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Cardinals What to watch: Wilson, hollywood, new holder, the lassiter legacy

Howard Balzer Avatar
October 7, 2023

Early in the offseason program, it didn’t take long for the Cardinals to know they had something potentially special.

After wide receiver Michael Wilson was selected in the third round of the draft, Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said the Cardinals had one of the steals of the draft.

It wasn’t difficult to notice Wilson in OTAs as he exploded running routes, not necessarily with blazing speed, but surely with passion and effort.

After Wilson scored the first two touchdowns of his career in last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, offensive coordinator Drew Petzing was asked about the process of developing trust in an inexperienced rookie playing a difficult position against skilled defenders.

Petzing said, “The big thing for us as coaches; it’s more about assignment. It’s like can the guy get lined up, does he know what to do. Very quickly when he got here in the offseason after the draft, it was like, ‘Wow this guy can process a lot, handle a lot very quickly.’ He was playing multiple positions, he wasn’t in that starter role yet, so he’s in at X, he’s in at Z, he’s in at F, he’s jumpin’ in, you know, a guy taps out right before the play, he’s jumpin in and knowing what to do. So from our standpoint, I think that can happen very quickly. ‘All right I know that I can trust this guy, he’s gonna go out and do the job. He’s gonna do it right.’

“And then the other side of things is the relationship with the quarterback. When you’re a quarterback you want a guy who’s going to get open and catch the ball. So as quarterbacks see guys that do that more and more and more, they start to develop confidence like, ‘Hey, when the game’s on the line, if his number’s called, I know he’s gonna make the play.’ And I think you saw that come to fruition a little bit on Sunday, but I think that’s something that’s been building over time over the last couple weeks.”

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who knew nothing about Wilson when he arrived after being acquired in an Aug. 24 trade, said, “He’s so locked into the game plan. One, he executes at a high level and his effort is tremendous. Just being a rookie receiver, a lot of times just to get on the field sometimes you have to do dirty work. You’ve got to play Z where you’re a little more involved in the run game. You’re on the front side of runs and you have to do kind of the dirty stuff that some receivers don’t like to do, and he seems to like to do it. He executes that very well and then that puts him in position in the pass game to be a viable target. He’s done a great job winning his one-on-ones when he’s had them and done a great job of, in zone coverage, understanding what looks the defense is throwing at him and getting to the right areas to find different holes in coverage.

“He is becoming a really good target week in and week out. I’ve been impressed to see his growth. I think I said it a couple days ago, I was impressed when I got here. I turned on the film and was just getting up to speed on the personnel just watching OTA reps, camp reps and the preseason games and he jumped off the (film) like, ‘Hey, who’s this?’ I thought it was a second-, third-year player watching the film and I know that’s the rookie receiver Mike. That was really impressive. Then obviously it was different once you get in the stadium, now you have longer game plans and more studying to do and stuff like that, but he’s owned it. He’s owned it every single week as a true pro and I’m excited to see his growth.”

Dobbs also explained what occurs in the passing game after he was asked about knowing where receivers are and then quickly deciding where to go with the ball.

“You know where guys are lined up on each and every play,” he said. “Just a little insight; a lot of the stuff that happens throughout the week is, ‘Hey, here’s the looks that we think we’re going to get, but alright here’s this play and here’s the worst look that you could get.’ To your point, like some pressure or something. ‘Ok. What are my answers on this play?’ It’s going through those mental gymnastics so that when you get to the game, you’re reacting to something that you’ve already thought out. You’re not haphazardly just throwing the ball willy-nilly to someone.

“It’s all about what you are expecting from the defense. Sometimes it looks like, ‘Hey, Mike’s getting a lot of targets.’ But sometimes the play may be set up to go to him, and then sometimes they took away my first and second option and then he’s in the right place at the right time to get the ball as the third option based on the coverage that the defense is presenting to me.”

Wide receiver Hollywood Brown, who leads the team in receptions with 21 and yards with 239, said of Wilson, “He’s doing a great job. Every time that I got doubled or two people were around me, he made ‘em pay. He’s showing that you can’t take him lightly and I think defenses are starting to realize that and it’s going to be tough to try to contain what we got going.”

When asked if Wilson looks like a rookie, Brown said, “No, not at all. He works hard in practice and from that point on, once a guy gets here and you see how he works in practice, he belongs. And you know he’s not going to be a problem. He’s going to do a good job and we can count on him. And that’s what he has showed since the day he got here. You can count on him and he’s continued to progress and the speed of the game hasn’t affected him.”

