via i.usatoday.net Jeffery G. Pittenger, US Presswire
A friend of mine from ASU's Cronkite school is a writer for SB Nation Arizona, Ryan Bafaloukos. He's a long time Cardinals fan and someone I thought could provide a good Q&A leading up to the Eagles Week 3 Matchup on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. The Q&A and some thoughts of my own after the jump.B: Okay, for starters, I went back and watched the Cards-Pats game, Darryl Washington jumped out at me, what kind of player is he and how does Ray Horton like to use him?
R: Washington really emerged last season as a playmaker on this Cardinal defense. Washington is incredibly athletic and and is probably Arizona's best defensive player. He has a nack to find the ball in run support and on passing downs he is used to cover the tight end primarily if the Cardinals aren't in a zone
B: How often would you say the Cardinals are in zone? It seemed like whenever Washington was in man coverage on Gronk Sunday he pretty much errased him.
R: It depends a lot on our blitzing scheme that game. I honestly can't tell you how much we’ll blitz game to game, but Horton loves to play chess with the opposing QB. The Cardinals really like to mix up different fronts and coverages. They usually have good matchups against tight ends with Washington and Adrian Wilson. Howwever, lately Wilson has been prone to getting beat and giving up long receptions to tight ends.
B: Wilson had the Triceps? injury last year that may have hindered his play somewhat, how is he looking this year? Eagles fans saw something similar with Dawkins towards the end of his career, still a force, still a leader and still an excellent box player, but was getting beat in coverage much more often.
R: It was actually a torn bicep, but Wilson has been ok this season, he definitely has lost a stelp over the last few seasons. He had an INT against Seattle, but has only five tackles on the season. He is most dangerous when he is rushing the passer, but in recent years AZ has found new players to get after the QB
B: A lot of those new players are names that aren’t neciscarilly known by the average NFL Fan, care to elaborate on this unit? What players should Eagles fans should be concerned about?
R: Sam Acho is Arizona's second year OLB out of Texas. Acho started seven games last season and recorded seven sacks. He got to Brady last week and Acho is a constant pass rusher. O'Brien Schofield is another young guy from Wisconsin, although he didn't play too much against NE. Quentin Groves got a sack last week and he also blocked a punt. The thing about Horton's defense is it's not built around one or two guys. Different guys step up each week, different matchups are exploited.
B: So would you say the success is a lot of guys who fit the scheme well and it's just a matter of who's coming free that week?
R: One guy along the D-line that has been huge has been Darnell Dockett. The former Pro-Bowler has slowed down a bit in recent years but this season he has been constantly in the backfield. He’s had tremendous burst off the line disrupting both the passing and running game -and to answer your question- yes definitely. It can vary each week who will get to the quarterback in this scheme, depends on the matchups, but usually someone’s coming free, this team has plenty of players with good pass-rush ability.
B: Do you view this defense as a defense you trust to get pressure fairly consistently no matter what each week?
R: The biggest thing that Ray Horton tries to achieve is confusion. Different fronts, and different coverages. The Cardinals sometimes need to blitz to generate pressure, because they typically run a three man front. However, Dockett and Campbell can get to the QB. On another note, the Cardinals have not fared too well against mobile quarterbacks in recent history.
B: Last thing before I get into some matchup questions, I noticed against NE that in the Nickel the Cards were playing a lot of 2 down linemen and two standup rushers as the ends in a 4-3 front. It looked like the Cardinals had more issues bringing confusing fronts when the Pats put them in the Nickel. Against Seattle it lt seemed like the Cards were able to play a lot more base personel and bring more exotic blitzes, is that something Philly can do to negate the pressure this week?
R: Definitely, in my opinion Arizona's defense gets weaker farther away from the line of scrimmage. Docket and Campbell have been great so far. Our linebackers are very athletic. However we are not very deep at corner. Definitely improved from last year but still a long way to go. This is not a defense where one guy gets 12 sacks a year. It is based off guys doing there jobs and someone will usually get free to hit the quarterback
B: You know about the injury to All-Pro LT Jason Peters, the backups for him King Dunlap - and after Dunlap injured his hamstring last week - Demetress Bell have played serviceably well in his absence. Neither have had to deal with any real speed rushers off of the edge yet, something Bell had fits with in the preseason. Do the Cards have any guys speed rush guys that could really take advantage of the potential weakness there?
R: Acho and Schofield could, they are both speed guys that come off the edge. Dockett and Campbell are more power guys that use their strength to dominate linemen. Groves could see a lot of playing time this week though, Horton will likes to ride the hot hand and Groves really played well in NE last week
B: Okay, so what match ups are you most looking forward to in terms of something you think the Cardinals can exploit to win this game?
R: I think that Arizona has a good matchup against the Philly secondary, besides Fitz against Asomugha. Teams always try to blanket Fitz so he has had a hard time getting the ball, however this leaves openings for guys like Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. Who have both had nice seasons thus far. Arizona needs to run the football. Philly's rush defense isn’t bad, but it is not as strong as their pass defense. On defense Arizona really needs to exploit the tackles of Philly. Arizona needs to have a constant pressure on Vick and I think they can do it. Campbell vs. Dunlap/Bell is a matchup Arizona needs to dominate. Dockett vs the right tackle Herremans is one the Cardinals have a chance to win throughout the game as well. Not to mention the injury to Kelce, so to summarize, the Arizona defensive line needs to exploit these matchups to succeed and I believe they can.
B: What matchups are you most concerned about in terms of some things the Eagles can exploit on the Cardinals to steal in a win this weekend at University of Phoenix Stadium?
