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Arizona Receivers A Tough Task


Thinking back to last season's game against Arizona, there is one play etched into the minds of defensive coordinator Bill Davis and safety Malcolm Jenkins. With 1:33 on the clock, the Eagles had a three-point lead in hand and the Cardinals were faced with a third down at their own 25-yard line.

But just when it looked like the game would end in Philadelphia's favor, quarterback Carson Palmer looked down the field and fired the ball directly into the waiting hands of John Brown. The receiver ran into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown that would be the eventual difference between a win and a loss for the Eagles that day.

Although the team's secondary has a much different look now, the Eagles know Arizona's dominant receivers are still a major threat in the upcoming game. Philadelphia is expecting to see the deep balls, and this time around, they will be ready.

"We know Arizona is going to take six to eight shots a game," Davis explained. "That's what they do and it's part of the reason they are the No. 1 offense in the NFL in a lot of categories right now. We've got to stay disciplined. That one we just didn't have good eye discipline. We were in quarters coverage and really should have had two guys deep on it.

"They've got great speed and ran behind us and it was a great vertical throw on us to really put them ahead to win the game. We just have to play with more discipline and responsibility and take care of our own like we did the other night and make the plays. They make a lot of plays down the field. We've got to go out and make those plays."

This season, the Cardinals rank first in the league with 59 passes of 20 yards or more. Ten of those resulted in touchdowns. Nevertheless, with weapons like Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, those numbers are not a surprise. The three receivers alone account for 2,635 of Arizona's 4,019 receiving yards and 18 of its 31 receiving touchdowns on the year.

"You can't really double-team anybody on their team," Jenkins said. "They've got three or four solid receivers and a really good tight end and they do some good things with their backs as well. Floyd on the outside, Brown is a speedy guy, and we know all about him from last year, and then Larry is having one of those career years in the slot.  Everybody's got to win their matchup. You can't roll the help to one guy because all the other guys are more than capable of winning."

In his 12th NFL season, Fitzgerald is posting big-time numbers in the slot. He leads the Cardinals with 1,088 receiving yards, which also places him as the No. 7 receiver in the league.

Jenkins is preparing to go up against Fitzgerald and even called him the "most-decorated slot receiver" he'll face this season. The safety, however, has experience going head-to-head with Fitzgerald and is more than ready to go around round on Sunday.

"I know him personally and I know how hard he works and what he's been doing in this league for a long time," Jenkins said. "He's a smart guy. He's savvy. He knows the position. You put him in the slot, he's a good route runner, which is what you need to be in there.

"He's savvy enough to find the soft spot in zone, and he's smart enough to read defenses as well. He does all the dirty work, too. He blocks willingly and does it really well. He's an all-around good receiver. That's why he's been one of the best in this league for a really long time."

For the Eagles to avoid another catastrophe like last year's, they'll be watching all three wide receivers closely. Every member of the secondary will have a responsibility and will need to perform at a top level in order to shut down the Cardinals' talented group.

"With John Brown ... he can run," rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, who now has two starts under his belt, said. "You've got to get a hand on him and stay on top of him. You can't let him go deep. Then with Michael Floyd, you've got to play strong with him because obviously he's a big, physical guy. He can push over. You can't let that happen. With those two different styles, we have to figure out a way to slow them down."

The entire Eagles' secondary is looking for ways to avoid an outcome like the one in 2014. When the unit takes on Arizona this Sunday, you can be certain it will be focused on limiting the Cardinals' explosiveness and containing the team's receiving corps.

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