Wilson has only two yards fewer than Brown, but on 14 receptions for a 16.9-yard average. That, of course, was helped by the 69-yard play against Dallas and one for 33 yards against San Francisco.

He has the fifth-most yards of all the league’s rookie wideouts and only one was a first-round pick, Baltimore’s Zay Flowers, who has 244 on 24 catches. The leader is fifth-round pick Puka Nacua of the Rams, whose 501 yards is second in the league behind Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (543). Next is Houston third-round pick Tank Dell (16-267), followed by Flowers and Denver second-round choice Marvin Mims (9-242).

The legacy of Kwamie

He passed away in January 2019, but Kwamie Lassiter’s Arizona presence lives on in many ways.

Through his sons Kwamie II, Kwinton, Darius and Kwincy and, of course, with his wife Ericka, who has continued the work they started with the Kwamie Lassiter Foundation.

Kwamie came to the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 1995 and refused to take no for an answer. Buddy Ryan was the head coach and he had his guys on defense. Kwamie made the team and then after Ryan was replaced by Vince Tobin the next year, he began to build his career.

There were six starts in 1998 and the iconic four-interception game against the Chargers in the season finale that catapulted the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance since the strike-shortened nine-game season in 1982. Their previous full-season playoff advance was in 1975 when Don Coryell was head coach.

After 1998, Kwamie started all 16 games from 1999-2002 before he moved on to, coincidentally, the Chargers in 2003 and a brief spell with the Rams in 2003.

Former Cardinals wide receiver Frank Sanders was a second-round pick in 1995 and he met Kwamie at the Blue-Gray college all-star game in Montgomery, Ala.

“It was there that we became buddies not knowing that I would get drafted by the Cardinals and he would become a free agent with the Cardinals,” Sanders said. “The beauty was once Kwamie got his chance, he basically never gave that position up.”

It turned out that both played eight seasons with the Cardinals.

And now, the story has come full circle with Kwamie II being elevated from the Bengals practice squad for tomorrow’s game against the Cardinals. A wide receiver who was elevated for one game in his 2022 rookie season, he is likely to play on special teams and perhaps at wideout with Tee Higgins (ribs) questionable.

Both Kwamie and Kwamie II played at Kansas and then entered the NFL as undrafted free agents. As Sanders noted, “Kwamie (II) goes to a team with great receivers, just like dad went to a team with veteran guys in the secondary.”

Kwamie II told bengals.com this week, “Whenever I go back, there are still some fans wearing his jersey (No. 42).”

He added, “The stadium opened in something like 2006, so I don’t really remember going there. I remember losing the state championship game in there in 2015 when I was a junior. That’s the memory I have. It would be crazy to go back.”

And now he will.

Bengals receivers coach Troy Walter said of Kwamie II, “Mr. Consistency. Always in the playbook. Always one of the first ones out and one of the last ones off the field. Smart guy, good route runner, can play all the positions. He’s a valuable guy. Hard worker with good hands.”

While Kwamie II didn’t know if he would be elevated, he said simply, “I’m just practicing like I’m going to play.”

Remarkably, this story doesn’t end with the Kwamies. His brothers Kwinton, a cornerback, and Darius, a wide receiver, play for Kansas and BYU, respectively. And they played against each other at Kansas on Sept. 23 in a game won by the Jayhawks, 38-27.

Of course, Ericka was present along with son Kwincy, who doesn’t play football and is Kwinton’s twin. Ericka and Kwincy wore the split jerseys, surprisingly given to her by Donnie Bunyon from Get It In Apparel. In the photo, from left to right, are Darius, Kwincy, Ericka and Kwinton.

Before that game, Darius told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I just know he (dad) is smiling. It is something he wanted to see happen. We finally get to have it happen. It is just a big day for the family. Having two brothers compete and go at each other.”

Added Kwinton, “It’s a surreal moment. He’d be very happy for us, proud of our accomplishments.”

Darius, who had eight receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown in the game, said he talked with Kwinton before the game and we “kinda hashed out our little jokes in between each other” during the game.

“But other than that, it was more so just showing love, just as far as being blessed and thankful to be in position to play each other is something that we always wanted.”

