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Week 8 Preview: A Budding Rivalry?

Posted Jul 5, 2014

A year after the Cardinals traveled to Philadelphia for the Eagles' first game after the bye, the Eagles will travel to Arizona for their post-bye game. Chip Kelly will do his best to extend his winning streak of post-bye games to two.

Last season's tilt between former NFC East rivals was a memorable one that produced controversy, bad blood and a 24-21 Eagles victory in which they built up a 24-7 lead and held on at the end to thwart the Cardinals' comeback bid. Zach Ertz had five catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game as a professional, in that game, while Nate Allen and Cary Williams had one interception apiece. The two teams won't have to wait long to renew hostilities, as the rematch is set for the 2014 season, this time at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Left tackle Jared Veldheer was signed away from the Oakland Raiders to protect Carson Palmer's blind side. Speaking of Palmer, he returns for his second season as Bruce Arians' starting quarterback and will have his same top two wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and 2013 breakout star Michael Floyd. The Cardinals offense will also feature second-year running back Andre Ellington in an increased role following the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall and the release of Ryan Williams. Ellington, who led all qualified ball carriers with 5.5 yards per carry last season, is a shifty, dynamic runner with big-play ability and is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. He added 371 yards on 39 catches and totaled 1,023 yards on 157 total touches. Palmer and Ellington will also welcome the addition of 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper. The guard missed the entirety of his rookie campaign with a broken leg.

The backbone for the Cardinals in 2013, however, was its defense. Under first-year coordinator Todd Bowles, the defense ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (84.4 per game), sixth in total yards allowed (317.4 per game), sixth in sacks (47), tied for sixth in takeaways (28) and seventh in points allowed (20.3 per game). The unit boasts bona fide stars in cornerback Patrick Peterson, defensive end Calais Campbell, as well as long-tenured defensive end Darnell Dockett and outside linebacker John Abraham, who had a renaissance season in 2013 as a 3-4 edge rusher (11.5 sacks). The Cardinals made one notable addition to the defense, signing Antonio Cromartie to play cornerback opposite Peterson.

However, the Cardinals were dealt a significant blow when Pro Bowl inside linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He missed the first four games of last year for the same reason, but returned and had 81 tackles, three sacks and a pair of interceptions. Arizona is also hoping that safety Tyrann Mathieu, who started 11 games as a rookie, can bounce back after a season-ending ACL injury late in the year. Mathieu had 68 tackles and a pair of interceptions.

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