• The Cardinals defense is very talented. They have one of my favorite players in the league in Calais Campbell. Campbell is a 6’8, but he’s lean, strong and athletic. Last season he led all 3-4 defensive ends in sacks, with 9, and already has 2 this season. But he can also play the run, and is a force on special teams, as he had 3 blocked FGs in 2011. Eagles fans may remember his interception against Philly last season:
The Cards also have a number of really good players around Campbell. In Week 1 against Seattle, Darnell Dockett lived in the backfield. He pressured Seahawks QB Russell Wilson all day, and got in several shots on him. The other vets that you probably know a little something about are safeties Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes is fading to some degree, but Wilson can still play, and then some. That’s the veteran core on the Cards defense.
A few veteran JAGs aside, the rest of the bunch are all young, talented up and comers. It starts with Patrick Peterson, the Cards’ first round draft choice last year (5th overall), who already looks like he’s far better than he was this time last year. Daryl Washington is one of the starting LBs, and is already one of the better 3-4 ILBs in the game. OLB Sam Acho is a 2nd year player who had 7 sacks and 4 FF in the last 11 games of 2011, when he took over as a starter. And finally, there’s rookie Jamell Fleming. We’ll get to him in a second.
Here are the ages of their young talent on defense:
- Patrick Peterson – 22
- Jamell Fleming – 23
- Daryl Washington – 25
- Sam Acho – 24
- Calais Campbell – 26
- Dan Williams – 25
That’s a nice group to build around.
• Back to Fleming: Fleming played on 80 of 82 snaps last week against the Patriots, as they went with a nickel look for almost the entire game. I liked Fleming at the Senior Bowl. Looked physical there. In the actual Senior Bowl game I believe he had a forced fumble and an INT. Stood out. The Patriots tested him early. Tom Brady tried a back shoulder throw on an early 3rd down to Brandon Lloyd, but Fleming did an excellent job breaking up the play.
On the play, Lloyd is split wide and heads directly up the field. Fleming is right with him:
Knowing he has the sideline as his friend (the WR isn’t going to break outside), Fleming gets his head around:
He can see the back shoulder throw, and is able to break up the pass:
Really well done. I was impressed with him against the Pats. He more than held his own against an outstanding offense and QB, but I would suspect the Eagles will try to test him. The third CB in the mix is William Gay.
• The Cards’ defense is very aggressive. They blitzed Seahawks QB Russell Wilson early and often, with excellent result. However, sometimes they tend to be too aggressive. Here’s a play where the Pats ran play action to their right:
Six Cardinals defenders get sucked in on the play fake here. Tom Brady has all day to throw and huge area of the field to operate with:
The Eagles need to get the Cardinals to respect their running game, so they can use the Cardinals’ over-pursuit against them.
• The Cardinals like to run a lot of 2-man fronts with Dockett and Campbell, put an extra CB on the field, and keep the offense guessing on which of the linebackers and defensive backs are coming. Here’s an example of that look from last year’s matchup, on a play where they only brought 3. Look at the movement of the Cardinals defense, pre-snap:
The Cardinals were able to get to Vick when they blitzed, but were also effective when they didn’t. Here they only wound up bringing 3 and sat back in a zone guarding the sticks on 3rd and 11. Tthe Eagles easily block the pass rush, but with 8 in coverage, everyone is covered initially, and Vick bails after just 2.9 seconds. The Cardinals easily shuttle him out of bounds. The Pats ran their screen game effectively against these kinds of looks. This could be an opponent where the Eagles look to feature their screen game.
• Kolb notes:
On the whole, I didn’t think Kevin Kolb had a good game against the Pats. He wasn’t recognizing open receivers, and often misfired to receivers when he did spot the open guy. Here’s an example of Kolb not recognizing an open Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald motioned out of the backfield to the right side of the formation. The outside receiver is going to run interference on Fitzgerald’s man, and Fitzgerald is going to make a simple break to the sideline:
He’s wide open with room to operate after the catch. He’ll easily get about about 7-10 yards and possibly a lot more if he can make a defender miss, but Kolb isn’t looking that way:
Instead Kolb takes the checkdown to the back on the other side of the field:
The defense easily cleans up.
Later in the half, Kolb had an open Todd Heap streaking down the seam, who had his man beaten. Kolb had a clean pocket, and simply overthrew him. The Cardinals has 245 yards of total offense against the Patriots, but it wasn’t even as if I thought the Pats did a great job on defense. I thought Kolb missed a number of opportunities in that game.
• The Cardinals OL is terrible, and the biggest offender is LT D’Anthony Batiste. Trent Cole could have a big day. On the other side, Jaosn Babin will face a rookie RT for the third straight week. That rookie would be 4th round pick Bobbie Massie. The Eagles should be able to dominate on defense.
Game prediction: Low scoring, a few big plays on defense for both teams. The Cardinals are not to be taken lightly, but the Eagles are just more talented, 20-13.