Sanders said Ericka has been the catalyst and rock for it all. The foundation supports sickle cell anemia family support and education and has an annual golf tournament on the anniversary of Kwamie’s passing. That will be five years in three months when the event takes place on Jan. 6 at Talking Stick Golf Club.

“You look at the story of Kwamie and his sons and that story becomes about Ericka and what Kwamie had instilled in them as a family and what he wanted to see happen,” Sanders said. “And she just followed the plan. She has literally kept it going. Ericka has been, if you look at the successes, you follow her on Facebook; she’s been at every game. She travels with family and friends to see them play all the time.

“The vision of what these boys are, everything they’ve become, it’s Ericka Lassiter. She is literally the energy source for that happening.”

In her emails, Ericka has a quote from Jean Clervil that says, “Count your Blessings and you’ll lose count of your misfortunes.” She certainly lives that every day.

With that, Sunday will certainly be emotional for Ericka and Kwamie II (No. 18), who will surely be looking for any No. 42 jerseys in the house.

Kwamie II noted, “I grew up a Cardinals fan, but I’m riding with the Bengals.”

Ericka told PHNX, “Kwamie coming home is just another answered prayer. The opportunity to play at home where his father’s career started, in front of his family and friends, is truly nothing but God. Over 20 family and friends will be at the game cheering him on. I pray he scores his first career touchdown at State Farm Stadium. That for sure will have heaven written all over it.”

Unfortunately, Ericka won’t be at the game because she is in Italy celebrating one of her best friend’s 50th birthday.

“She had us get tickets in February before the NFL schedule came out,” Ericka wrote. “I will NEVER do that again. Italy is great but I am currently trying to watch the Jayhawks right now on a sketchy hotel wifi and will somehow get the Cardinals vs Bengals game tomorrow.”

Following two prayer emojis, she concluded, “He will be represented well.”

Hollywood on third down

Brown had his best game of the season against the 49ers despite being hampered by a thumb injury that had him limited in practice Thursday and Friday. He had seven receptions on 10 targets for 96 yards and two of the catches were good for first downs.

When he talked to the media after practice Thursday, his thumb had a wrap and when asked about it, he said, “It was more tough last week than this week. I really didn’t think I was going to play, but credit to the training staff getting me right and be able to play.”

For the season, he has seven receptions on 11 targets on third down for 71 yards and a touchdown. The last two games, he has caught all five of his third-down targets for first downs, with 54 yards and the touchdown.

“Chemistry,” he said, when asked about the success on third down. “I’m doing a good job right now of getting open. Trust in my technique. Trust in my speed, trust in my breaks. And Josh is doing a good job finding me.”

Rumors swirled this past week of teams supposedly contacting the Cardinals about a possible trade considering Brown is making $13.4 million in the final year of his rookie contract and the belief that the team might not be willing to invest in a big contract after the season.

He said he hadn’t heard the speculation, but then said, “That’s not my focus. I’m focused on the Bengals. I’m a Cardinal, so that’s really all I’m worried about.”

He did, however, allude to the uncertainty when asked about his community involvement in Crucial Catch, the league’s cancer awareness effort during October.

“It’s been a big priority,” he said. “Just being in Arizona and not knowing if I’ll be here long-term. But if I am, I want to immerse myself in the community, not only me but my family, help as much as I can, get out and be a part of this culture because I’m from Florida, so this is kinda like a whole different world out here and I want my son to experience that and my family.”

A new punter and holder

It was Nolan Cooney out and Blake Gillikin in this past week. Gillikin signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints in 2020 and spent the entire season on reserve/injured before winning the job for the last two seasons.

However, he lost out this year to Lou Hedley, also an undrafted free agent, in the cut to 53 players.

“I woke up Tuesday morning of the cut day and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I was making the team, so it was shocking to me,” he said. “But I’m hopefully in a better place now and thankful for a fresh start and couldn’t have better guys to work with than (kicker) Matt (Prater) and (long snapper) Aaron (Brewer).”

There was a lot of extra time spent this past week becoming accustomed to Brewer’s snaps not only on punts, but on holding on placekicks for Prater.

Gillikin said, “I’ve held for multiple kickers in my career. My first year playing I had (four) different kickers (Aldrick Rosas, Brett Maher, Brian Johnson and Cody Parkey), so it’s really just figuring out what he wants and then trying to adapt what I’ve done forever to what he would like. It’s been really, really smooth this week just getting used to Brewer’s snaps and kinda the speed and different locations; stuff like that. It’s been good.

