Down and Distance with Bruce Arians: “It was nice to win and teach about mistakes”

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians spoke with the media on Monday afternoon, and discussed a number of different topics surrounding their season opening win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Among the topics covered: Running back Andre Ellington’s health, the team’s strength and conditioning in the fourth quarter, and his ultra-aggressive play calling style.

Opening statement:

“After reviewing the film there are a lot of good things on the tape and a lot of things we can improve, so it was nice to win and teach about mistakes. They go down a little bit easier. I thought we really played hard. I thought we had a great week of practice last week and set a good tempo in this ballgame with the way we practiced. Game balls, Carson (Palmer) and Darren Fells offensively, and Patrick (Peterson) and (Tyrann Mathieu) on defense. I thought our kicking game was solid; it was nice to see a kickoff return. I thought our guys blocked extremely well on it. On punt return, J.J. (Nelson) should have fair caught that last one. It wasn’t a time to make anything happen and he would have had his average where it needed to be, but I think we will get better there too.”

On Andre Ellington’s injury:

“He has a mild sprain PCL, there’s no timetable because it’s so individual. It could be a week, could be three weeks, you never know. He’s a tough guy, we know that, played last year with a lot worse. It actually happened on the play before when he slammed his knee on the ground; then when he went to make the cut he knew it wasn’t right, so we will just wait and see.”

On if he would rule Andre Ellington out this week:

“No, that’s one kid I would never rule out until it’s game time.”

On how he would approach Andre Ellington’s replacement if he missed time:

“Chris (Johnson) would be the starter. Everyone would bump up a spot.”

On the running game’s performance against New Orleans:

“I was very pleased, but we left a lot of yards out there though. It should have easily been 150 yards. We missed some holes, had a couple blocks that if we finish just a little bit better we would have bigger runs. I thought Andre was very explosive and Chris was decisive, he can see a couple more things, and once they watch tape they will see where the creases were. Andre made a great 18-yard run on the one counter, but if he takes it around the corner he may go 50, little things like that. I thought up front and the tight ends blocked extremely well.”

On depth at the running back position:

“We wanted depth in that room; we have it, but don’t want to have to use it. Hopefully it’s a very short term thing.”

On if the offensive line exceeded expectations:

“Yes and no, there were still too many pressures. Overall, Carson did a good job moving in the pocket, his eyes were in the right spots and he was able to get out there. But we can do a better job in both.”

On Earl Watford’s performance:

“Earl did fine. It was his first start, gave up a couple pressures against a really good player, but overall he really helps us in the running game because he is so athletic.”

On Brittan Golden being out of the mix at kickoff return with Michael Floyd healthy:

“David (Johnson) was going to be the guy anyway.”

On being concerned about Andre Ellington’s injury history:

“No, it’s just part of playing running back in the National Football League.”

On Jonathan Cooper’s performance:

“He was solid, had the one penalty. He got tossed on the pull one time, got his feet crossed up, but overall he was solid for a good start.”

On knowing when to play Sean Weatherspoon and Kevin Minter:

“It was just by feel. Kevin was playing extremely well. Sean came in and gave him a blow a couple of times.”

On continuing to win games in the fourth quarter:

“I think it speaks to the character of the team. We talked about it since day one, about finishing games. Most games in this league are decided in the fourth quarter and if you want to be a contender in this league you have to win the fourth quarter.”

On when he became an aggressive play caller:

“I guess the first time I ever started. The same way I play golf, I don’t lay-up. I’ve hit a lot of balls in the water, but you can’t hit a good shot if you don’t try. There are times to run it and use the timeouts against certain teams, and times when you think you have a good play you use it.”

On if he has more freedom to be aggressive now than when he was an offensive coordinator:

“Yeah, that’s an easy question. I have nobody to answer to, other than Michael (Bidwill).”

On A.Q. Shipley getting opportunities this season:

“He has the ability and did a hell of a job on that goal line play, knocked the middle linebacker backwards. He is a good football player. We can use him all the time.”

On when he knew that Darren Fells would be a solid blocker:

“Yeah probably week seven or eight, after the open date, Steve Heiden said he is really starting to get it and can still get so much better. He got whiffed one time when a guy jumped out of the way and got a little tentative coming off the ball – keep coming off the ball and not worry about it. He’s still getting experience every time he goes out there.”

