The Arizona Cardinals face the St. Lois Rams Thursday Night. With only three days to prepare, both teams will face specific match up problems. The Cardinals base offense was at a loss against a strong Dolphins defensive line, causing them to abandon their base offense and move to an up-tempo shotgun offense. Against the Rams, we will see similar match up problems on the offensive live.
The Dolphins ripped past the Cardinals line with a dominant edge rush. The Dolphins either sacked Kevin Kolb with outside pressure, or forced him to the middle for a sack. The Cardinals gave up an ugly eight sacks. Cameron Wake had four and a half sacks working the edge against Bobbie Massie at right tackle.
The Rams have Chris Long and rising talent Robert Quinn to bring off the edges. Containing the Rams two talented defensive ends will be critical to the success of the Cardinals offense. The Rams boast an underrated passing defense. Lead by Cortland Finnegan, a violent and frustrating shutdown corner, who will be head to head with Larry Fitzgerald.
This should once again lend itself to opening up Andre Roberts, but the one to watch in this game will be Michael Floyd. Floyd’s snaps and targets have been increasing each week, recently surpassing Early Doucet for the Cardinals 3rd wide receiver spot. The Cardinals running game has been terrible so far this season, suffering from inexperienced tackles, and with Todd Heap out, no quality blocking tight ends either.
This would be the game to get back on track though, the Rams defensive tackles are weak against the rush, and the Cardinals guards and center are their best lineman. It is easy to envision running back Ryan Williams working his single cut running style right through the middle of the Rams defense. Similar to what Beanie Wells did to the Rams at home last year, rushing to a franchise record 228 yards.
Darnell Dockett will be a game time decision, but Ken Whisenhunt said on AZCARDINALS.COM that, “I’d guess he’ll play.”
Getting Dockett back will be important, his high motor and constant pressure in the middle keep offensive lineman from fanning out to block the b gaps, resulting in effective pressure from middle linebackers Paris Lennon and Daryl Washington. The Rams offense has given up 14 sacks this season, while the Cardinals defense is 1st in the NFL in with 16 sacks.
Adrian Wilson returned against the Dolphins, in pro-Bowl form, and it makes Kerry Rhodes better as well. The ability for Ray Horton to bring either of these two on a blitz, while knowing the other will effectively cover in space, is as volatile of a weapon as any first rate pass rusher in the NFL. Cornerback William Gay looked terrible last week. Eventually Greg Toler replaced Gay, and played extremely well, recording seven tackles and a critical interception. Whisenhunt made the switch based on match up problems Gay was having with Davon Bess and Brian Hartline.
For the Rams, Danny Ammendola is the only wide out on the Rams roster that creates match up problems. With Patrick Peterson shadowing him, his contribution should be limited. Ammendola’s skill lies in his quickness, speed, and utilization in short and intermediate passes to accrue yards after the catch. Patrick Peterson should be dominant in coverage alone, he has more quickness and speed than Ammendola.
Speaking of Patrick Peterson, not only has he developed into a Derrelle Revis type of dominant shutdown corner, but his dangerous speed is being utilized in the Cardinals version of the wildcat, the PatCat. It should be noted that two of Peterson’s four punt return touchdowns came against the Rams last year. The Cardinals have been stressing turnovers this season, and the Rams have a spotty offensive line and inexperienced wide outs. This match up favors the Cardinals.
(All stats obtained via NFL.COM and advancednflstats.com)