“I caught a lot of snaps. I love catching snaps; it’s what I do for a living. For me, holding’s 1B to the 1A of punting, so it’s 50 percent of my job and I take it really seriously and I know Matt’s had a great career and hopefully I can be a part of that.”

Prater told the team website, “Anytime you’re kicking it, you want to have the right tilt on the ball so you can try to hit a clean rotating ball. Obviously, you want the laces to be pointed at the target, so that’s about as picky as I get. I’m not super picky.”

Williams waits at least another week

Cornerback Garrett Williams, who had been on the reserve/non-football injury list following ACL surgery while at Syracuse last season, was designated for return and practiced this past week. However, he was declared out Friday and wasn’t activated to the 53-man roster.

“It’s been about 11 months in the making,” Williams said. “I felt comfortable out there just back doing what I do. That’s why I’m here. It felt good. No pressure, no stress, a lot of excitement. I feel like the whole time I was here I did a good job taking all the mental reps. Asking questions and things like that. I know the physical part is going to kind of just come along with time.

“I’m just trying to keep building, keep stacking and just get more comfortable with the calls and just playing football again.”

Williams was a third-round pick this year, while fellow rookie cornerback Kei-Trel Clark was selected in the sixth round and is a starter.

“Kei’Trel, that’s my dog. We’re going through it together,” Williams said. “We sit beside each other on the plane to the games away. After every game, me and him watch the film together and we talk about it on the flight home just trying to pick each other’s brains on how we see things. Hearing a different perspective always helps, too.”

Clark said Friday, “That’s my boy right there. Proud to have him back on the field. He’s been working hard. Ever since we stepped in the door, G has been grinding. He got a pick today in practice, so I was excited to see that. I was cheering him on as he did that because he told me right before practice that he needed to get one today, so cheers to that.”

Asked about this year’s rookie class, Clark said, “I was just having a conversation with G about 20 minutes ago. It’s amazing to see that all of the rookie class; everybody is really dialed in and locked in and really trying to be great. Understanding that it’s a tough task to be able to even play in the NFL let alone start. This is not the end for the rookie class; we elevate each week and for years to come.”

Gannon said, “We had a specific plan when we drafted him, a vision how we wanted to use him but he’s a versatile guy and can play multiple spots.”

Cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith can’t wait for Williams to be ready to play.

“He’s done a great job,” Smith said. “He’s been ready. He’s been champing at the bit. He’s a guy that’s real detail-oriented. He’s been a pro. His approach, even in our evaluations when he was at Syracuse, he was a guy that honed in on the details and the little things so when we activated him up this week he was ready and he’s looked good.”

Expanding on his versatility, Smith said, “He’s got a lot of flexibility. The one thing that’s a tribute to him; athletically he can do it, but a lot of times can guys handle it mentally, can they handle two spots, three spots mentally? He’s a guy that prepares, he’s sharp, he’s got a high football acumen that can do both of whatever’s needed for the team.”

Smith believes Williams will be fine when he is activated even after missing five months of on-field work.

He said, “From not having OTAs, not having training camp, from an outsider perspective you would think, wow, there’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to make up for, but just his approach to the game getting mental reps when he can. We talk about it in the corner room all the time: ‘Every rep is your rep,’ so he might not be out there physically, but you have to learn, you have to see what to do what not to do, learn from other people’s mistakes and he’s a guy that capitalizes on those opportunities.”

While acknowledging that “there’s a learning curve of getting back integrated into” going against players, Smith said “from a movement perspective, he was ready to go so we were very pleased and excited about how he looked Week 1.”

Smith likes the collaboration that also includes defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and defensive backs coach Patrick Toney in terms of what Williams’ role will be.

“Communication is fluid between the three of us,” he said. “We have a great flow and a great working relationship. Low egos and trying to do what’s best for the team and the defense so whether it’s Garrett on the inside, on the outside; wherever he plays, all of us are excited about where he’s gonna contribute to the defense when he fully gets ready to go.”

Ertz and Josh

Tight end Zach Ertz has expressed frustration with some drops this season (a few were thrown high), while Dobbs has also missed him on some potential big plays.

In four games, Ertz has 20 receptions on 30 targets, but for only 136 yards (6.8 average).