R: Babin and Cole against our tackles is going to be huge. Our offensive line has held up pretty nicely in the first two games, but Philly definitely has the best pass rush they have faced all year. Also, Michael Vick running, Arizona has never done well against mobile quarterbacks. The Cardinals have a hard time containing quarterbacks outside of the pocket.
B: In terms of Vick, is that a scheme vulnerability or more so a gap discipline
R: Gap discipline and when plays breakdown, Vick makes plays with his feet when other quarterbacks throw the ball away, the Cardinals have just struggled with guys like that.
B: Last year I went to Cardinals-Rams at UOPS, my favorite thing to watch that day was Patrick Peterson covering Brandon Lloyd. PP got beat a few times, but I was so impressed by his closing speed. It looked like he would let Lloyd get behind him just to bait a throw so that he could go try and make a play on the ball. Is he still gambling a lot, or are you seeing more of a shut down guy this year?
R: He is definitely more of a shutdown cornerback this year and he has improved greatly in man coverage. He still has the great closing speed, but his ball skills and one-on-one coverage have improved dramatically. He still has some ways to go, but really I like the improvement he has shown.
B: What kind of effect do you think DeSean Jackson will have on the game this year? I re-watched some the game from last year - Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson were consistently lining up no deeper than 14 yards off the LOS. I have to imagine with DeSean on the field they'll be playing further back this time around (week one the browns were giving him 20 yards and bailing hard.) what kind of effect do you think the safeties being forced to play further back will have on Horton's scheme vs what happened last year?
R: Desean Jackson will definitely have an impact on this game. I have a feeling Horton will let Peterson have him one-on-one early but if you see him get burned early on Horton will have to adjust his scheme. There will be less blitzing from the secondary. This places more pressure on the front 3 and front 7 to get more pressure on Vick. Fortunately, Peterson is probably one of the few CB's that can recover against Jackson because of his speed.
B: Kolb's most likely starting this week, what’s your view of how he looked against NE? Are you confident he can be good enough to allow the Cards to win consistently this year as the QB?
R: I would feel much better about Kevin Kolb if we had a decent running game. That said, Kolb's pocket presence has improved and he looks more comfortable in the pocket and the offense. The biggest thing for Kolb is he hasn't made mistakes yet. No INT's and he really hasn't tried forcing the ball where he shouldn't. When Kolb has had time to throw he usually finds an open receiver, when he has had pressure on him he’s been prone to throw the ball into bad situations.
B: Any idea why the Running Game hasn't gotten going yet?
R: Well Beanie once again hasn't been healthy, and he barely played against Seattle. Ryan Williams and Wells just haven't had any holes to run through. Say what you want about Levi Brown he was our best run blocker. Our offensive line is the biggest problem with our run game, no holes to run through and our backs aren't good enough to work around that.
B: How do you think this game is going to go and why?
R: I think that Arizona will win 20-17. Arizona plays great at home, there is something special about UOPS with this team. I think the run game will break out and with Vick turnover prone I believe AZ will force at least 2 turnovers and get some scores on a short field. I think they squeak one out at home.
Some Thoughts Of My Own
- From what I’ve watched of the Cardinals I agree with everything he said about this defense. This is a fast complex 3-4 defense, not something the Eagles have handled well in recent memory. This is the most athletic defense they’ve faced so far, the Ravens are still very good defensively, but age is starting to take it’s toll on them; Not the case for the Cardinals. I am fairly certain this game is going to be a defensive struggle. I have full faith in the Eagles defense and their ability to play this Cardinals offense as well as they have played the first two weeks. Things looked much better for the Eagles offensively against Baltimore, even with the injuries, Vick looked very good minus a few plays. Field position is going to be huge in this game. I’m not sure the Eagles can get away with allowing really good starting position to Arizona and like they did with Cleveland. Unfortunately for Philly this isn’t a roll over team and we know the road doesn’t get easier from here for the Eagles.
- Prediction: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is going to get at least one INT Sunday.
- I’m not sure the Cardinals run game can get going against Eagles, they’ve played the run pretty well this year so far, gave up a few long ones to Rice, but he’s the best back in the league in my mind so you know he’s going to get his.
- I remember a few years ago the Raiders played out in Glendale and Nnamdi had a really nice day against Larry Fitzgerald (6 targets, 1 catch 18 yards.) Fitz seems to be the type of WR that Nnamdi matches up with best, big and physical, hopefully that’ll be fun to watch and Nnamdi will do what he’s done against Fitz in his career, but if Fitgerald has a nice day that may be barometer in deciding whether I think Nnamdi has "lost a step." I don’t think he has really, he’s played well, he just hasn’t been Revis. He discourages the throw really well, that’s what makes him great. His ball skills are nothing special though. If QBs are throwing at Nnamdi even when he has great coverage and plays are getting made on him I can live with that, it means everything’s covered up. Although, I really don’t want to see him get beat on anymore double-moves for awhile.
- I think if they can execute, they can beat any team in the NFL. If the Eagles come out and play smart and play with the toughness they’ve shown these first two games, then they will find a way to win this game on the road. I can’t imagine them not wanting to some revenge for last year’s game, so I doubt they’ll be sleeping on the Cardinals and looking ahead to the Giants. I’m excited for this game, I think it’s going to be a really good litmus test for what the offense can do, just like last week was a really good test for the defense. We’ll learn a lot about this team this week, it’s week 3 the sloppiness should be pretty much gone, the season is well underway, if the sloppiness continues it will most likely be a persisting problem all year.