After an exciting road victory to start the season, the Arizona Cardinals welcome Washington for the home opener. Both teams come in with a 1-0 record and hope to start the season off with back-to-back victories. It will be a surreal moment as Arizona plays a home game without fans but today we take a look at what the Cardinals need to do to avoid the upset.
Washington faced an awful Philadelphia offensive line in week one. The Eagles surrendered eight sacks against Washington, including 1.5 sacks to rookie Chase Young. In week one action, Arizona surrendered just a pair of sacks against a talented San Francisco pass rush. However, much of the credit must be a split primary between quarterback Kyler Murray‘s elusiveness and the quick passing game employed by head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Murray avoided roughly a half-dozen sacks against the 49ers. One of the biggest weaknesses along the offensive line was left tackle, D.J. Humphries. The veteran looked overmatched against Nick Bosa and often required help to block the defensive end.
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The Washingon pass rush is arguably more athletic than what San Francisco offered in week one. Equally as talented, Washington has the potential to cause problems for the Arizona offensive line. Expect Kingsbury to again focus on getting the ball out of Murray’s hands quickly. It would not be a surprise to see a running back or tight end help in pass blocking by providing a quick chip block before leaking out into the flat. It helped keep San Francisco at bay and would be a valuable tool against Washington. Ultimately it will take a strong effort from the offensive line.
On paper, the Cardinals should win this game without much difficulty. However, if paper truly mattered, last week’s victory wouldn’t have happened. The key to a Washington victory is to force turnovers and slow down the Arizona offense. In week one, the Cardinals were fortunate to limit their turnovers. The lone turnover for Arizona was an interception on a tipped pass. However, there were three or four other instances where the Arizona ball carrier fumbled the football, recovering the ball after a fortuitous bounce. If any of those fumbles had been recovered by the 49ers, it is likely that the Cardinals would be recovering from a difficult loss.
It comes down to prioritizing the safety of the football. There is no doubt that the Washington defense has seen the game tape from the season opener. Turnovers can change the landscape of a game. Washington will undoubtedly look to knock the ball out at every instance to steal a possession. In their week one victory, Washington forced three turnovers, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Washington scored 14 points off of turnovers, with the final turnover essentially ending the game.
Play Sound Defense
In week one, the Arizona defense played a fairly clean game. There were few breakdowns on the day, including a fairly penalty-free performance. Two of the San Francisco scores came on breakdowns from rookie linebacker, Isaiah Simmons. The biggest leaps forward for players typically come between games one and two. Simmons will face a less dynamic group of running backs against Washington. The secondary weathered an injury to Jalen Thompson, who left the game early in the first quarter. Without Thompson, the Arizona secondary was more than effective, suffocating an anemic San Francisco passing attack.
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Against Washington, the defense must avoid mental lapses which result in big plays. Washington’s starting quarterback is second-year player, Dwayne Haskins. He is a big-bodied quarterback, standing at 6’4″ and approximately 240 pounds. Haskins is a bit more mobile than Jimmy Garoppolo but prefers to throw from inside the pocket. Washington has a weaker offensive line than San Francisco so the Arizona pass rush should be able to get home without excessive blitzing. This could turn into a big game for outside linebacker Chandler Jones. Washington’s offensive line surrendered three sacks to an average Philadelphia defense. The Cardinals should have the advantage this week.
The week one victory over San Francisco put the Cardinals on the map for the 2020 season. Arizona battled their division rival and showed tremendous growth since the end of last season. Week two brings a different set of challenges, primarily, how does the team react to success. The Cardinals have winnable games coming up and could jump out into a quick lead in the division if they can finish these games. Washington presents an opportunity to prove that the Cardinals are legitimate contenders for the playoffs or if they are an inconsistent, but talented team.
Prediction: Arizona wins home opener, 27 – 17
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Cardinals. He also covered the San Francisco 49ers for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada