3TFO: Cardinals @ Seahawks, Week 14
It’s Round 2 for a pair of teams who last met in the season opener resulting in a grinding defensive battle that ended with an Arizona win. It was his NFL debut, and while Seattle rookie Russell Wilson could muster only 153 yards and a 62.5 quarterback rating, he got most of those yards on a final drive to the Arizona 4-yard line in the waning seconds. Only a dropped pass by (the now released) Braylon Edwards in the end zone prevented Wilson from notching his first NFL victory.
Arizona QB John Skelton had his own troubles getting the offense going (149 yards and an interception) before a high ankle sprain forced him from the game and Kevin Kolb entered to lead the team to victory. The quarterback carousel has been ongoing this season for the Cardinals and Skelton is the starter yet again after last week’s cringe-worthy performance from rookie Ryan Lindley.
If the Seahawks can hand the Cardinals their ninth straight defeat, they’ll remain in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card spot and could inch closer to the 49ers for a shot at the division title.
Walter Thurmond vs. Arizona Receivers
With Brandon Browner’s suspension this week and the loss of Marcus Trufant to injured reserve, it’s Walter Thurmond getting the nod at starting cornerback. Thurmond got his first action of the season last week with 15 rather uneventful snaps against the Bears. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Thurmond was much more involved during his first two NFL seasons, earning significant playing time and several starts. Outside of two stinkers against some pretty prolific offenses (2010 Saints and 2011 Giants), he’s been decent in coverage. The Cardinals’ passing attack won’t be mistaken for prolific anytime soon, so Thurmond should have a good opportunity to ease back into a starting role.
Arizona wide receiver Andre Roberts will likely remain sidelined with an ankle injury, so rookie first round pick Michael Floyd will likely get his second NFL start alongside Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals need Floyd to step up as an alternative target to Fitzgerald, who is averaging 10 targets per game. Once upon a time, throwing in Fitzgerald’s general direction was guaranteed production, but with little else to throw to (and some questionable talent doing the throwing) defenses are keying in. Less than half of Fitzgerald’s targets are resulting in receptions and Arizona QBs have seven interceptions when throwing his way.
Daryn Colledge vs. Bobby Wagner
We’ve hollered loud and long about the sorry state of the Cardinals offensive line, and while we’ve given rookie Bobby Massie kudos for his recent turnaround, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give some props to Daryn Colledge for the work he’s done this season. While the pressures have poured in from the positions around him, Colledge has held firm. He hasn’t allowed a single pressure over the last three games and currently ranks 12th in our pass blocking grades among guards, a big step up from 67th last year. Run blocking has never been a strength for Colledge, but while he’s been up-and-down this year (-2.8), he’s still one of the better run blockers on their line.
Seahawks linebacker, Bobby Wagner will be seeing lots of Colledge and his fellow linemen this week. For the first half of the season, Wagner looked more like a seasoned veteran than a rookie, and was grading out as one of the top inside linebackers in the league. While his production has tapered off some in recent weeks, Wagner still leads all LBs with a Run Stop Percentage of 14.9%. Film study of those recent games shows Wagner struggling at times to navigate offensive linemen at the second level. Whether this becomes a factor on Sunday will depend on well the Cardinals offensive line can handle the Seahawks defensive line. If they struggle one-on-one then Wagner is more likely to be coming downhill to meet those linemen rather than vice-versa.
John Moffitt vs. Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams
Seahawks guard John Moffitt looks to reprise his starting role after James Carpenter went on injured reserve this week (knee). Moffitt has done his job in pass protection (+0.4) and has yet to give up a sack in 151 pass blocking snaps. It’s his work in the run game that’s been suspect, and never more so than last week against the Bears. All too often, Moffitt found himself out of position and allowing defenders to penetrate the backfield and blow up running plays. The Bears linemen weren’t overpowering him. They were just beating him laterally to slip by and do damage. It’s those struggles that have Head Coach Pete Carroll suggesting that rookie J.R. Sweezy could also get another look at guard, even after a horrid first three weeks of the season (-11.8) that relegated him to the bench.
It was Sweezy’s performance in Week 1 that helped transform Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett into ‘All –World’ (+9.8, 10 pressures and 6 stops), so one has to wonder if Carroll is really willing to re-live that nightmare. It’s telling that Dockett has only had one positively graded game since then. Take this one game anomaly out of the equation, and you’re looking at the lowest-graded 3-4 DE in the league. The status of fellow starting end Calais Campbell is unclear, limited in practice once again, so at left guard Moffitt and Sweezy would at least be a little more sheltered against Ronald Talley (-1.7) and David Carter (-0.5). Their biggest threat may come from nose tackle, Dan Williams who has fared much better, especially over the last four games registering 12 run stops. His playing time is up over last year (42% of snaps vs. 32%) and his run stop percentage (8.4%) ranks seventh among all defensive tackles.
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