On Chris Johnson possibly taking the starting job away from Andre Ellington:

“It will always be a one-two punch – who will start, it doesn’t matter to me who gets the carries.”

On Chris Johnson’s performance yesterday:

“I thought he was fine. He hit his holes, missed one on a play he isn’t used to running, but overall he was solid.”

On Jermaine Gresham’s block on Darren Fells’ 48-yard reception:

“He did a very smart thing. They changed the rules on peel-back blocks. You can only hit them from the numbers to the waist basically and he came back and shoved the one guy right into the other guy, so he got two guys with one. It was a big block and it extended that play for 20 more yards, so it was a huge play for him.”

On the depth of their tight end position:

“I’ve always said I felt our tight end room was very good, and Jermaine is just a piece of the puzzle. Troy (Niklas) got in there for a couple of plays on the goal line and did well on the last play that David (Johnson) scored, so we have a solid room at tight end.”

On D.J. Humphries being inactive:

“Yeah you can’t dress them all, somebody has to sit down. He was not ready.”

On being more comfortable with Bradley Sowell as the backup tackle:

“Right. It could be him (D.J. Humphries) this week.”

On an expanded role for David Johnson:

“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. It’s not healthy to put them in the situation too much.”

On if a rookie is ready for an expanded role:

“If they are ready for it you put them in there, but they’ve got to earn it.”

On Chris Johnson learning the passing game aspects of the offense:

“He is a different pass receiver than Andre and David, and we would use him differently.”

On if the running backs ever get frustrated with trying to determine whether to bounce outside on runs or not:

“No, because the reads tell you that. If the guy’s head is inside, you go outside. It’s real simple.”

On any other injuries besides Andre Ellington:

“No, nothing that will lose anybody any time.”

On how it changes the dynamic of the offense if Andre Ellington misses any time:

“It really doesn’t much. Andre is very explosive in the passing game and he showed in the running game, but I think both of those guys can pick up the slack easily and are more than qualified.”

On seeing if Andre Ellington can go Wednesday:

“It will be up to him. If he can practice Friday, then he can play.”

On the possibility of activating Kerwynn Williams if Andre Ellington is out:

“We would have to make a lot of moves in a hurry. It’s a possibility. I’m fine with playing three.”

On Patrick Peterson’s performance:

“Outstanding. The short yardage fade is a really tough route, and it was a great throw by Drew (Brees), he is going to hit one of those. I think he shut him down pretty good.”

On problems defending the screen passes:

“Our outside linebackers were supposed to be peeling when blitzing up the middle. They are supposed to be peeling on the backs and they kept on blitzing. Two of them on the screen passes were really good offenses that Sean (Payton) got on us and that’s going to happen. The great thing was we hustled down the field, tackled them and they kicked the field goal.”

On Darren Fells’ big game being a product of Carson Palmer finding the open guy or Fells’ athletic ability:

“It was a little bit of both. He was the primary receiver on the one he took down the sideline across the field that Jermaine got the block. He’s always in the passing game; back side one-on-one, he’s a heck of a threat. Carson just found him in the right time when the coverage dictated. Like I said, we don’t design plays to go to guys because that leads to interceptions. You throw it where the coverage tells you to throw it.”

On if the Saints did anything to take away John Brown in the second half:

“Other than holding, no. He was getting tackled a lot, but no.”

On Larry Fitzgerald’s performance:

“Larry had a good fourth quarter, but we had him wide open for a big one and we didn’t block it correctly. Andre got stuck on the outside backer or we get at least a 50 yarder or a touchdown.”

On Larry Fitzgerald saying he’s not as fast as the younger receivers:

“Carson was under a lot of duress and just heaved it, with a fraction of a second that’s a big play. Fitz ran a great route.”

On what happened on the too many men on the field penalty on the punt return:

“They were going to go for it, so we had the defense out there. We had a three-way with defense, field goal block and punt return. We had a punt safe on, so Pat (Peterson) ran out there, just a couple guys ran on because the field goal kicker ran on, so nobody realized who was out there. I should have called a timeout.”