Philadelphia Eagles News

Cardinals: What To Watch For

When The Eagles Have The Ball

The Eagles have moved the ball with ease in their first two weeks against the Browns and the Ravens. In fact, the Eagles have the league's top offense with an average of 471 yards per game.

The one roadblock for the Eagles offense thus far has been turnovers. After escaping Cleveland with a win despite five turnovers, the Eagles coughed up the ball four times against the Ravens, but in the end still came out with the all-important victory.

The Cardinals, like the Ravens, present another tough test for the Eagles in the form of a 3-4 defense. Arizona is currently ranked fifth in the league in scoring defense. The battle to watch will be up front as Dallas Reynolds will be making his first career start at center for the Eagles. The Cardinals have two very good ends in Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. Dockett is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and has 34.0 career sacks. Campbell is tough to deal with because of his 6-8, 300-pound frame. He is off to a quick start with 2.0 sacks already this season.

Brent Celek had a career day against the Ravens linebackers to the tune of 157 receiving yards, the second-most by a tight end in franchise history. The man to watch in the middle of the Cardinals defense is third-year linebacker Daryl Washington. A former second-round pick, Washington has 7.0 career sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble thus far. Coming off the edge, the Cardinals have Sam Acho, who will battle King Dunlap as long as Dunlap's hamstring injury is healed. Demetress Bell could start if Dunlap is not able to go. Acho has a sack on the season. Opposite Acho is O'Brien Schofield, who recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last season.

In the secondary, left cornerback Patrick Peterson would likely be matched up against DeSean Jackson. Peterson is known for his return skills, but has an interception on defense so far in 2012. The 6-1, 219-pound Peterson was the No. 5 overall pick in 2011. Opposite Peterson is veteran William Gay, who spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Steelers. Last season, Gay had a career-high two interceptions.

The secondary is fortified with two long-tenured veteran safeties in Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes. Wilson is one of the most decorated players in franchise history with four Pro Bowl selections. He had a career-high 16 passes defensed last season despite suffering a torn biceps in Training Camp. At 230 pounds, Wilson is also a force against the run.

Eagles Projected Starting Lineup
QB Michael VickLDE Jason Babin
RB LeSean McCoyLDT Cullen Jenkins
FB Stanley HaviliRDT Derek Landri
WR Jason AvantRDE Trent Cole
LT Demetress BellWILL LB Akeem Jordan
LG Evan MathisMIKE LB DeMeco Ryans
C Dallas ReynoldsSAM LB Mychal Kendricks
RG Danny WatkinsLCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
RT Todd HerremansRCB Nnamdi Asomugha
TE Brent CelekSS Nate Allen
WR DeSean JacksonFS Kurt Coleman

When The Cardinals Have The Ball

Offensively, the Cardinals haven't exactly been explosive over the first two games, but they've done enough to win. Some of that credit goes to the pass protection, which has been much maligned over the last two seasons. Consider that in 2011, Kevin Kolb was sacked once approximately every 9.4 dropbacks. This year, through the first two games, Kolb has only been sacked once in 36 total dropbacks. However, the Cardinals have not yet been tested by the vaunted Eagles defensive line that led the league in sacks last season. Along those lines, this will be the third consecutive week in which Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin will be lined up opposite a rookie defensive tackle. This week's pup is Bobby Massie, a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi.

On the outside, the Eagles expect to be better suited to cover Larry Fitzgerald than they were last season, when Fitzgerald victimized the Eagles to the tune of seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns at Lincoln Financial Field. But the Eagles were missing Nate Allen in that game and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was not yet patrolling the outside of the field. Rest assured that Fitzgerald will be motivated to make an impact, though, as he's coming off a game against the Patriots in which he caught a lone pass for four yards.

Even less prolific than the passing game for the Cardinals this year has been the running game. The Cardinals top two running backs, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, have paltry yards-per-carry averages of 2.8 and 1.2 respectively. That's good news for an Eagles defense that has looked much improved against the run, thanks in part to the addition of DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks at linebacker. Speaking of Kendricks, one of the most impressive aspects of the Eagles defense thus far has been the relative ease with which three rookies have become vital cogs in the defensive machine. Kendricks has stood out at linebacker, while first-round pick Fletcher Cox was trusted to play the most snaps of any defensive lineman last week and fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin has been a revelation as the nickel cornerback. Scary, then, to think for the rest of the league that the Eagles defense may only get better as the season goes on, though they will be tested by the only West coast trip on the schedule.

Cardinals Projected Starting Lineup
QB Kevin KolbLDE Calais Campbell
RB Beanie WellsNT Dan Williams
FB Anthony ShermanRDT Darnell Dockett
WR Larry FitzgeraldLOLB O'Brien Schofield
LT D'Anthony BatisteLILB Daryl Washington
LG Daryn ColledgeRILB Paris Lenon
C Lyle SendleinROLB Sam Acho
RG Adam SnyderLCB Patrick Peterson
RT Bobby MassieRCB William Gay
TE Jeff KingSS Adrian Wilson
WR Andre RobertsFS Kerry Rhodes

Key Matchups

C Dallas Reynolds vs. DT Darnell Dockett

After starting center Jason Kelce went down early in the third quarter Sunday, reserve lineman Dallas Reynolds filled in and did more than hold his own. Tasked with slowing down a Ravens line that included All-Pro Haloti Ngata, Reynolds kept the pocket clean and helped the Eagles march down the field to score a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. He'll face another tough 3-4 unit Sunday, captained this time by defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.

Dockett was originally drafted as a defensive end but was moved inside after the Cardinals switched to a 3-4 defense. A three-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro in 2009, Dockett has made it a habit of getting to the quarterback. Since 2007, Dockett has more sacks than any defensive tackle in the league. Reynolds performed admirably last Sunday, and he'll be asked to keep it up this week against Dockett and the Cardinals' defensive line.

WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. CB Nnamdi Asomugha

It will be a battle of wills Sunday, as wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is likely to be lined up against cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. In their last two meetings, Asomugha has held the Cardinals to only two catches for 26 yards and no touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Through the first two games of the 2012 season Fitzgerald has five receptions for 67 yards and no touchdowns, numbers he will certainly want to improve upon.

Both players are widely regarded as among the most cerebral players at their respective positions, but it will take more than brains to separate the two. At 6-3 and 218 pounds, Fitzgerald won't be easily handled at the line, which means Asomugha will have to match the physicality and speed Fitzgerald has made an All-Pro career out of. The past says Asomugha should be able to limit the Cardinal, but Fitzgerald will have his eyes focused on the end zone.

CB/PR Patrick Peterson vs. Eagles Special Teams

Cornerback and punt returner Patrick Peterson will provide yet another early test for the Eagles' coverage unit. Last season, Peterson was one of the most electric players in the league. As a punt returner, he set the NFL single-season and the Cardinals' all-time record with four touchdowns. He also amassed 699 return yards, an NFL rookie record.

To combat his speed, the Eagles must improve on their performance from last week where they held the Ravens to 34 yards on three punt returns. This means they will need special teams ace Colt Anderson to return to top form. Special teams coordinator Bobby April's unit will need Anderson's experience and hustle to stop a potentially dangerous Peterson from swapping field position, or worse, putting up a quick score.

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