The Eagles will open the final month of the season at home fully rested coming off the late-season bye in Week 12. Amid a three-game stretch of home games, the Eagles will welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town for what will hopefully be a test of the elements.
Eight teams in the NFL made head coaching changes this offseason, including, of course, the Eagles. Of the seven other teams, four are on the Eagles’ 2013 schedule. Bruce Arians was hired by the Cardinals after an impressive and noteworthy season spent mostly as the interim head coach for the Indianapolis Colts. In fact, after helping to lead to Colts to a 9-3 record (and the playoffs) during his time at the helm, Arians was named the AP Coach of the Year.
Now in Arizona, Arians brings his preferred style of vertical passing game to a team that has struggled mightily at protecting the quarterback in recent seasons. In fact, the Cardinals have ranked in the top two in sacks allowed in each of the last three seasons. The offensive line remains mostly in tact with the exception of first-round pick Jonathan Cooper, an athletic, highly rated guard out of North Carolina. The quarterback position, though, has seen a full overhaul.
Gone are Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, replaced by Drew Stanton and presumptive starter Carson Palmer. Palmer, acquired from the Raiders for a relatively meager price, comes to Arizona after two so-so seasons in Oakland. But even at 33, Palmer has the arm strength to succeed under Arians – as long as he’s protected. The onus, then, will be on a new-look Eagles pass rush to create pressure. Meanwhile, as leaky as the pass protection has been for the Cardinals, the running game was no better in 2012 as the team ranked dead last in rushing yards per game and yards per rush. Former first-rounder Beanie Wells is no longer around, replaced by former Steelers first-round Rashard Mendenhall. Injury-riddled holdover Ryan Williams, himself a second-round pick, joins Mendenhall in the backfield. Two late-round picks, Andre Ellington out of Clemson and Stepfan Taylor out of Stanford, may both factor in the backfield as well.
On defense, the Cardinals are led by a familiar face in Todd Bowles, the Eagles' midseason replacement at defensive coordinator last season. Bowles, who played collegiately at Temple under Arians, has some pieces in place to work with. Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett form an intimidating pair of 3-4 defensive ends while emerging linebackers Daryl Washington and Sam Acho patrol the second level. 2011 first-round pick Patrick Peterson is on the verge of joining the ranks of the elite cover cornerbacks and he’s expected to be joined at the position by former San Diego Charger Antoine Cason. Longtime Cardinals stalwart Adrian Wilson departed in free agency and was replaced at safety by veteran Yeremiah Bell.
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