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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians rips his team in wake of loss to Patriots 09.14.16 at 3:04 pm ET
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Bruce Arians wasn't happy with the Cards performance Sunday against the Patriots.  (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Bruce Arians wasn’t happy with the Cards performance Sunday against the Patriots. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

A few days after his team’s surprising home loss to the Patriots, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made it clear he wasn’t happy with a few aspects of Arizona’s game, calling out a handful of players in the wake of the 23-21 loss to New England.

On the choreographed dancing celebration after a sack and fumble recovery that involved linebacker Chandler Jones and safety D.J. Swearinger, a move that resulted in a 15-yard penalty for the Cardinals: “One of the things that has not happened around here will not happen again — or you won’t be here.”

Arians also blasted rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, saying he had a “poor” performance before adding, “He jumped offside when they weren’t even set on a big third down. Other than that, he was not a factor.”

He also took time to single out cornerback Justin Bethel, who has been hobbled with a foot problem.

“Justin has to decide if he’s going to play with that foot,” Arians said. “He was just an average spectator in special teams, missed two tackles. If he’s going to play, he needs to play better or he shouldn’t play.”

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Scouting Report: What you have to know about Patriots-Cardinals 09.10.16 at 1:43 pm ET
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Sunday will mark Jimmy Garoppolo's first start as a professional. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Sunday will mark Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start as a professional. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to Sunday’s regular-season opener for the Patriots and Cardinals in Arizona:


When it comes to the ground game, New England is coming off a woeful finish to 2015 that saw them finish with just 87.8 rushing yards per contest, 30th in the league. Injuries to LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis left the Patriots relying on Steven Jackson and James White down the stretch and into the playoffs; in hindsight, it was easy to see why the offense stalled the way it did in Denver. Lewis is still on the shelf (look for White to at least try and replicate Lewis’ impact), but the majority of work will fall to Blount. The 29-year-old, still a 6-foot-1, 245-pound bulldozer, is what he is at this stage of his career — a big back who should be trusted to carry the ball 15-22 times a game and hit that 4 yards per carry average fairly consistently. From this viewpoint, he’s still without peer when it comes to the four-minute offense. We’ve referenced this before, but it still bears repeating; per Football Outsiders, Blount rushed 87 times for 406 yards (4.7 yards per carry) when the score margin was greater than 15 points and 78 times for 297 yards (3.9 yards per carry) when the score was closer. If the Pats get into a similar situation on Sunday, it’s all Blount down the stretch.

On the other side of the ball, for a team that plays so much dime/sub, Arizona has help up relatively well against the run: The Cardinals were sixth against the run last year (91.3 rushing yards per game) and ninth when it came to yards per carry allowed (3.9). But good teams have found a way to exploit their occasionally suspect run defense. In the last 10 games of the 2015 season — including the playoffs — the Cardinals allowed 100 or more yards rushing five times, and in a sixth game they allowed 99 yards on the ground. In their last three games (one regular-season contest and two playoff games), Arizona allowed an average of 144 rushing yards per game, including 152 in the NFC title game against the Panthers. We’re not saying the Patriots have a shot at 150 on Sunday night. Just that Blount could get a surprisingly high number of carries on some power runs with fullback James Develin and a two-tight end set with Martellus Bennett and Clay Harbor or AJ Derby. That’s all.


And now, we step into the great unknown with Jimmy Garoppolo. Well, maybe not the great unknown, but with Garoppolo getting the start for these first four games, we’ll finally get a sense of where he is in his overall development. The kid had his positives and negatives over the summer, looking like he took a step back in Week Three after two good games to open the preseason. Regardless, based on what we’ve seen to this point, expect the Patriots to lean on short and intermediate routes with the likes of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Bennett. While he could speed things up a bit, Garoppolo will likely try and play it conservatively with checkdowns to backs, tight ends and quick outs to receivers. The bottom line? Garoppolo needs to get the ball out quickly and efficiently for a few reasons, including the fact that the offensive line remains in a statement of flux and the Patriots can’t afford to let pressure be an issue.

Chances are good that a large part of that pressure will come from old friend Chandler Jones, who has already impressed his mates to the point where they believe a 20-sack season is in reach. (It’s worth noting that when it comes to sacks, Jones’ most productive month is September.) Jones will be looking to cut down on cover time for the Arizona coverage defenders, some of the best in the league. Cornerback Patrick Peterson, safety Tyrann Mathieu and hybrid Deone Bucannon are some of the best in the league at what they do. The biggest opportunity in the passing game for the Patriots might come when Garoppolo tries to target Brandon Williams, a converted college running back expected to start at cornerback opposite Peterson. The 23-year-old Williams has yet to take a regular-season snap in the NFL.

