The Arizona Cardinals are on a hot streak, tying the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers as leaders of the NFC West at 2-0. The Jacksonville Jaguars, however, are struggling to find any rhythm in the Urban Meyer-Trevor Lawrence era as they are tied with the Colts for last place in the AFC South at 0-2.
Our very own Seth Cox brought up some great points in the matchup by emphasizing some of the Jaguars’ glaring issues. They have yet to force a turnover on defense, Trevor Lawrence is turnover prone having thrown five interceptions, and they could be without their starting cornerbacks in C.J. Henderson and Tre Herndon. Check out his article here.
Can the Cardinals extend their win streak to three on the road or will the Jaguars pull off a huge upset?
Here are five Arizona Cardinals things to watch for in Week 3:
1. Another productive day for rookie Rondale Moore
The rookie out of Purdue has been sensational for the Arizona Cardinals. Moore had four catches for 68 yards in Week 1. He followed that up with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. Through two weeks, Moore is the Cardinals’ leader in receiving yards (182) and should already be an early Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. Can his success continue in Week 3?
Jacksonville has allowed the seventh-most passing yards (591) in the NFL and a quarterback passer rating of 118.9. If their secondary was not an issue enough, their starting cornerbacks in C.J. Henderson (groin) and Tre Herndon (knee) are questionable to play. If DeAndre Hopkins (ribs) does not suit up, Moore might have an even more explosive day this Sunday compared to last week’s performance.
2. Kyler Murray limiting turnovers
Through the first two weeks of the season, we watched Kyler Murray throw three interceptions with two being his fault. He threw somewhat of a floater to Demetrius Harris that was intercepted by Kevin Byard in Week 1. Murray completed a pass to Vikings’ linebacker Nick Vigil for an easy pick-6.
This Jaguars team has yet to force a turnover. In Week 3 of last year, Kyler Murray was intercepted three times against the Lions that did not force any turnovers up to that point and lost. Rookie Jeff Okudah got his one and only interception of his career so far thanks to Murray. Hopefully the same does not happen with Jaguars’ rookie Tyson Campbell. The key here is play smart and do not underestimate your opponents.
3. Get Chase Edmonds more involved in the run game
Edmonds has only 20 carries on the season but has averaged an impressive 5.5 yards per carry. He leads the Cardinals with 109 rushing yards and has also done some damage as a pass catcher out of the backfield with 72 receiving yards. Even then, he is capable of shouldering a more sizeable workload to give some relief to Kyler Murray. Broncos’ rookie running back Javonte Williams was very impressive against the Jaguars with 64 rushing yards.
Of course the Cardinals’ current offensive strategy has been working with their running back committee composed of Edmonds and James Conner along with their quartet of talented receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and rookie phenom Rondale Moore. There are no complaints from me on the offense especially with how they performed through two weeks but establishing the run game with their running backs would be beneficial for the Cardinals long term in such a physically demanding/exhausting sport.
4. Establishing the pass rush on the defensive line starting with J.J. Watt
Watt had a quality performance in Week 1, creating three pressures and being stout against the run. Last week, Watt looked nonexistent on the defensive line along with the rest of the Cardinals’ defensive front seven. Chandler Jones had a five sack day against the Titans but did not record a single one in Week 2 against the Vikings.
The key to having a great defense is making the opposing quarterback feel uncomfortable in the pocket with steady consistent pass rush. Kirk Cousins had a clean pocket for the majority of the game as he lit up the Cardinals’ secondary with 244 passing yards and three touchdowns (yes I understand Vance Joseph and his defense had a much better second half compared to the first in Week 2). Make Trevor Lawrence uncomfortable and force him to continue down his turnover-prone path to add to his five interceptions through his first two NFL games of his career. If I am going to make any predictions, Watt will get his first sack as a Cardinal against the Jaguars.
5. Monitoring the health of Marco Wilson
Byron Murphy is expected to play against the Jaguars but Marco Wilson will be a game-time decision. Wilson is a valuable player in the Cardinals’ secondary as a cornerback that can play slot and out wide in the boundary. He suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter of the Vikings game and did not return. Especially against a Jaguars’ team that is not afraid to let it fly in the vertical game with a quality receiver trio in D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault, losing anyone in the secondary could be big.
If he is out, expect Antonio Hamilton to fill his role as the versatile defensive back as Byron Murphy and Robert Alford play on the outside. For what it is worth, Hamilton had a 67.7 overall Pro Football Focus grade along with solid grades in the tackling (78.4) and run defense (74.6) through 31 defensive snaps. His coverage grade last week was a 58 but Hamilton has allowed only a 88.5 passer rating through two weeks. This could also be the week where sixth-round pick Tay Gowan is active. Other cornerback options include Rasul Douglas, Jace Whittaker, and Mazzi Wilkins who are all on the Cardinals’ practice squad.
The Jaguars have talent on the offense, including a player I have yet to mention in James Robinson. He had a 1000-yard 2020 season but has been used only sparingly as they have trailed in all two of their losses. His physical style of play and lack of game-changing speed makes him the kind of running back the Cardinals would have success in stopping. Cardinals limited Derrick Henry to only 58 rushing yards where as the more explosive Dalvin Cook had 131 rushing yards. This game will be big for both teams. One is looking to extend their win streak as the other is trying to break their winless streak. Let’s see what happens!