Sunday, he did become the eighth tight end in league history to reach 700 (702) career receptions. Ahead of him are Jimmy Graham 714, Greg Olsen 742, Shannon Sharpe 815, Travis Kelce 831, Antonio Gates 955, Jason Witten 1,228 and Tony Gonzalez 1,325.

Dobbs is confident things will improve.

“With reps, we’ll 100 percent get on the same page,” he said. “There is always conversations we’re having. Zach’s awesome because as a tight end we’re always texting each other different looks from the defense, like, ‘Hey, what are you thinking here? Hey Josh, what are you thinking?’ Just to stay on the same page. We’re going to hit those, and we know that. We came on the sideline, and we said that. We then came back, and we hit some big plays on some other actions down the field, so there’ll be plays to be had and we’ll be able to execute on them as we continue to grow in our relationship together.”

Petzing said, “They’re always going to work for that consistency. Zach and Josh are obviously very competitive, two great players. I do think he’s done a really nice job of trying to build that chemistry and find that rhythm and certainly there were some plays in that game that he’d like to have back. I know some throws that Josh would like to have back and when you have a limited sample size in a game, they’re gonna get magnified, but I think those two guys have done a really nice job of working together and getting on the same page and playing at a pretty high level.”

The walking wounded

There was hope for the return of defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter when he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday after missing the 49ers game because of a finger injury. After he didn’t practice Thursday, Gannon was asked before Friday’s practice if he had a setback.

The coach said he didn’t and added that Ledbetter’s status would be evaluated “today and tomorrow.” One hour later, he wasn’t on the practice field and was then declared out in early afternoon.

Inside linebacker Josh Woods (ankle) returned to practice after missing the previous three games, was limited during the practice week and is questionable.

Gannon said, “We’ll see how it goes today and tomorrow. He had a good day Wednesday and Thursday; two good days. He wants to play, be out there with his guys, but we got to do what’s best for the team, too.”

One looming question was the status of right guard Will Hernandez, who was added to the injury report Thursday and was limited because of a back issue. He didn’t practice Friday and is also questionable. Hernandez was seen in the locker room with evidence of cupping on his lower back and he appeared to gingerly bend over at his locker.

One piece of good news was the return to practice of guard Dennis Daley, who spent the first four weeks on reserve/injured because of an ankle injury. He was limited Wednesday and Thursday, but practiced fully on Friday. However, Daley was not activated Saturday, so that apparently bodes well for Hernandez’s availability.

Elevated from the practice squad were running back Corey Clement and defensive lineman Ben Stille. Keaontay Ingram (neck) did not practice Wednesday, was limited Thursday and Friday and is questionable. The Cardinals added veteran running back Damien Williams to the practice squad on Thursday.

Safety Budda Baker (hamstring) will miss his fourth game Sunday and is eligible to return to practice following next week’s game against the Rams.

Asked about Baker, Gannon said, “He’s good. He’s doing well. Every day he’s getting a little bit better.”

During a brief appearance in the locker room Thursday, Baker was asked if he’s getting better. He answered, “Getting better. Really better.”

Meanwhile, special-teams coach Jeff Rodgers has to replace the snaps played by cornerback Christian Matthew and Kris Boyd, who were released early in the week.

In the first four games, the snaps for Matthew were 23/85 percent, 22/79, 19/76 and 19/86 and for Boyd 18/67, 17/61, 15/60 and 13/59.

One possibility is safety Joey Blount, who was signed to the roster from the practice squad Tuesday.

Gannon said, “He’s smart, instinctive, fast, and kind of a playmaker. I think he’ll have a role on fourth down and on the defense. I’m excited to get him going. When he got here, he was a little nicked, (but) he’s healthy and I’m excited for him.”

Blount had been waived with an injury settlement by the Seahawks Aug. 31 before joining the Cardinals practice squad on Sept. 18.

It’s about Joe with a Chase(r)

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has struggled in the first four games and hasn’t been himself since suffering a calf injury early in training camp.

His completion percentage of 57.6 is third-worst in the NFL and his average per attempt is 4.82 with a passer rating of 69.1. In the fourth quarter, he has a 54.1 completion percentage and 63.0 rating, while the third—down numbers are 63.0 and 88.5. The Bengals have scored only 49 points.

Wednesday, Burrow said he felt the best he has this season after a game and coach Zac Taylor said Friday, “In terms of the execution of our plays, (practice has) been awesome. He’s locked in, great accuracy, touch, tempo. I’m really excited about all the things that he presents.”

