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Arizona Cardinals vs. Miami Dolphins: A Look at Key Matchups

Putting last Sunday's win over the Niners in the rearview mirror, the Arizona Cardinals face off with the Miami Dolphins this week for the first time in four years. Needless to say both teams have experienced quite a bit of turnover and there will be plenty of new faces on each sideline. Just like last week, I've exchanged some matchup ideas with Matty I, from The Phinsider, in an effort to preview these two young, up and coming teams. Here's what we came up with on the first four: 

Match-up #1: Dolphins secondary vs. Cardinals receiversFitz5_medium

Matty I: Advantage: Cardinals - Not many teams, if any at all, can really match up with the Cardinals' group of receivers.  Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are as talented as they come and really provide matchup nightmares for Miami's secondary because of their combination of size, speed, and skill.  And to be honest, while Boldin may not have that great top-end speed, he's actually the one I'm more worried about.  And we can't forget about Steve Breaston, who is entering his 2nd season and is yet another talented receiver.  And while Will Allen is a very good player, it's going to take some real creativity to get guys like Andre Goodman, Nathan Jones, and Michael Lehan (if he plays) to slow down these receivers.  Safety help will be needed often, but we saw last week that even safety help is sometimes not enough.

CG: Advantage: Cardinals - I'll always give the Cardinals wideouts the advantage over any opposing teams secondary and this week should be no different. The Dolphins secondary should have trouble containing Fitz, Boldin and Breaston most of the day. Normally the Pro Bowl duo of Fitz and Q get most of the attention but third WR, Steve Breaston is coming into his own and could be the wild card that makes this the best receiving corps in the league. The quartet of Will Allen, Andre Goodman, Nathan Jones and Michael Lehan will need help from the safeties to keep the Cardinals recievers in front of them. The Phins secondary didn't allow Farve too much last week but they did give up a couple of big plays and they'll have to perform better against the Cardinals. The gameplan for the Cardinal offense seemed to be based around establishing the running game last week. I wouldn't be surprised though for Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Todd Haley to open things up a bit in the home opener.

The rest of the match-ups are after the jump.....

Match-up #2: Dolphins pass rush vs. Cardinals offensive line

Matty: Advantage: Dolphins - I was pleasantly surprised with the ability of the Dolphins to get pressure on Brett Favre last week.  They were able to get to Favre 3 times against an offensive line that is better than Arizona's and against a QB who can move better than Kurt Warner.  And the Cards, last week, did surrender 3 sacks to the 49ers pass rush.  I think that the way Paul Pasqualoni uses his front 7 could certainly give Cardinal tackles Mike Gandy and Levi Brown fits.  And let's be honest, Miami's pass rush will be the key to their defense this week.  If Warner is allowed to sit in the pocket and scan the field, he'll find plenty of open receivers and create plenty of big plays.  So, really, for the Dolphins to stay in this game, they must get pressure on Warner early and often.

CG: Advantage: Dolphins - The Dolphin pass rush was able to put some pressure on Farve and had it not been for a 'chuck and duck' touchdown pass, Miami might have walked out of the opener with a win. The Phins could have the same kind success this week, especially if the Warner is content with just pulling the ball down and taking a sack like he was against the Niners. The coaching staff has been drilling him about taking care of the football and he admitted that he played cautiously and held onto the ball too long. The Cardinals' offensive line isn't great at pass protection, especially RG Duece Lutui but as a whole, they're an above average group. I'm very interested to see how Levi Brown and Lutui fair against Kendell Langford, who looked really impressive against the Jets. The Phins really need to put some pressure on Warner though because if he has time, he should be able to pick the Phins secondary apart.

Match-up #3: Dolphins receivers vs. Cardinals secondary

Matty: Advantage: Cardinals - After watching last week's performance by the Dolphins' group of receivers, there's no way to think that they have an advantage over any secondary right now – especially one that includes Adrian Wilson, one of the game's most under-rated players.  Of course, though, you do have to include the tight ends and backs for the Dolphins when you talk about Miami's pass catchers.  After all, they did account for 20 of the 26 catches against the Jets.  And I think Anthony Fasano and David Martin could cause some match-up problems for the Cardinals linebackers.  But, truth be told, the Dolphins are at a disadvantage this year in the passing game and it's because Miami's group of receivers may be the worst in the entire league.  At least Chad Pennington is good at getting the ball to his backs and tight ends – offering us Dolphin fans a glimmer of hope.

CG: Advantage: Cardinals - This could be a very interesting match-up but not because of the Dolphin receivers. Chad Pennington connected with his tight ends and running backs on 20 of his 26 passes and considering that the Niners leading receivers last week were Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, the Cardinals could have their hands full this week. The Cardinals linebackers and safeties will have to keep an eye on Anthony Fasano and David Martin. If they can force Pennington to find his wide receivers, it could be a long day for Pennington and the Dolphin offense. If he's able to consistently dump the ball of to his running backs and tight ends though, the Dolphins should be able to move the ball.  

Match-up #4: Cardinals pass rush vs. Dolphins offensive line

Matty: Advantage: Cardinals - I'll admit that, from what I saw of the 49ers/Cardinals game last week, I was very impressed with the pressure that the Cardinals were able to get on J.T. O'Sullivan.  They got to him 4 times, but pressured him countless other times.  Meanwhile, the young, inexperienced Dolphins' offensive line struggled mightily at times.  Granted, I think that the Dolphins' offensive line will be much improved in time once they finally gel.  But I'm a bit worried that we might see a repeat performance of last week out of this unit against the Cardinals, when they allowed 4 sacks to the Jets and a few other "near-misses."

CG: Advantage: Cardinals - After last week's performance, it's hard not to love the Cardinals' pass rush. They got after JT O'Sullivan to the tune of four sacks and several QB pressures and the Phins gave up four sacks to the Jets. I'd imagine that the Cardinals will be able to put pressure on Pennington and it'll be up to him to get rid of the ball pretty quickly. I wouldn't be surprised to see Clancy Pendergast come up with some new blitz looks and try to confuse the relatively young offensive line of the Dolphins.


That's the first installment with more to come tomorrow, so what do you think? Agree/Disagree?