While the biggest news out of Chip Kelly's Tuesday press conference focused on the quarterback position, the Eagles head coach also took time to speak about his team's next opponent. The Arizona Cardinals come to Philadelphia at 7-4, having won their last four games. Like the Eagles, the Cardinals find themselves getting hot at the right time under their first-year head coach Bruce Arians.
"He's winning football games, and that's what this deal is all about," Kelly said of his coaching counterpart. "You get judged by your win-loss record. He did a great job last year (in Indianapolis) when Coach Pagano got sick and he took over for the Colts and got that ship going in the right direction. You watched that team play and you could have gone two different ways in that situation, and I think that he kind of rallied the troops and kept them together, and you're starting to see the same thing now in Arizona. They've got four straight wins and they're starting to play really, really well."
Unlike the Cardinals teams of years past that were built around explosive offenses, this year's Arizona team is characterized by its stingy defense. The Cardinals have a top-10 defense in terms of both points (20.3) and yards (317.1) allowed per game, and they also feature the second-best run defense in the NFL, allowing 81.3 yards per game on average.
"They've got a lot of experience, a lot of guys that have played a lot of years on the defensive side of the ball," Kelly said. "Besides (Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett) you've got (Jon) Abraham and (Matt) Shaugnessy, Dan Williams also, and (Alameda) Ta'amu is another big guy in there when they're in their base package. I think Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby at linebacker are two outstanding players who are playing at a really high level, and then (they have) one of the best corners in the league in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu is a great addition out back, so it's a formidable defense and they're playing really well right now."
One of the Cardinals' biggest defensive strengths has been their ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Campbell, Abraham, and Dockett alone have combined for 17 sacks, but Kelly explained that his team has fared well against other blitz-happy teams this season.
"Percentage-wise, we have (faced a defense that blitzes as often as Arizona)," said Kelly. "It just depends on what they actually choose to do going against us. Some teams have blitzed a lot before and then in our game have chosen not to and they've stayed with it. They matchup against some of the other teams that we've seen from a blitz percentage going into the game, so it will be interesting to see how the game plays itself out."
Arizona has also played very well as of late on offense. The Cardinals will enter Sunday's game having scored at least 22 points in each of their last five games, and they have a plethora of weapons that can all create mismatches. Larry Fitzgerald is typically the first name that comes to mind when you think of the Cardinals offense, but Kelly believes that there is much more to the story.
"He's one of the (great) receivers in the league, but I think that the emergence of Michael Floyd next to him has really lent some balance to them so that you can't just say, 'Hey, we're going to take this guy away,'" Kelly said. "I think one has 50 catches and the other has 49 catches. They've got two good running backs in (Andre) Ellington and (Rashard) Mendenhall, and I think Carson (Palmer) over the last couple of games- and they're on a four game winning streak- has started to play really well.
"(Palmer) is there and Bruce (Arians) is there, so there's been a lot of change in that program too, so it's guys starting to get comfortable with their scheme and they're starting to hit strides. They're one of the hotter teams in the league right now, so we've got our work cut out for us."
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