One more thing, as it relates to Garoppolo. We have really no way of measuring this, but it certainly looked like the Patriots ran more plays this summer (in training camp and preseason) designed to get him on the run; rollouts, bootlegs, whatever, where they have him use his legs and (maybe) try and minimize some sketchy offensive line play at the same time. They got him on the run and created some movable pocket situations. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was impressed with Garoppolo’s speed. It’s something to watch for Sunday.


The 6-foot-1, 224-pound David Johnson might be the most multidimensional threat the Patriots face all season long. The 24-year-old out of Northern Iowa is coming off a rookie year where he rushed for 125 carries for 581 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns, and figures to move into the every-down role this year, supplanting veteran Chris Johnson. (The older Johnson led urge Cardinals in rushing last season with 196 carries for 814 yards and three touchdowns.) The Patriots were ninth against the run last year, having yielded an average of 98.8 rushing yards per game, and were 11th in yards per carry allowed at 4.0.


Arizona will feature one of the deepest passing attacks the Patriots will face all season. The Cardinals were one of just two teams last season to have three players finish the year with 800 or more receiving yards (New Orleans was the other). According to Football Outsiders, for eight straight years Arizona has ranked either first or second in the league in the percentage of plays with four or more wide receivers. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer likes to chuck it, whether it’s to Larry Fitzgerald (career-best 109 catches for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns last year), John Brown (65 catches for 1,003 yards seven touchdowns last year) or Michael Floyd (52 catches for 849 yards and six touchdowns in 2015). And then, there’s Johnson (36 catches, 457 yards 4 TDs last year). As for the Patriots, if you have a combination of Malcolm Butler (with help) on Fitzgerald and Jamie Collins eyeing Johnson out of the backfield, that puts some added pressure on the likes of Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones and one of your safeties when it comes to coverage. If the preseason is any indication, the New England secondary is up to the challenge — the Patriots were tied for second in the league in interceptions in the preseason with seven.

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Read More: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, David Johnson
Ex-Patriots DE Chandler Jones has already impressed new teammates, coaches in Arizona 09.08.16 at 9:46 am ET
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Chandler Jones will get a crack at his old team on Sunday night. (Mike Petraglia/

Chandler Jones will get a crack at his old team on Sunday night. (Mike Petraglia/

Get ready for the Chandler Jones Bowl.

The Patriots will get a chance to meet their old teammate Sunday in Sunday’s season opener against the Cardinals, as Jones will line up at defensive end for Arizona.

The 26-year-old, who had 36 sacks in four years with New England, has already made a serious impression on his new coaches and teammates.

“A true professional,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of Jones on Wednesday. “He comes to work every day. He’s a coach-pleaser. He’s extremely talented, obviously. But I’ve been very impressed with the way he’s fit in with our group and our culture right away.

“He sets an edge presence for us. Playing outside linebacker, defensive end, he’s obviously very versatile where you can put him,” Arians added. “He’s adapted well to playing outside linebacker for us and also in our nickel and dime packages being an edge rusher. It’s something that we were looking for. He has the length and the skill set to rush the passer.”

His defensive teammates are already on record as saying he has a shot at 20 sacks this season. On the other side of the ball, they are equally as enthusiastic about Jones and what he brings.

“Love him. I love him,” said quarterback Carson Palmer. “Just watching some Patriots defense from last year, he was just such a dominant player in the run game and the pass game, and I think that’s the first thing that jumps out. I thought he was just a pass-rusher just seeing his numbers statistically. But he wreaks havoc in the run game. He’s so long, and has such a good bull rush, and is so powerful but still has that speed and quickness and really good with his hands, he’s been absolutely a pleasant surprise just watching him work because he’s more than I expected.

“I was expecting a third-down specialist maybe or really just a pass-rusher. But he’s so disruptive in the run game, and he played a bunch inside last year so he was against guards and centers and held his own so been very, very surprised and happy with him.”

Read More: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, chandler jones,
Bruce Arians sees some Tony Romo in Jimmy Garoppolo, expects 2 TE sets ’70 percent of the time’ 09.07.16 at 1:37 pm ET
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Aug 28, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians during a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is getting ready to face Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

To Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, Jimmy Garoppolo has a lot more in common with Tony Romo than just the Eastern Illinois connection.

On Wednesday, Arians, who has worked with the likes of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, explained what he sees as similarities with the Cowboys QB.

“The skillset. I think they both were similar sizes, arm strength, very accurate. Both moved around good,” Arians said. “Jimmy’s an excellent athlete. A very accurate passer. Having been in the system, in that system especially, for the number of years he’s been there, he’s watched Josh (McDaniels) come up with game plans and understands what they’re trying to do. But he’s a very good athlete. You have to defend his legs as much as his arm.”

