we don’t design plays to go to guys — that leads to interceptions. Throw where the coverage tells you to throw it.”
Did the Saints do anything different in the second half to take away John Brown?
“Other than holding? No. He was getting tackled a lot, but no.”
Larry Fitzgerald with a regular Larry Fitzgerald game?
“Yeah, Larry had a good — especially fourth quarter. We had him open for a big one and we didn’t block it correctly and Andre got stuck on the outside backer, or we’ve got at least a 50-yarder if not a touchdown.”
Larry said Carson has to know he doesn’t have John Brown or J.J. Nelson speed.
“Yeah, yeah. Carson was under a lot of duress and just heaved it. But with a fraction of a second that’s a big play. Fitz ran a great route.”
What caused the confusion on the punt where you had too many men on the field?
“They were going to go for it so we had a defense out there. We had a three way — defense stays on the field, field goal block and punt return. We had a punt safe on, so Patrick was going back with just a couple guys ran on because the field goal kicker started to run on and then nobody realized who was out there and I should have called time out.”