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Cardinals at Vikings Preview

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Many, many interesting storylines regarding this game. As Chris Cuomo would say, “Let’s get after it.”

  • Despite what appeared to be a genuine affection for Steve Wilks by the players in the locker room following the Cardinals’ win versus the 49ers, Bob McManaman of azcentral is reporting that there is a “bad mood” and a general climate of acrimony in the Cardinals’ locker room this week. He says that the players are upset about a number of aspects with the coaching and the team’s rough start—-which includes a feeling from some that the Sam Bradford situation should have been handled much better. McManaman concludes that “big changes could be coming” if the coaches don’t turn the season around.
  • Curious that Wilks has been saying this week that he sees a tangible boost in spirit from the players and a greater sense of urgency and passion at practice. One of the few members of the Arizona media whom Wilks calls by name is McManaman—-and there is no question that Bobby Mac is asking the kind of tough questions that most of the media were reluctant to ask to BA. In fact, it was Bobby Mac who pressed Wilks about Matt McCrane’s release—-which caused Wilks to scowl, “You are persistent.”
  • If Bobby Mac is correct, is it possible that the players actually like Wilks, but are not confident that he and his staff and the right coaches to move them forward? See Dave McGinnis?
  • In yesterday’s presser—-Wilks was adamant once again that “I don't care who you are or where you’re from—-whether you are a high draft pick or an undrafted free agent—-the best 11 players are going to play.”
  • As for the Cardinals/Vikings game—-(1) we get a close look at the Cardinals’ #1 target in free agency, QB Kirk Cousins; (2) we get a close look at OC John DeFilippo, whom Bidwill and Keim interviewed during the playoffs for the Cardinals’ HC job and lost interest in (once Pat Shurmur was going to the Giants, Flip was my #1 hope, being of the mindset of trying, as a #1 priority, to put the QBOF in the best possible hands). Thus—-it will be interesting to see Flip’s game plan versus Wilks’ defense; (3) on the other side of the ball, very interesting too to see what Mike McCoy has in store for Mike Zimmer’s defense.
  • Note: if John DeFilippo keeps having a successful year with Kirk Cousins—-he will be a head coach for some team in 2019. Put it this way—-who were Cousin’s first two OCs in Washington? Kyle Shanahan (2012-2013) and Sean McVay (2014-2016). Sure worked for them.
  • Yet, perhaps the biggest storyline of this game is WR Larry Fitzgerald’s return to his home state of Minnesota for what could be the last time—-in some ways Fitz might feel like Odysseus did when he returned at last to Ithaca—-older, battle-scarred and worn by time and fate, having lost so many of the cherished men he fought with over the years.
  • While this is pure speculation—-it feels more than ever like this year is Fitz’s last. It’s not that he has lost his passion for the game—-but the grind is taking its toll. One can hear it in Fitz’s voice—-which, with each passing week—-has become more and more sotto voce. It certainly doesn't help that he is nursing a sore hamstring—-that his team is 1-4—-that his offense is the lowest scoring offense in the NFL—-and, most troubling, that he has become somewhat of an afterthought by the new coach who calls the plays.
  • With that in mind—-if by the trading deadline, the Cardinals are clearly out of the playoff picture—-could Fitz, knowing this is his last hurrah, change his mind and accept a trade to the Vikings? As a Cardinals’ fan for over 5 decades, who believes that Larry Fitzgerald belongs in the Cardinals’ Mount Rushmore of all-time best players, I would be happy for Fitz, because of his standard of brilliance in the playoffs, if he got one last crack at the Lombardi. I would love it for him if his last games were playoff thrillers. The Vikings would have to do some contract restructuring to be able to fit Fitz’s salary (about $6M for the remaining games) under their cap, but one would imagine many of their players would jump at the opportunity to add him to their offense.
  • Surprised, but alas not shocked, to see S Darian Thompson (6-2, 210, 3, Boise St.) slip through the Cardinals’ fingers when the Cowboys poached him off the Cardinals’ practice squad. Wilks’ defense has become so safety dominated, the Cardinals need depth at the position—-and more good tacklers—-Thompson had 75 tackles with the Giants last year and began to thrive under DB coach David Merritt (now the Cardinals’ DB coach). Plus, he’s only in his 3rd year. If Thompson is indeed healthy and ready to play, this is yet another in a growing list of perplexing roster decisions that Steve Keim and Steve Wilks have made over the past 5-6 weeks.
  • Potential player milestones this week: (1) Josh Rosen could become the 1st Cardinals’ rookie QB to win back-to-back road games since Neil Lomax in 1981. Speaking of which—-in my eyes, Rosen is the best pure passer on the Cardinals since Lomax (his throws were a work of art); (2) With a TD catch at U.S. Bank Stadium, it would be the 27th venue in which Fitz has caught a TD pass; (3) With 6 catches, rookie WR Christian Kirk could join Anquan Boldin (39 in 2003), Gern Nagler (29 in 1953) and Larry Fitzgerald (26 in 2004) on the Cardinals’ all-time list for 25 or more receptions by a rookie WR in 6 games.
  • Memory Lane: Man, how excited i was to watch this playoff game, Cardinals vs. Vikings in snowy Minnesota on December 21, 1974. Fast forward to the 2:45—-2: 57 mark to see the Cardinals’ take the 1st quarter lead on a 13 yard TD pass from Jim Hart to Earl Thomas. The Cardinals lost the game 30-14—-it was 7-7 at the half, yet they were outscored 16-0 in the 3rd quarter. But, the Cardinals of the mid 70s were fun to watch!