So I took notes on 2 different games. I took notes first on their game against Atlanta because I wanted to see the last time Skelton was under center for them, and I know they really gave Matt Ryan trouble that day. Then I took notes on this last week because I wanted to see if Beanie added anything different to their offense, and again....it was a really good defensive performance by them.
Cards on Offense
- There has been a lot of talk about how poor Arizona's O-Line is...those are not false statements. This particularly shows up in their run game. Their running backs have absolutely no faith in their interior line and constantly look to bounce everything outside. I do not blame them one bit, their guards get no push and they really are forced to try and hit a cutback or bounce the run outside. I think our DT's should have their way with their interior line, it is crucial that our ends and outside backers keep outside contain and don't allow their running backs to bounce outside. The only way I see their running game picking up any chunk plays is if outside contain fails.
- Fitz is obviously the number one concern when dealing with their offense, but they have really been struggling to find any kind of rythym with him and whoever is behind center. They love to isolate him outside opposite of a double or bunch set. They really try to get him in one on one situations in man coverage....which I am fine with personally. They will sometimes line him up in the slot to try and create a mismatch as well. I really think he needs to be pressed all game long. If we sit back in soft coverage, he will find soft spots all day long. Our db's can't allow anything easy his way, they need to force Skelton to squeeze the ball into tight windows because he has shown throughout the year that he is affraid to do so and just really is not very accurate. This will also give our D-Line a lot better of a shot to reach home if he is constantly being jammed right off the snap.
- Speaking of their interior line, they really struggle in blitz pickup. I would like to see them pull a page out or Horton's book this week and really try and make it confusing on their line and Skelton. Having Wagner come on a few delay bllitz's I think would work great. Gus should be featuring Wags in the blitz game this week and I would be surprised if he wasn't. I really expect Jason Jones/Scruggs to have a big game rushing the passer, and would not be surprised to see Irvin getting pressure coming around on stunts. They really need to test the Cards O-Line dicipline in blitz pickup.
- A few other small notes: In shotgun 2 RB set you can almost guarantee the run or have a screen set up to fullback side. They like to motion their slot receiver away from play side in order to clear cutback lane. In play action they go max protection a lot with only 2 developing routes because they do not trust their o-line. Expect them to try and get the ball out quick because they really don't trust their line, or Skelton's decision making.....another reason to jam off the snap.
Overall, the Cards really lack anything dangerous on offense. If we just play disciplined and don't make any stupid mistakes or have stupid penalties pile up, we could very well blank their offense.
Cards on Defense
- It has been said over and over again, but A-Gap pressure. They will line up at times with only 2 down lineman and completely overload the middle. They are not scared to send both MLB through the same gap, and actually do it relatively often with one coming right off the snap and the other coming on a delay. When they are pressuring up the middle, even their ends are pressuring inside to collapse the pocket. But it isn't only A gap pressure. He mixes it up very well and a lot of the times they will show A-gap and bring outside pressure and vice versa. It seems simple enough to be able to beat with hot calls, but Horton disguises his blitzes better than anyone I have seen. He will show blitz and backoff and vice versa. This makes it extremely difficult to have your typical hot reads on, but there is a way to beat it and I think I even heard Hugh Millen touching on it on sports radio. They can't sit back in max protect and leave their te's and rb's in to block because there are times when they will back off and then you are stuck with two routes trying to beat a cover 2 with 8 dropped....not gonna happen often. This is where the preparation of Wilson is going to be so huge this week and I think Pete and Bevell will really be relying on his ability to make the right protection and hot checks. They need to give their TE's and RB's "if he does this, then you do this" type reads. (IE: Zack Miller lined up on the line with outside backer showing blitz. If he comes, you chip and release to this spot. If he fakes like he is going and drops back, you get behind him in front of the safety and settle. ) This is just one example, but if you are trying to sit and guess the whole game you are making it hard on everyone. I also think that our RB's need to be sent out to the flats instead of staying in to block. Turbin could have a huge role this game. Wouldn't mind seeing some designed screens this game from Bevell either. It perplexed me why they didn't do anything to relieve pressure the last time we played them.
- They play a lot of man on the outside with the rest in cover 2 concepts. They really trust Peterson on an island against any receiver. I would not be surprised to see him shadowing Rice all game. They will line up at times with Peterson manned up with the best receiver with a 2 deep zone and the rest in cover 2. I saw Atlanta beat this a few times by clearling Peterson and taking advantage of the hole in the cover two where he would have been.
- Adrian Wilson plays a huge role in their run defense. Expect him to come up and help the strong side quite a bit. He is a lot like Chancellor in how well he can come up and cause problems in the run game. It is important that Mike Rob, our TE's, pulling guards can find a way to spot him out in the run game....get to that level....and get a hat on him. If he is not accounted for he will make it very difficult for us to get any kind of running game going. They also like to bring him up to cover the TE, and if he sees the TE staying in to block he will take off after the QB. Another reason I don't like the max pro idea.
- Daryl Washington is an absolute monster. I would put him right up there with Patrick Willis right now. He is a sideline to sideline player that is good in every facet of the game. Not only does he do a good job reading and shedding, when asked to blitz up the middle his first step is so quick and he has a knack for timing the snapcount. Our line needs to recognize when he is coming because if they don't, they will get blown off the ball before they even realize what happened. He is their best player on defense in my opinion. Don't get frustrated if he makes a few disruptive plays this game because he is that good....you can chalk it up to an outstanding play by an outstanding player.
Overall, this defense is extremely good. I would personally rather play the Bears D again than play against this defense. Going against Arizona in his rookie debut I feel was the toughest test Wilson could have had because Horton is just masterful in his blitzing scheme. It is very complex and created a lot of uncertainty. I think Wilson is up for the task this time around and I think the coaching staff will be a little more prepared as well. This could very well be a defensive battle, but Seattle will have opportunities to make big plays because they will see a lot of man coverage. If they can find a way to deal with the pressure, they should be fine in this one.