Joined: 17 Nov 2011
Location: Mesa, AZ
|Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 4:31 pm Post subject: AZvsSTL: Offense vs Defense Match-Up
|When I first visited the week one match-up against St. Louis, I said that the Cardinals matched up well against the Rams and that we would probably squeak out a win (http://azbirdgang.com/?p=19). Well, it’s time for me to elaborate on that claim and explain why I feel that way.
First, let’s examine the Cardinals offensive line against the Rams defensive line. We all know that the Cardinals line struggled through the course of the season but some of the line appeared to emerge from about week 8 to week 17 a little more seasoned, and looking less like a turnstile. One shining example of that was our right tackle, Bobby Massie.
“Nowhere can his improvement be seen more clearly than last week, when the Cardinals faced the Rams for the second time this season. The first time around Massie earned a -4.5 grade for the game, and that was despite run blocking well. He surrendered just a single sack, but let his quarterback hit the deck too and surrendered a massive eight hurries.
All of that pressure bar one hurry came from Chris Long, one of the league’s better pressure artists. The second meeting? Long earned one knockdown and two hurries, just one of which came against Massie, and the big tackle earned a grade of +1.9.”
The question marks on our line are going to be at left tackle, left guard, and right guard. We know that Lyle Sendlein at center is generally pretty reliable, not stellar, but reliable. The rookie, Jonathan Cooper, will be manning the left guard position and we have yet to know how his game will translate to the NFL. Daryn Colledge appears to be moving to the right guard spot, which he has been a left guard for almost his entire career except for a small stint when the Packers needed him to play guard around 3-4 years ago. At left tackle, we don’t know what Levi Brown we are getting, and that is the biggest question mark of the offensive line. Even more so than the rookie Cooper, because Brown has been known for being a turnstile at left tackle over the years, save for the back half of the 2011 season before he suffered a tricep injury in camp for the 2012 season. One must not forget Nate Potter though and how well he was able to play in his rookie season as a seventh-round draft pick. He could end up stepping in at left tackle eventually if Brown struggles, but I really think Levi will return to his late 2011 form and solidify the left tackle position this season.
During the 2011 season, which was Brown’s last full season, he allowed 11.5 sacks per ProFootballWeekly compared to Nate Potter playing in half a season and allowed 7 sacks per ProFootballWeekly. Given a full season, one could argue that Potter would of allowed more sacks compared to Brown, but would he have allowed more QB pressures? ProFootballFocus said that Brown struggled early in 2011 and was on his way to posting the worst score they’ve ever seen from a left tackle.
“No player had a more two-sided season in 2011 than left tackle Levi Brown. In Weeks 1 through 10 he was on his way to possibly the worst season we’ve ever seen from the position (giving up a quarterback disruption on almost 11% of passing plays), but the game at San Francisco saw an unbelievable turnaround where his standard of play, if extrapolated through a whole season, would have seen him picking up our second-team All-Pro. The highlight of all this was probably holding DeMarcus Ware without a single pressure against the Cowboys in Week 13.”
If either of our tackles turn into the matadors they have been in the past, waving red at these Rams defensive ends will result in pressure on every down. Chris Long and Robert Quinn generate the most pressure for the Rams and they are known for getting home pretty quickly. Both posted double digit sack numbers last season, having 11.5 and 10.5, respectively. If Massie can duplicate the success he had on Chris Long in the last matchup, and Brown can return to his late 2011 form, the Cardinals will win this match-up.
Thankfully the quarterback they’re protecting is well known for recognizing blitzes and getting the ball out quickly. Quickly to the stable of wide receivers that Arizona possesses could mean devastating damage.
The Cardinals wide receiver corps against the Rams defensive backs will be a very talked about match-up in this week one competition. Let’s look beyond just Larry Fitzgerald, as the Cardinals are expecting second year receiver Michael Floyd to step up in a big way opposite of Fitz. Looking at the week 17 match-up that Floyd had against the 49ers with Brian Hoyer slinging the rock (8 catches for 166 yards, 1 TD), you can see that Floyd could be poised for a huge year this season. The Rams top two corners are Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, whom did well for the Rams last season at with a combined 7 interceptions and 22 passes defensed. I don’t feel though, that these top two corners match-up well with the bigger, more physical Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. Finnegan and Jenkins, from a physical standpoint, stand at 5’10″ 188 pounds and 193 pounds, respectively. Larry Fitzgerald at 6’3″ 218 pounds and Floyd 6’2″ 220 pounds present match-up problems as both are good at running clean routes and making a lot of contested catches when the ball is at it’s highest point. Let’s not forget about Andre Roberts, who will be lining up in the slot and is a quick kid at a 4.4, 40 yard dash.
There are a few others who may emerge in camp that are also speedsters that have ran quicker than Andre. Rob Housler is a tight-end but he’s going to present match-up problems for the Rams secondary. He’s poised for a break out season this year as Palmer hit the Oakland tight end Brandon Myers for 79 receptions last season.
Last, but not least, the Cardinals running backs should experience quite a change in the type of defensive fronts they will face this season, and in particular, against the Rams. Levi Brown has never been questioned in his ability to run block as he has always been known as a great road grader. Cooper at left guard will provide an athletic pulling guard that can get to the second level, which makes the left of the line look like the strongest at the point of attack for our run game. Colledge has done well against the Rams when run blocking and has even done very well as a pulling guard himself, which he helped Beanie Wells spring for a career rushing yard game against the Rams back in 2011. Massie on the right has been improving at his run blocking as well, and toward the end of last season was seeing a lot of runs come his direction as the left side of the line struggled and the right was allowing more yards per carry.
Rashard Mendenhall was arguably the biggest splash of free agency behind the trade for Carson Palmer. Mendenhall brings a style of running the Cardinals have not had in Beanie Wells and by that I mean not only a good power running style, but the ability to make the defense miss and get extra yards after contact. If we look at Mendenhall’s last full season in 2011 where he was healthy and he just happened to face the St. Louis Rams, we see that during the season he averaged a healthy 4.1 yards per carry but in the game against the Rams (keep in mind this was the same Rams team that allowed Beanie his career high in a game), Mendenhall averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 18 carries for 116 yards with 1 reception for 35 yards and a touchdown. One could argue that Mendenhall’s best years are behind him, coming back from a knee injury, but he is now two years removed from that injury and I am expecting to see him jump back into the driver seat carrying the rock. Let’s not forget that flashes we’ve seen from Ryan Williams when healthy and the potential that he has to break out finally this season. And as insurance, we have Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington from our recent draft class who have proven to be more healthy during their productive college careers.
The Cardinals offense against the Rams defense still has some question marks, but if we look at the information we have, it could appear that they may match-up against the Rams better than some people are expecting.
Coming soon, the Cardinals defense against the Rams offense.
(Side note: I'm just blogging for the love of the team. Nothing more than personal blogging and I encourage discussion whether you agree with what I think or not! Thanks!)