Jess Root from BRB’s sister blog, Revenge Of The Birds, was kind enough to stop by and answer all my burning questions on this week’s opponent, the Arizona Cardinals. Can the Cardinals make another magical run like 2008? Is the Honey Badger for real? How high does Patrick Paterson rank among the league’s cornerbacks? Read on and find out.
1. Tyrann Mathieu seems to have fit into the NFL very well in his rookie season. What have you observed from watching his play this year? What should we expect to see as he makes his first official start at safety this weekend?
Well, it is not his first official start. It is his first start as an official starter. He started against Atlanta and in other games when Rashad Johnson was out with his severed fingertip. after half a season, we know that he is a sure tackler. He is around the ball. He tends to make one or two very impactful plays again, either on a blitz, a stop or forcing a turnover. His role will be at safety in base packages and then at nickel corner when the defense goes nickel or dime. That is where he makes plays.
He will give up some catches, but very rarely does a guy get yards after the catch. But he will be known on the field.
2. Carson Palmer seems to be the definition of an "up and down" quarterback this season. Do you think he is the long term answer, or should the Cards go after someone high in this coming draft?
At his age and his declining play, he certainly should not be seen as anything more than a three-year answer...at the very most. Many don't think he is even the answer this year; the Cards just don't have a real answer. I would totally expect a quarterback to be drafted next May. How high that guy is drafted will determine whether Palmer returns. His contract is structured in a fashion that he was meant to be here for two years. He will have a cap hit in 2014 of $10 million and, if cut, would have a significant number (6 million) still.
Head coach Bruce Arians is known for working with young QBs. That means he is likely to hitch his wagon to someone very soon.
3. Andre Ellington has come out of nowhere (perhaps to everyone except Clemson fans) in the last month or so to provide a spark to the Arizona running game. Have the Cards finally found a franchise back?
He isn't a traditional feature back because they do not believe he is a 20-25 carry guy. He is compared to Darren Sproles. He will get about 15-20 touches in a variety of ways -- running the ball up the middle, on the outside and as a receiver. He is not a "franchise" guy, but he will be and should be a guy that you try and find ways to get the ball. The team will need a bruiser back, and they may have him in Stepfan Taylor.
4. Patrick Peterson has been an impact player since he entered the league, but do you feel like he has earned a place in the conversation as the league's best corner? How can we expect Arizona to use him this Sunday against the likes of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins?
He will probably be lined up against Andre Johnson most of the time. You will see some zone, some Cover 1, and he may even line up a few plays against Hopkins, but he will mostly get Johnson, as he did with Calvin Johnson. As for where he fits in the conversation, he is there in the conversation. He is not quite Darrelle Revis, but he is near that. He doesn't get much safety help and he is a better run supporter than other top corners. He is unique and he also plays on offense. So while I don't consider him the best, he is among the best and, while not yet elite, very good.
5. Put your name on it, the score of this game will be HOU ____ ARI ____ and why.
Cardinals 27, Texans 16. Arizona plays well at home, as evidenced by their wins over the Panthers and the Lions. This is the game where Case Keenum's penchant for chucking the ball deep with reckless abandon comes back to bite him in the butt. The Arizona defense harasses him and force turnovers. Offensively, Andre Ellington has a big impact, which also frees up the passing game. Ellington scores once and Carson Palmer throws for a pair of TDs.
Thanks to Jess for coming by. You can get your fill of Cardinals news every week by heading on over to Revenge Of The Birds.