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Behind Enemy Lines: Cardinals Preview

Posted Dec 1, 2013

Darren Urban is in his 14th season covering the Cardinals, including the last seven for azcardinals.com. He provides a behind-the-scenes look at today's opponent ...

Arizona, like Philadelphia, has a new head coach this season. What has been Bruce Arians’ impact on the Cardinals?

“The best thing that Bruce brought to the table was a refreshing kind of attitude and just his bluntness in a lot of ways. He really made no bones about the fact that he’s going to wear his emotions on his sleeve, yet it’s amazing because even if there are those emotions, he brings it back to level fairly quickly. I think that’s been great for the players. He’s business and he’ll let them know he means business, but then he’s able to bring it back to level.

“The other thing about him is, being so blunt, the guys know where they stand. There are definitely no games going on around here. If he doesn’t like how they’re playing, they’re going to know it, he lets them know exactly what they’re doing wrong, and if they fix it, it’s not a problem and he’s an equal-opportunity person when it comes to that. He’ll praise them too. I think that honesty is important to a lot of these guys, because I think at the end of the day, they just want to know where they stand.”

Before the season, Arizona was not mentioned as a possible playoff contender with San Francisco and Seattle. Why are the Cardinals in the middle of the playoff hunt?

“I think ultimately this is a team that is built on their defense. They obviously had quarterback issues, but this is a team that  has been playing good defense and even though they changed coordinators (by hiring former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles), they’re still finding ways to get it done. They stop the run. They create turnovers.

“Offensively, it’s been a lot more hit and miss, but I don’t think there is any question that Carson Palmer is a better quarterback than most of the guys that they’ve had around here in the past few years since Kurt Warner left. I think they would like their offense to be better, but I think defensively they are the real deal and it’s going to keep them in a lot of games. It’s usually not very pretty, but they’ve been able to win a lot more than they’ve lost obviously. It was easy to be under the radar in a division with Seattle and San Francisco, and that was fine with them. They said all along, ‘Let’s just play the games,’ and it’s worked out pretty well for them.”

With Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, how good is the Cardinals secondary?

“I think it’s obviously pretty good. I think cornerback Patrick Peterson has quietly had a very good season. I know a lot of people kind of go back and forth and I see some of the outside analysts - some think he’s really good and others question whether he should have that 'elite' tag. With the amount of time that they throw at Patrick Peterson, I do think he is qualified as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and I think he’s only going to get better.

“Tyrann Mathieu has been exactly what was advertised in terms of football. I think it was safe to say that he probably wasn’t going to be a third-round pick had he not had his off-the-field issues. They lucked out because he did slip and they were willing to take a chance on him, and on the football field he is exactly what they said: A playmaker, and a guy who has great football instincts and is around the ball. He’s probably one of the best tacklers on this team.”

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has had success against the Eagles in the past, but is he still playing at an All-Pro level?

“The season so far has been disappointing for Larry. I think that he would say that in a second. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he has had some hamstring problems which have slowed him. Arians came in and wanted to have him learn multiple positions and use him in multiple positions a lot of the time, and that’s been a process for Larry, and teams are still rolling coverages to him, so it’s harder to get the ball to him.

“Carson has thrown a lot of interceptions so he’s trying to be more careful, so he’s going to chose to go away from the possible double-coverage at this point, and I think that’s probably cost Larry some targets. He’s still very effective. He doesn’t have the numbers that they would like, but the team is winning, so I don’t think anybody is going to complain and I know that Larry is not going to complain.”

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