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Plugging The Middle

Posted Dec 4, 2013

Notebook: Williams, Ta'amu help against run; Floyd, Ellington sit, Palmer limited

Nose tackle Dan Williams (92) is one of the reasons the Cards have been stout against the run.

It’s not often a 6-foot-3, 314-pound man gets a finesse tag attached to his name.  Dan Williams isn’t just OK with it; he came up with the label.

The Cardinals continue to excel at stopping the run, and a key factor has been the space-clogging and line-moving duo of Williams and Alameda Ta’amu at nose tackle.

Arizona held the Eagles to 3.1 yards per rush last week and are allowing 83.3 yards per game, the fourth-best mark in the NFL. Williams and Ta’amu (6-foot-3, 348 pounds) generally split playing time to make sure both are fully rested, and their styles are different but effective.

“I can be a little bit more finesse at times, running down the line,” Williams said. “He’s more of a big power guy. When ‘Meda comes out (with a good push), it’s over for a center.”

Players all around them in the front seven have turned in impressive statistical seasons, and some of it can directly be tied to the job those two are doing at the line of scrimmage.

“It’s a dynamic pair of big guys,” coach Bruce Arians said. “The nice thing right now is we have a big, fresh guy in the middle all the time, and then when we want to play them in there together, it’s a load for the center and the guards to move those cats.”

Rams running back Zac Stacy has averaged 86.5 yards per game since taking over as the starter in October, and should see the ball plenty on Sunday since starting quarterback Sam Bradford (torn ACL) is out for the year.

Ta’amu said the Cardinals’ run-game success has adjusted expectations, even against top tailbacks.

“Maybe the goal was to keep a person under 100 (yards),” he said. “Well, now let’s try to keep him under 80, under 70.”

ELLINGTON, FLOYD MISS PRACTICE; PALMER LIMITED

It wasn’t a surprise to see running back Andre Ellington (knee) miss practice on Wednesday, as Arians said as much in his Monday press conference. Wide receiver Michael Floyd, though, was also sidelined and quarterback Carson Palmer was limited with a new injury.

Floyd, who leads the team in receiving yards with 860 and has averaged 132 in his past three games, tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter against the Eagles.

Arians believes Floyd will give it a go on Thursday “because he knows if he doesn’t practice tomorrow he isn’t playing. I’m sure he’ll practice hard tomorrow.”

Arians did not address Palmer, who is listed with a right elbow injury. He had previously been in the injury report with a right hand problem, but had never done anything but practice full.

Ellington was hurt last Thursday and missed the loss to Philadelphia. Arians said the team will take it slowly with him, but the rookie standout said he feels great and is sitting out as a precaution.

“(It’s) being smart,” Ellington said. “Whatever the coach and trainers suggest, I’m going to go with. But I’m fine right now. It’s a day by day thing. I’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

In addition to Palmer, linebacker Marcus Benard (shoulder), tight end Jim Dray (back), tight end Rob Housler (ankle), safety Rashad Johnson (ribs), linebacker Kevin Minter (shoulder) and punter Dave Zastudil (right ankle) were also limited.

For the Rams, center Scott Wells (fibula), cornerback Brandon McGee (foot), tackle Jake Long (concussion) and linebacker Daren Bates (concussion) all sat out. Defensive end Eugene Sims (neck) was limited.

CARDINALS MUST CORRAL TAVON AUSTIN

The Rams traded up to draft speedy wide receiver Tavon Austin with the eighth overall pick out of West Virginia, but he didn’t have much impact early.

Austin caught six passes for 41 yards against the Cardinals in the season opener and didn’t reach 50 yards receiving in any of his first nine games.  

He broke out in a big way on Nov. 10, catching three balls for 138 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt 98 yards for a score in a 38-8 win over the Colts.

“I always knew I had it in me,” Austin said. “I just didn’t know when.”

He followed that up with a 65-yard rushing score the following week against the Bears, showing off his versatility and game-breaking quickness. Austin could be a bigger factor in this game compared to his more limited role against the Cardinals in Week 1.

“He’s an every-down player (now), and with he and (wide receiver Chris) Givens out there, they have tremendous speed,” Arians said.

 

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