The Cardiac Cards (2-2) come to town this Sunday and the Eagles (3-1) will face a stern test defensively.
That’s because, as Fran Duffy of PE.com advises us, the Arizona offense wants to attack vertically, regardless of down, distance, or situation. The Eagles’ defense has to be prepared for some kind of a downfield throw on each and every play.
That’s a challenge for Jim Schwartz’ patented zone coverages, especially if for various reasons the Eagles pass rush cannot get home often enough to disrupt Carson Palmer’s timing. Palmer excels at stepping up in the pocket to deliver accurate throws in tight quarters, attacking zone coverage.
“With the amount of zone coverage the Eagles play, [Cardinals HC Bruce] Arians will have shots dialed up against their schemes. It will be up to the secondary to stay disciplined in coverage, and also on the front four to get home against an offensive line that is struggling to protect Palmer. That will be the biggest key in this game.”—Fran Duffy
Complicating things is the Cardinals’ usage of their running backs Andre Ellington and Keenan Allen in the passing game. The Cardinals run a lot of plays out of an empty set. Ellington in particular is as quick and elusive as just about any back in the game today. Can you say “mismatch” ? Sometimes he is flexed out wide on vertical routes where he can compete against cornerbacks. He will probably see more reps as a slot receiver than as a running back.
The Cardinals offense has been lacking in a true running game and in pass protection. They have one rushing touchdown through the first four games and are last in the league in rushing yards per game (57) and per carry (2.65). They have rushed for 10 yards or more just three times with the longest being 14 yards. Holding calls have nullified runs of 21 and 13 yards. The Eagles have given up an average of 70.8 rushing yards, second best in the NFL. It’s no secret the Cardinals need to throw successfully to win, but can they keep Palmer upright often enough to do it?
Palmer has been sacked 12 times in the past two weeks and hit on numerous other occasions. Coach Bruce Arians adjusted the game plan last week. Palmer took shorter drops and checked down to his running backs more often.
As for our Eagles on offense?
I reckon the initial goal is to keep pounding the rock. Running back LeGarrette Blount is a 250-pound block of muscle who is difficult to bring down. At the linebacker and safety level, the Cardinals have opted for speed over size, so they will need to get multiple bodies on Blount to bring him down. Quarterback Carson Wentz hasn’t had a pass intercepted in the past two games. Tight end Zach Ertz is tied for third in the NFL in receptions and fifth in receiving yards. But the Cardinals have defended tight ends well this season, partly because Tyvon Branch is playing as well as any safety in the NFL.
In fact, some experts give the Cardinals defense the edge in this one. Losing outside linebacker Markus Golden to a knee injury hurts, but the Cardinals have the talent to compensate. Kareem Martin played well in the preseason, and Haason Reddick played outside in college. He’s likely to move there now that Deone Bucannon is back at inside linebacker. The Cardinals rotated six defensive linemen last week against the 49ers, and all of them played. No one on the defensive front is playing better than Corey Peters, who is a big reason the Cardinals have been stout against the run.
No matter how you stack it, as Ringo once sang, you know it don’t come easy. This is going to be a tough matchup.
If you want an alternative “Live Thread” to this game on Sunday, please join us on a site called discord.com.
Our regular commentator and home-run king Ryan Lubrich (aka The Lubricator, aka GSXR Mustang) has created an alternative chat forum for in-game real-time conversation.
Here’s a link to his interesting new talk machine if you wish to give it a look:
As Ryan explains, it’s like a chat channel, primarily used by like-gamers who stream on Twitch, but he figured we might be able to use it for gameday chats. I have found it to be very functional and very entertaining. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of some of the buttons and bells, but after a short while I was zooming along with the other EYE guys and Bored members there talking Eagles football.