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Saturday before football Sunday: What to watch for in Eagles-Cardinals

Kyler Murray is 4-0 against former Oklahoma quarterbacks

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl - Alabama v Oklahoma Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Sunday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals (2-2) and the Philadelphia Eagles (4-0) will feature a pair of former Oklahoma quarterbacks as Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts square off in this high-anticipated matchup.

Both teams rallied after their slow starts in Week 4 with the Cardinals defeating the Panthers in Charlotte 26-16 and the Eagles beating the Jaguars 29-21 on a rainy day at home in Philadelphia.

One very interesting note about Murray is he is a perfect 4-0 against former Oklahoma quarterbacks as he extended his streak last Sunday in the win over 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.

Their last matchup against the Eagles in 2020 was a thrilling one with the Cardinals coming out on top 33-26. Kyler Murray completed 27-of-36 passes for 406 passing yards and scored four total touchdowns that game. Jalen Hurts was equally as dominant as he accounted for 338 passing yards, 63 rushing yards, and four total touchdowns

So what will come about tomorrow?

Here are three things to watch and consider as the Cardinals host the Eagles in Week 5:

Eagles’ defensive dominance is concerning for the Cardinals’ 14th-ranked offense

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles are allowing the third-fewest yards per game (277.2) in large part because of the dominance of their secondary with cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry allowing a combined passer rating of 28.3 according to Pro Football Focus. Their 56.4 completion percentage and 4.8 yards per pass allowed are tops in the NFL in both defensive categories. Philadelphia owns arguably the best pass rush in the league with an NFL-leading 16 sacks through the first four weeks of the regular season led by former Cardinals’ first-round pick Haason Reddick.

All-Pro center Rodney Hudson has already been ruled out for the Cardinals which is a rather big hit for their interior offensive line. This does not bode well for Arizona considering the talented defensive tackle rotation the Eagles have in Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and 2022 first-round pick Jordan Davis. Kyler Murray’s 5.7 yards per pass is ranked second-worst among starting quarterbacks as he matches up with a defense allowing the fewest yards per pass in the NFL. Hollywood Brown will likely be receiving a bulk of his catches on short underneath routes to continue his hot start in the desert. Cardinals will need to get James Conner and the run game going as a stingy Eagles’ secondary will limit Arizona’s production through the air. Their best output on the ground in a single game this season was from Darrel Williams, who only had 59 rush yards in Week 2.

Arizona has not won at home since October 24 of last year.

Kliff Kingsbury and company must put an end to slow starts; Must get hot on defense if first-half offensive struggles continue

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“There’s no rhythm at the beginning of the games,” Kyler Murray said after the Cardinals 26-16 win last Sunday. “We’re sleepwalking out there. That’s what it feels like.”

Murray was not kidding with their lackluster starts as the Cardinals trailed in every game this season with 16 total points scored in second quarters and zero in first quarters through four weeks. The second half seems to be an entirely different story with 39 total points scored in fourth quarters alone. Arizona cannot afford to start slow considering the Eagles are coming to town with the fourth-best scoring offense (28.8) in the NFL that also ranks second in total scrimmage yards (435.5) per game.

Cardinals defense, that has allowed an average of 25.8 points, will need to be at their best on Sunday with the likes of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert on the horizon especially if Arizona’s offense cannot get going. Though they have a league-low of four sacks, the Cardinals have the third-highest pass rush win rate (52%) according to ESPN thanks to the ascendance of Zach Allen, who is coming off a stellar game with six tackles, a sack, and three batted passes. They will be presented with another big opportunity for sacks as the Eagles will be without starting left tackle Jordan Mailata due to a shoulder injury. Jeff Driscoll is the next-man up to start in his place so expect Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to test the left side of the Eagles’ offensive line with exotic packages to get after Jalen Hurts.

Byron Murphy and the secondary will not be able to cover forever. If the Cardinals hope to win, they have to make Hurts uncomfortable, force turnovers, and make him feel the pressure. That or the Cardinals need to have a complete efficient performance on offense from the start of the game to the end of regulation.

A homecoming of sorts; Zach Ertz and Haason Reddick to play against their former teams

Arizona Cardinals v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Zach Ertz is easily the best tight end the Cardinals have had since Jackie Smith in the 1960s. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Ertz with the 35th overall pick in the 2013 draft and went on to set a number of records that includes the record-breaking 116 receptions in 2018. He was traded to the Cardinals last season and went on to haul in 56 passes, 574 yards, and three touchdowns in only 11 games. In what could be a revenge game of sorts for the tight end, expect Ertz to be heavily targeted against his former team.

As mentioned earlier, Haason Reddick was the Cardinals’ former first-round selection in the 2017 draft and he will be hungry for more sacks as he leads the Eagles with 3.5.

“It’s always special to go back there,” Reddick told reporters in Philadelphia this week. “I always want to go back there just to show them what they let go.”

Will Kyler Murray extend his win streak against Oklahoma quarterbacks? Can the Cardinals’ run game get going early? Will Jalen Hurts put on a show against the Cardinals’ defense?

This is the Arizona Cardinals’ chance to make a statement with a win at home against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.