Burrow explained early in the week, “My ability to throw hasn’t been affected. Mainly, (it’s) my ability to move in the pocket, run for first downs, extend plays, find that extra second. Maybe certain plays, I would have slightly extended and found a completion. I haven’t gotten out and run or anything. I ran for a first down last week, but it was only a couple yards. It’s more so just the subtle pocket movement that’s still coming back.”

Petzing said, “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. It wasn’t watching it from like a, ‘Is the ball going where it should?’ but of knowing every time that guy’s got the ball in his hand, they’ve got a chance to score points fast and to win the game. I think he’s as good as there is.”

“You look at all of it and just know who we’re going against, what he can do, and what he has done in the past and what he’s done this year as well,” Gannon said. “But you have to understand how he makes his plays and try to defend him as best you can.”

“They’re going to bring it, no matter what,” Rallis said of the offense. “This is a good offense that’s very talented and obviously the guys that they have, they’ve had success before. They’re a team that’s been very good over the past few years making playoff runs so you better believe that you’re going to get a good team. Whether or not they feel like they’ve played to their best, I’m sure they feel like they have more in the tank and you have to expect that that’s what you’re gonna get. So we’re preparing for a really good offense right now.”

Gannon concluded, “I would say the team knows this team has been in the (AFC) championship game two years in a row. They’ve been to the Super Bowl. They’ve got big-time skill in a good scheme with a lot of weapons around. I know the record is what it is, but they’re a very dangerous football team. I know that.”

Most dangerous is wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who hasn’t been so far this season with 29 receptions, but for only 284 yards (9.8 average). As a team, the Bengals average 8.4 yards per reception.

On Jan. 2, 2019, in the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium, LSU freshman Chase had a 32-yard touchdown play from Burrow in the fourth quarter and the duo helped LSU win the national championship the next season.

Chase told bengals.com, “After I scored at the end, I felt the chemistry with him and me. That’s when it finally started to click. He started throwing me the ball more and just expecting me to be open.”

Chase came under fire this week after cursing during a post-game interview, saying, “I’m always fucking open.” However, Taylor didn’t over-react.

“He works as hard as anybody, which when you work as hard as anybody, you’re allowed to have some confidence and talk like that,” Taylor said. “I’ve got problems with people that don’t work hard. And then if you say things that are maybe on the fringe, on the line a little bit, you don’t put in the work, you’re not doing all the things Ja’Marr does. When he combines that with confidence that makes him the type of player he is, that gives him the edge he’s got. I love that about him.

“We ask a lot of him in practice. He runs and he doesn’t complain. He doesn’t make a mental error due to not paying attention. He’s got a great understanding because he switches positions all the time. He plays all three spots. He moves more than anybody. He lines up in the backfield, he motions to the backfield. He’s got to know everything and he does and he works his tail off in practice. Extra pre-practice. Runs like crazy during practice.”

Chase did say, “I’m not going to lie, bro, I thought I was in trouble” when he was asked to meet with Taylor in his office. It turned out Taylor wanted to discuss something else. Chase said Taylor did tell him he watched the entire interview and then complimented him with his own curse.

Chase said he’d love an endorsement from 7-11 for the “always fucking open” comment and added, “I’ve got to get it on a shirt.” He also said the F-bomb wasn’t necessarily about frustration because he said, “I curse a lot. My mom curses a lot and I get it from her. It rubs off on me. She just told me, ‘You have to stop cursing.’ I told her, ‘I get it from you.’ We just started laughing. A mom thing.”

The Cardinals can only hope the defense doesn’t curse too much during Sunday’s game.

Rallis said of Chase, “He’s extremely fast, he’s strong at the point of attack, he’s good with the ball in his hands, good route-runner, so you would say that the overall skillset is complete.”

“They’re all good route-runners,” Gannon said. “They scheme ‘em open, they’re really good with the ball in their hands after the catch, so we got our work cut out for us. They’ve got a couple premium guys and I have a real high opinion of Chase. Boyd’s a good player, we’ll see about Tee, but they’re a good unit and the guy delivering the ball knows how to get ‘em the ball.”

It’s a Lou thing

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was a finalist for the Cardinals’ head coaching job, and Gannon has a lot of respect for him.

