This week I had the pleasure of posing a few questions regarding Monday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals to Seth Cox, Editor in Chief over at Revenge Of the Birds, SBN's excellent Arizona Cardinals site. Here is what Seth had to say.
1. The Cardinals going back to last year have had a very good run defense. However, if you count playoff games, that has suddenly changed quite a bit. In 5 of the last 8 games the Cardinals have played they have given up 135 or more yards on the ground, including getting gashed for 200+ yards by the Bills. What's going on with the Cardinals' run defense? Why is it suddenly looking vulnerable? How do you think the Jets' running game matches up with the Cardinals' defense?
Answer: Without making an excuse, they had a ton of injuries up front, but more importantly they have gotten terrible production up front outside of Calais Campbell and at times Corey Peters. Frostee Rucker is back now and will help, but Ed Stinson has been bad, Josh Mauro is a nice rotational pass rushing piece and Rodney Gunter has not taken the step so many expected. The lack of execution up front has made Deone Bucannon less effective and Kevin Minter is just a steady type of player, not a game changer. Meanwhile, Robert Nkemdiche, the "steal of the first round" to some has played 15 snaps all season and has not been active since week one. So, long winded answer short, they haven't had their best three together much, Rucker/Peters/Campbell and those filling in for Rucker haven't been as good, and they have literally gotten nothing from their first round pick... so far.
2. Carson Palmer will turn 37 years old by the end of this season, an age when many quarterbacks are in decline. Over the last eight games, including playoffs, Palmer has 13 interceptions and 6 fumbles. Is this just a random bad stretch, or is Palmer beginning to decline with age?
Yes? Honestly, it is one of those chicken/egg questions. Is he declining, is he hurt, is he just in a funk, is it a combination of all three? We have seen this with a number of quarterbacks past 35, it is not a question of if, but when. After last years 14 games in the regular season everyone assumed at least two more good years, but maybe the finger injury was the catalyst to the decline? Or maybe, it has just been a weird amalgamation of injuries, ineffectiveness and the answer to three.
3. Larry Fitzgerald has been great this year, but both John Brown and Michael Floyd have struggled quite a bit. After doing a great job spreading the ball around in recent years,why have the Cardinals suddenly become so Fitzgerald-centric? Do you think that will change against a struggling Jets pass defense?
Michael Floyd is a nice player. He unfortunately is much like a small, speed receiver, in a massive players body where you continually expect him to be Brandon Marshall, but he's not. If you watch Floyd he wins mostly on deep routes and jump balls, usually in contested catching situations. He has not taken the next step as a route runner, and his work in the intermediate is bad at best. Combine that with key drops in situations this season, and it makes sense that Carson Palmer and last game Drew Stanton just trust Larry more. Larry may not be the run after the catch dynamo of yesteryear, but he is likely still the best route runner in football, and still has a nose for the endzone like few in history.
John Brown, the hope, is that he is out of shape and sync due to a bad concussion suffered in camp that made him miss basically all of camp and has been trying to round back into shape. He looked like it before the Palmer injury, and to be fair, no one is going to hold a bad game against Floyd or John Brown with Drew Stanton as quarterback against them.
4. How would you attack this Cardinals defense if you were the Jets offense? What are the weaknesses that can be exploited? What are the strengths that need to be accounted for?
As quickly as possible. The deeper the drops, the more you try and go down the field, the better Chandler Jones and Markus Golden are. If you attack short, quick and make this team tackle, you could have success, because Bucannon is having an off year while Tyrann Mathieu is still rounding into form post ACL repair #2. If you try and throw the ball down the field, you are asking for trouble.
5. If there is a strength to the Jets defense in 2016, which is debatable, it lies in the defensive line. How is the Cardinals' offensive line doing in pass protection this year, and how do you think the Cardinals will fare against the Jets defensive line Monday Night?
This is the million dollar question. Evan Mathis may be done, forever, while Mike Iupati is likely out, meaning you get Earl Watford and John Wetzel at guard. Add in the fact that A.Q. Shipley and D.J. Humphries have been less than stellar in pass protection, it could be a long day. The strength in this team lies in the run game. David Johnson is maybe the best RB in the NFL, and the Cardinals OL is all at least average in run blocking, even without their two All Pro caliber guards. That means, run... the... ball. It took Coach Bruce Arians a half to figure that out in San Francisco, the Jets are a better team, so hopefully if the passing game is not clicking, it is realized and fixed quicker.