In the spring of 2013, Arians had just spent his first season with Carson Palmer, who guided the Cards to a 10-6 mark. The Cardinals were looking to develop depth at quarterback and the coach did get a chance to talk to Garoppolo before the 2014 draft.

“Just the evaluation process,” Arians said. “[We] didn’t really get into it personally with him. But, he reminded me a lot of Tony Romo coming out.”

Now, Arians must prep for something else: Garoppolo throwing to a pair of tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.

“Well they’re just like us. We’re a two tight end team,” Arians said. “The reason you do it is because you can’t get the best defensive call for a personnel group because you’re in that same personnel group all the time. You’re in down and distance calls until you substitute. So, it gives you much more versatility when those guys can be wide receivers, they can be fullbacks, they can be tight ends, and move them around. You have to defend so many different formations and things without substitution.”

How much does he anticipate seeing the two tight end set from the Patriots after Gronk rested the entire preseason again?

“I would imagine about 70 percent of the time,” Arians said. “They do a very good job with up tempo stuff without substitutions in the past. You have to be ready for a lot of things. They’re extremely well coached.

“You just have to go back. I don’t think they’re going to change a whole lot what they do offensively. I’m sure they’ll use Jimmy’s athleticism some more than Tom’s (Brady). But they throw back to Tom on a touchdown and you’ve got to be ready for everything. It’s different, but you’ve seen those guys play and I don’t think they’ll do that much differently.”

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Eastern Illinois
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: Patriots initiated Chandler Jones trade 03.23.16 at 11:47 am ET
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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had a lot of positive things to say about Chandler Jones. (Max Baer/USA Today Sports)

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had a lot of positive things to say about Chandler Jones. (Max Baer/USA Today Sports)

Although it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday the Patriots were the ones who started the talks for the Chandler Jones trade.

Jones was traded to Arizona for guard Jonathan Cooper and the Cardinals’ second-round pick in next months draft. With the Patriots having a number of younger players — including Jones — with their rookie contracts expiring at the end of next season, it would be nearly impossible for the Patriots to sign them all.

“I was shocked,” Arians told reporters at the NFC coaches breakfast in Florida on Wednesday morning. “[General manager] Steve Keim did an unbelievable job working with them and finding the right fit in the trade. We went into the offseason wanting to improve our pass rush. Free agency wasn’t what we were looking at as far as dollars for certain guys. That cured us for a long time. They got something they needed. We got something we needed. I think it was a great trade for both sides.”

“I think Steve got a call, and they gradually started talking and things built and built and built,” he added.

Jones has totaled 36 sacks in his four years in the league, including a career-high 12.5 last season. Arians is excited to see what Jones can do for the Arizona defense, which was badly in need of a pass rusher.

“You don’t get 26-year-old pass-rushers like him very often … I think it could be pretty dynamic,” Arians said. “We went into the offseason wanting to improve our pass rush, and free agency wasn’t what we were looking at in terms of dollars for guys. [The trade] cured us for a long time.”

As for Jones’ incident before the playoffs with synthetic marijuana, he doesn’t see it being an issue.

“Knowing the family and knowing what he did and [how] he owned up to it, it wasn’t even a thought for me,” Arians said. “I’ve seen 1,000 times worse than that in my years in this league. He’s a really good kid from a good family.”

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What are NFL coaches saying at combine? 02.19.15 at 4:57 pm ET
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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer  (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said his team needs to get the ball to receiver Cordarelle Patterson. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Most of the NFL’€™s coaches have done their 15 minutes at the combine podium, and there have been some interesting quotes over the last two days. Yes Patriots fans, some head coaches actually say interesting things.

Here are a few quotes that are either interesting, informative or a little of both — and none of them come from Rex Ryan, which is a bit of a surprise.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on college vs. pro-style offense:

“€œSo many times, you’€™re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count. They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball. That aint playing quarterback. There’€™s no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind.”

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Cordarrelle Patterson:

“€œWe have to do a better job of manufacturing touches for him. Cordarelle’€™s a very talented young man who’€™s been in a bunch of different systems. And, Cordarrelle is doing a good job so far this offseason. So there’€™s a lot of things we have to do a better job with him. And in saying that he has to do a better job himself. So it is a two-way street on this.’€™’€™

For the second year in a row, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley had good things to say about Denard Robinson:

He was a pleasant surprise for us after his first year. He came back stronger and bigger and really shocked us. He had a couple of 100 yard games in a row where he did some really nice things for us and it was unfortunate he had the injury at the end. We’€™re really pleased with his progress and we’€™re hopeful that he takes the next step. Where that takes him in the rotation, that’€™s yet to be seen. He’€™s doing a great job coming back from his (foot) injury. The future is bright for him.”

