When the Arizona Cardinals' offense takes the field, both teams and everyone watching the game knows that they're going to throw the ball early and often. Kurt Warner's averaging just over 38 attempts this season and he's topped 40 attempts in five of the last seven games. Opposing defenses are often faced with the dilemma of sending extra blitzers to try and limit his time in the pocket or dropping extra guys into coverage to blanket receivers. The Giants though aren't your normal defense because they don't have to blitz to pressure the quarterback. They're fourth in the league in sacks (31) and their defensive line is a huge part of that ranking. Their starting defensive line has combined for 22 of those sacks and another six sacks from from backups along the front line. Creating pressure like with their front four allows the Giants to drop linebackers into coverage and allows their defenders to always outnumber the opposing teams receivers. So how will the Cardinals counter the Giants front four?
Tight Ends and Running Backs: I wouldn't be surprised if Whisenhunt keeps three tight ends active this week, but not because they're going to be involved in the passing game. Mike Gandy and Levi Brown will need help to handle Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka and Whisenhunt could give them help by using more double tight end sets than usual. The Cardinals like running four or five wide receiver sets out of shotgun but they may not be able to leave Warner back there without a 'personal protector.' Either Tim Hightower or Edgerrin James will have to flank Warner and pick up any defenders who break through the offensive line. That would leave Warner with one less receiver to throw to but if he doesn't have time in the pocket, it won't matter. The Giants secondary is good but not great and if Warner has the time, he'll be able to find Fitzgerald and Boldin.
Short Passing Game: The Cardinals struggle at running the ball, but that's no secret. Interestingly enough though, they still manage to rank fourth in time of possession per game (32:47 per game) and they keep the clock running with a short quick passing game. Warner's amazing accuracy allows him to complete passes into tight windows and Fitz and Q have the hands to bring in the pass and take a shot. Breaston's also got the quickness to create separation very quickly out of the slot and he's made several big third down catches on quick slants.
Draws and Screens: It's cliche to say that draws and screens slow down a pass rush, especially when the defense isn't having to blitz to bring pressure, but the benefits could be two-fold. They at least put the thought of draw or screen into a pass rusher but the biggest benefit could be in what it does to linebackers. The linebackers are the guys who have the most responsibility in shutting down screens and if they're concerned about a back getting the ball on a delay, they're not dropping as far back into their zone as they normally would. If they can keep guys like Antonio Pierce (a very underrated linebacker in this league) off balance, Warner and the offense as a whole will have an easier day.
The Cardinals offensive line has been playing much better of late considering that they've only allowed six sacks in the past six games. That's an amazing number considering Warner's averaged 40 attempts per game over those six weeks, but they will be tested on Sunday. Justin Tuck, Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins and Mathias Kiwanuka will give them all they can handle but if Whisenhunt and OC Todd Haley can devise a plan to give Warner time in the pocket the Cardinals offense can thrive. Agree/Disagree? What else can they do protect #13?