While 2-0 tastes awful good for all of us Arizona Cardinals fans, we've still got 14 more games to go so we can't get 'fat and happy' just yet. This Sunday the Cardinals travel to our nation's capital to take on their most challenging opponent to date. The Redskins are in a state of transition but they've still got the weapons on offense and defense to cause match-up problems with any opponent. I recently exchanged some ideas with Skin Patrol, of Hogs Haven, to preview some of the key match-ups, so let me know what you think:
Match-up #1: Redskins secondary vs. Cardinals WRs
Hogs Haven: Advantage: Cardinals - No shame in admitting that there's no good way to deal with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Last week: 12 receptions, 293 yards, 3 touchdowns. Shawn Springs I don't worry so much about, but this is way above Carlos Rogers' pay grade. The good news is rookie Chris Horton, who both looked phenomenal last week and may or may not retain the starting position vacated briefly by a sick Reed Doughty. Boldin and Fitzgerald, at least in this young season, are very much playing two impossibly difficult to cover roles. Boldin, despite being the shorter of the two, plays the reliable favored son, who moves chains at will. His three touchdowns are tops in the league and his impossibly high 78+% 1st down catch rate is about as high as anyone else. Fitzgerald, as stated, is a physical monster but somehow also is the speed demon get behind you receiver. His 20.4 YPC is remarkable, especially when one considers he's done most of it on 20-40 yard receptions, meaning he's consistently down the field catching footballs. Four of his nine receptions were +20 yards.
CG: Advantage: Cardinals - I don't know that there's a secondary in this league that I'd say had an advantage over Boldin, Fitzgerald and company, but I will say that I had to at least think about this one. Shawn Springs may not be what he once was but when he's paired with Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot, you've got a solid trio of corner backs. When you add in one of the best young safeties in the league, LaRon Landry and rookie Chris Horton who had a great game last week, they're a formidable secondary. As solid as a secondary may be though when Warner is playing like he has the past two games and Fitzgerald and Boldin are catching everything in sight, the passing game is hard to contain.
Match-up #2: Redskins pass rush vs. Cardinals offensive line
Hogs Haven: Advantage: Redskins - I don't know enough about the Cardinals offensive line to really comment, so I'll just rant on the Redskins. At four sacks the 'Skins are good but not great so far. Jason Taylor is a big name with one sack so far, which is again, good but not great. Andre Carter and Cornelius Griffin round out a solid unit with the combo of Golston/Montgomery closing it out. As I'm of the opinion that Montgomery is probably the most underrated lineman on the team, I feel good at all positions. That said, who knows to what degree these guys remain healthy (or healthy enough; Taylor isn't long removed from injury)? This front downgrades subtantially when Demetric Evans is in for either Taylor or Carter. The emphasis will be the pass rush, since the Cardinals haven't looked so hot running the ball thus far.
CG: Advantage: Redskins - The Redskins have some formidable edge pass rushers in Jason Taylor and Andre Carter and Cornelius Griffin has been decent at providing some pressure up the middle. The turning point of this game could be whether or not the Skins are able to put pressure on Warner with their front four or if they'll have to blitz to get in his face. The Dolphins tried to blitz last week and they got burned numerous times. Warner is very capable of recognizing the blitz and standing in the pocket just long enough to deliver the pass. If Taylor and Carter are able to be get around Levi Brown and Mike Gandy, if could be a long day for the Cards.
The rest of the matchups are after the jump....
Match-up #3: Redskins receivers vs. Cardinals secondary
Hogs Haven: Advantage: Unknown - We've been simultaneously blessed and cursed with receivers in Washington. In 2005 Santana Moss put together one of the best receiving performances in the history of the franchise. In 2007 it took us like 10 weeks to get a receiver with a touchdown. Antwaan Randle El has developed much as a receiver over the past few years even as he's totally forgotten how to return punts. The real question is who plays that #3 spot, and we've got a pair of rookies dueling with James Thrash for that right. I have to think the rookies are better in the long run but, so far, due to injury and Thomas and Kelly halfassing it apparently, Thrash is the guy. Chris Cooley should be the gameplan focus of the Cardinals. The Cardinals' pass defense is playing very well so far, although I don't know how much of that is due exclusively to their secondary. In any event, because the Redskins' receivers --passing game in general-- are so Jekyll and Hyde, there's no telling how this one plays out.
CG: Advantage: Redskins - This is a tough match-up to judge because the Cardinals corner backs haven't been tested much this season, but Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and company should be a nice measuring stick. If Jason Campbell looks like the quarterback of week 2 instead of week 1, the Skins might be able to stretch the field and open up the underneath for Chris Cooley. The Cardinals secondary isn't star studded but they do have some talent and depth. Adrian Wilson and Karlos Dansby will likely be relied upon to limit Chris Cooley while Antrel Rolle will have to keep Moss from getting deep. If Campbell has time in the pocket, they've got enough weapons to give the Cardinals some problems.
Hogs Haven: Advantage: Redskins - I was terrified of our O-Line coming into the season with Jansen who, for many years was painted on our starting roster, lost his job to Stephon Heyer. He looked shaky, if only briefly, in our first game. But this O-Line is playing good football, having given up just three sacks, which is very above average especially having played the Giants (though they were limited by injury). In pass protection I'm more worried about Campbell holding on to the ball too long than I am them not giving him the time to make plays down the field. Our yards per carry (4.2) is good, nothing special, but we've done it without breaking big runs. Our running game and Arizona's running defense meet halfway, although they're a little better so far. The fun thing to watch will be their pass rush, which has generated 6 sacks and probably accounted for much of their success against the pass so far. I worry about the blitz, but the Cardinals will find that Clinton Portis is one of the best blitz pick up backs in the league. Someone will be eaten, mark my words.
CG: Advantage: Cardinals - The Redskins only gave up one sack to the Giants in week one but they really haven't faced a team that blitzes as much as the Cardinals yet. The Cardinals pulled back the intensity last week once they jumped out by three scores, but they put constant pressure on the Niners in week 1. The Skins line is full of experienced veterans but the Cardinals will be coming from every direction on Sunday. Clancy Pendergast has a plethora of pass rushers and he's had some creative ways of getting them all on the field in various situations. Campbell will have to keep his head on a swivel and make sure that he gets rid of the ball quickly.
First many thanks again to Skin Patrol at Hogs Haven and if your looking for someone with some Redskins expertise, he's your guy. That's the first installment of our weekly two part series and we'll come back with the second half tomorrow. So what do you think of my picks and Hogs Haven's picks? Agree/Disagree?