Bradley also had some eye-opening comments on WR Allen Robinson, as he heads into his second season:

“€œAllen Robinson is really a guy that jumped out at us early in the season. We felt like his maturity coming into it, his ability to pick things up, retain it and play at a high level ‘€“ he really jumped out early in the year.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on whether Dallas can “˜plug in” another running back to replace DeMarco Murray:

“I don’€™t like that expression, ‘€˜Plug another back in there.’€™ DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing by, I think, over 500 yards. His impact on our football team was significant, our ability to control the line of scrimmage, control the football, helped the other parts of our team out. He was a big part of all that. The value of being able to hand the ball to somebody 25 times a game, week in and week out, is significant.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bruce Arians, Gus Bradley, Mike Zimmer
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Patriots charge to No. 1 12.13.12 at 7:14 am ET
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The mighty have fallen. After seven straight weeks occupying the top two spots, the Texans (4) and Falcons (5) no longer can be called the two best teams in the league. The Patriots surge all the way to the No. 1 spot for the first time this season after a dominating Monday night performance. The 49ers (2) and Broncos (3) round out the new top three.

The Seahawks (9) finally break into the top 10 after winning four of their last five games. Their impressive play of late has catapulted them in front of both the Bears (10) and Steelers (12). The Colts are another team that continues to inch closer into the league’s elite. Andrew Luck has Indy (11) poised to make a playoff appearance after the team won just two games last year.

The top two teams in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings rarely play each other, not to mention in December, but we’ll get to watch the regular-season version of the Super Bowl this Sunday night. That’s not the only top-10 matchup we’ll see in Week 15. The Broncos (3) play the Ravens (8), and the Giants (7) will take on the Falcons (5). We’re in for another interesting week of pro football.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings.

1. (3) Patriots (10-3) ‘€” The Patriots defense did what it had to do: improve. Bill Belichick‘s D held the Texans to just 14 points. The only other team in the league that was able to hold Houston to fewer points was the Bears. Under Tom Brady, the Pats have won a remarkable 20 straight home games in the month of December. Super Bowl-caliber teams get better in December and that’s just what New England is doing once again.

2. (4) 49ers (9-3-1) ‘€” The relentless 49ers defense is at the top of the league in pass defense, run defense and points allowed. Sunday night’s matchup pits the best defense in the league against the best offense. Football fans are in for a treat.

3. (5) Broncos (10-3) ‘€” The way Knowshon Moreno has been able to step up and fill Willis McGahee‘s shoes is very encouraging for Broncos fans. With Peyton Manning at the helm, an effective run game makes the Broncos offense extremely difficult to defend against.

4. (1) Texans (11-2) ‘€” Are the Texans good enough to rebound from a loss like this? Their pass defense has officially been exposed. On a big stage, the Texans crumbled. Stupid penalties, turnovers and an overall lack of competitiveness has many across the NFL questioning if this team is as good as its record indicates.

5. (2) Falcons (11-2) ‘€” The Falcons have a tremendous opportunity this Sunday to prove to the NFC that they are an elite team. The defending Super Bowl champion Giants will be in Atlanta and both teams have a lot on the line.

6. (7) Packers (9-4) ‘€” Green Bay has won seven of its last eight and has come storming back to take control of the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers has been terrific, though it has been production from the run game over the last two weeks that has made a huge difference on offense for Green Bay.

7. (8) Giants (8-5) ‘€” Keep an eye on the NFC East race and the Giants. New York travels to Atlanta and Baltimore the next two weeks while the Redskins and Cowboys are just one game back and hold a better divisional record.

8. (6) Ravens (9-4) ‘€” It’s never a good sign for a playoff team to fire its offensive coordinator in December. Unlike the Patriots and Broncos, the Ravens have played worse as the season has progressed. If recent play is any sign, the Ravens look to be on track for falling just short of the Super Bowl once again.

9. (11) Seahawks (8-5) ‘€” There have to be many organizations out there that are extremely jealous of the Seahawks’ recent success. This is a team that not only drafted a quarterback in the third round but started him over Matt Flynn after signing the former backup to a three-year deal. Teams struggling to find a quarterback like the Cardinals, Jets and Bills must be envious. Russell Wilson has played outstanding of late. In his last five games, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

10. (9) Bears (8-5) ‘€” Jay Cutler‘s health is imperative to the Bears’ success. Everyone watched the Bears go 1-5 last year at the end of the season when Cutler was injured. The starting QB has been sacked 31 times this year and already has suffered a concussion. The offensive line has to get better if this team is going to be successful. Chicago has dropped four of its last five.

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Bruce Arians, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan
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