Dealing Cards: Defense responds well to Arians’ criticism

Dec 2, 2016, 3:26 PM

Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Kevin Minter (51) in the first half during an NFL football game...

Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Kevin Minter (51) in the first half during an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — On Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians offered up some strong — and perhaps even controversial — words about his defense.

In explaining the disappointment he feels in having some players who, as he put it, were more focused on getting in the stat sheet than doing their job, he said, “That’s the selfishness instead of selflessness that has crept in.”

Responses from players varied from some, like Tony Jefferson, deferring to their coach with the idea that he knows more than they do, to others, like Patrick Peterson, who offered up no comment.

However the players took it and regardless of what they truly felt about their coach’s words, what matters now is how they respond.

And according to Arians, he was pleased with what he saw.

“Wednesday’s practice was outstanding,” he said. “I love this team’s work ethic. I never have to [explitive] about work ethic. They come to work Wednesday to Saturday. It’s a shame it hasn’t all showed up on Sundays, but I couldn’t ask anymore of them on the field, in the classroom, than what they’re giving.”

The issue of the Cardinals being unable to translate strong practices to good games has been a theme lately, with Arians praising their work on a week-to-week basis only to then have to talk about another defeat come Sunday.

It’s part of what has added to the frustration.

“You feel frustrated and they feel frustrated because they are working so hard,” the coach conceded.

The challenge for them is channeling that frustration, be it with their performance, their situation or even their coach, into something positive.

If the first step was moving past their coach’s criticism, then it looks like the Cardinals may be on their way.

“When the head man kind of gets on you, you definitely got to respond,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “We approached this week really focused, ready to kind of impose our will. We felt like — I’ve said this before — we haven’t played to our potential all season, and this will be a great matchup. These guys are high right now; it’d be nice for us to pull this W off.”

Injury update

The final injury report for Week 13 can be found here, and for the Cardinals, safety Tyrann Mathieu is listed as “doubtful.”

Arians said the shoulder Mathieu hurt against Carolina that kept him out of a couple games before he returned last week against Atlanta got sore. If he does not play, fellow safety Tyvon Branch, who is returning from injured reserve this week, will take many of his snaps, with Marcus Cooper also getting some.

The only other Cardinal whose status for Sunday is in doubt is receiver John Brown, who practiced in a limited basis Thursday and Friday as he deals with his sickle-cell trait.

“It’s a matter of when his oxygen depletes, and you never know,” Arians said. “The biggest thing right now is monitoring how many plays he plays in a row.”

A meeting of the players

The Cardinals held a team meeting Wednesday, one that was organized by players. There has been no word on how many showed up and who spoke, though on Thursday, cornerback Patrick Peterson said he was one of the veterans who had something to say.

The message, he said, was about making sure everyone understands the team still has a chance to make the playoffs and therefore it is important to finish the season strong.

“It’s usually when you’re losing, or somebody got in trouble or something, and they stand up and you talk about all the things the young guys have,” Arians said of players meetings. “I don’t think we’ve had one of those collective team meetings in three years.”

Arians said it is normal for QB Carson Palmer to lead offensive meetings and for Peterson to handle the defense, but noted these kind of things normally don’t happen when a team is winning.

So, will it lead to better play?

“You always see on Sunday,” Arians said. “I have not been a part of too many team meetings.”

Fall behind, lose the run

Much was made of the fact that David Johnson had just 13 rushing attempts in the 38-19 loss to the Falcons, though when asked about that, Arians talked about how the Cardinals fell behind quickly and had to abandon the run.

And to be fair, just because they abandoned the run did not mean they gave up on Johnson, who ultimately led the team with eight catches on 11 targets.

But in a perfect world, Johnson would be less of a receiver and more of a running back. The Cardinals just have to keep things close (or have a lead).

“It doesn’t matter what team it is, last year’s team, 10 years ago’s team, you don’t want to get behind and have somebody rushing the passer on you,” Arians said. “That’s the biggest thing about every week, developing a running game so that you’re not one-dimensional.”

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Dealing Cards: Defense responds well to Arians’ criticism