“He’s one of the best coordinators there is,” Gannon said. “They’re very multiple. What really sticks out on the tape to me, the whole team, but the defense as well, is fundamentally sound. They tackle well, block destruction is really good. They’re in the right spots, they play fast. It’s a well-coached group; it’s a well-coached team.”

Petzing said, “I think there’s a number of challenges. Certainly, the talent starting with the front, but they’ve really done a nice job of building that roster in the back end as well over time. Lou does a really nice job with the scheme, keeps you off balance, keeps you off balance with the coverages, does a nice job of mixing pressures. It’s a real challenge. We have to be on our stuff this week and make sure we’re locked in.”

Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who has 3.5 sacks, was added to the injury report Friday, did not practice that day with a back issue and is questionable, as are cornerbacks Cam Taylor-Britt and Chidobe Awuzie.

Anarumo said a big factor in last Sunday’s 27-3 loss to Tennessee was tackling and noted three or four missed tackles on a Derrick Henry 27-yard touchdown run. They will be facing Cardinals running back James Conner Sunday.

“We’ve got to do a better job wrapping up and getting more guys to the ball, but certainly it’s not a lack of want-to or effort or any of that,” Anarumo said. “It’s just sometimes that happens. It’s just unacceptable that many. We average four or five. We’ve been one of the best tackling teams in the league and it’s not where we’re at right now. So we’ve got to do better.”

Dobbs said Cincinnati’s defense is “a strong stout group that can be aggressive, and try to get you behind the sticks. It comes down to execution. They’re going to throw a lot of looks at us on different downs, and we have to have answers to be able to execute and stay ahead of the sticks. Being in Cleveland and being in Pittsburgh before that, I’ve seen this group over the last couple years and I’ve been impressed with the growth that they’ve had. They went to the Super Bowl and made a deep playoff run last year, so they’ve played a lot of really good football and we’ll have to match their intensity this weekend.”

Numbers to know

–The Cardinals rank ninth in the NFL with a 5.89-yard average on first down. The Bengals are next to last at 4.16. Defensively, the Cardinals are 28th (6.47) and the Bengals 31st (7.15)

–The Cardinals have been outscored 44-7 in the fourth quarter.

–Overall, on offense, the Bengals are 32nd in total yards, tied for 31st in yards per play, 31st in rushing yards, 24th in rushing yards per attempt, 29th in passing yards, 31st in passing yards per play and tied for 25th on third-down conversions.

Defensively, they are 24th in yards, 25th in yards per play, 31st in rushing yards, 30th in rushing yards per attempt and 21st on third down.

–Miami leads the NFL with a plus-2.30 differential in yards per play on offense and defense. The Dolphins are averaging 8.02 yards per play and only two other teams are over 6.0: the 49ers at 6.34 and Vikings 6.18.

The Cardinals are 17th in differential: 5.68/5.76/minus-0.08.

The Bengals are 32nd: 4.00/5.69/minus-1.69

Only five teams are lower than 4.50 on offense: Browns 4.44, Saints 4.41, Panthers 4.17 and Bengals and Giants 4.00.

The only game the Cardinals won was when they had a positive differential (7.55/5.55 against Dallas). The others were Commanders 3.62/3.82; Giants 6.32/6.55; 49ers 5.40/7.45.

The quotebook

Brown on how wide receivers coach Drew Terrell has helped him: “Harping on the consistency. He asked me when he got hired, what’s one thing that I wanted and I wanted consistency. So that’s what he’s trying to get out of me: Consistency each and every day, treat practices the same, treat games the same, run routes the way you’re gonna run them in the game.”

Gannon on team culture: “We’re acting the right way in my opinion. How you go about your day of improving on a daily basis in all facets. You don’t want to be results oriented. You’ve got to be process driven. Our guys understand that, and we’ve got to just do things a little bit better to get the results that we want, but I like the path that we’re on.”

Brown on the team culture that is growing: “A win would be big record-wise, but I feel like the morale of the team and what we know that we got going on is unwavered. We know what we got going forward; we know each week what we have to do. (JG and the coaches), I love these guys. We’re all on the same page. We all got the same wants. In this building, our minds are aligned. We all want the same thing. We all see the same things. And our goals are the same. We’re working together. Going forward we want to win for him; we want to win for us. And it’s kinda of like a cohesive thing.”

Gannon on the unveiling of black-on-black uniforms Sunday: “It’ll look sweet.”

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: howard@gophnx.com. Also, become a DIEHARD and use the promo code HOWARD

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