The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cardinals
Here’s a look at how the Eagles match up with the Cardinals.
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…
On paper, this looks like an extremely difficult matchup for the Birds. The Cardinals rank fifth in run defense, according to Football Outsiders, and are a allowing a league-low 3.2 YPC. Arizona has allowed just one run of 20+ yards all season. The Eagles’ ground game, meanwhile, ranks 24th.
But against the Giants, LeSean McCoy was finally able to get going, rushing for a season-high 149 yards on 22 carries (6.8 YPC). Thirteen of those runs came with Nick Foles under center, and the Eagles unveiled a new run play that took advantage of New York’s focus on stopping the inside zone. In 2013, McCoy ran 19 times for 79 yards against the Cardinals as the Eagles turned to the split zone with James Casey.
The Eagles will go with the same offensive line for the third straight game. From left to right: Jason Peters, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson.
The Cardinals run a 3-4 but will show multiple looks.
“[They] play both, so it’s not like they play… they play three‑man front, they play four‑man front, sometimes they play two‑man front,” said Chip Kelly. “It’s not when you play them they’re just going to be in one defense the entire game. You’ve got to be prepared for all of those looks.”
Standout defensive lineman Calais Campbell is 50/50 to play with a knee injury, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Also up front for Arizona is 327-pound nose tackle Dan Williams, rookie Kareem Martin and veteran Frostee Rucker.
At linebacker, the Cardinals have two second-year players in Alex Okafor and Kevin Minter, along with veterans Larry Foote and Sam Acho.
WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…
The question hanging over the second part of the season is: Can the Eagles get better QB play from Foles? The Birds’ signal-caller is completing 59.5 percent of his passes and averaging 6.87 yards per attempt. He’s also turned it over 10 times (seven interceptions, three fumbles).
Overall, the Eagles’ passing game ranks 19th, according to Football Outsiders. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are ninth against the pass. Todd Bowles will blitz from any and all angles. Arizona has corners with size in Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. Look for the Cardinals to play a lot of man coverage.
Don’t be surprised if the Eagles use even more tempo than usual in an effort to limit the Cardinals’ ability to get into those blitz packages. In last year’s meeting, Foles went 21-for-34 for 237 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But the Cardinals sacked him five times, and Foles fumbled once.
Zach Ertz (five catches, 68 yards, two touchdowns) had a big game against Arizona in 2013. He leads all tight ends with seven catches of 20+ yards and is averaging a healthy 16.1 yards per reception. The coaches went through the self-scouting process during the bye and may have determined that Ertz needs to be more involved in the offense. The Cardinals rank 18th in covering opposing tight ends.
Jeremy Maclin has been been targeted 22 more times than any other Eagles receiver (27 catches on 60 targets) and leads the team with 445 receiving yards. He’ll be called on to win at the line of scrimmage and beat man coverage. Riley Cooper is averaging just 9.0 yards per catch, although he had his best game of the season against the Giants. Jordan Matthews has looked effective on screens and will likely see a larger role in the second half of the season.
The Cardinals have seven sacks from six different players on the season. They rank 27th in adjusted sack rate. But the Eagles’ offensive line will have to be ready for the different blitz looks. The Eagles have only allowed seven sacks on the season and rank fourth in adjusted sack rate, but pressure has affected Foles at times.
WHEN THE CARDINALS RUN…
Andre Ellington is a talented back, but he’s averaging just 3.7 YPC this season. He has been held under 3.8 YPC in four straight games. As a team, the Cardinals have the least efficient run game in the league, according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles’ defense, meanwhile, is seventh against the run.
Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton have all played well against the run. DeMeco Ryans got an extra week to rest his groin. There’s a chance Mychal Kendricks returns, but Casey Matthews has held up well against the run.
The Cardinals do not have a great offensive line, but they’ve been able to stay healthy. The same five guys have started every game this season. Arizona signed left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Ted Larsen as free agents. Lyle Sendlein is in his seventh season as a full-time starter for the Cardinals. Right guard Paul Fanaika was a seventh-round pick of the Eagles back in 2009. And right tackle Bobby Massie was a fourth-round pick in 2012.
In addition to Ellington, the Cardinals will mix in second-year back Stepfan Taylor.
WHEN THE CARDINALS PASS…
Carson Palmer is completing 66.1 percent of his passes (eighth) and averaging 7.2 YPA (19th). He has thrown six touchdowns and just one interception. Palmer dealt with a shoulder injury earlier this season and has only played in three games.
The Cardinals like to spread the ball around with five different players having notched at least 20 targets. Michael Floyd leads the team with 353 yards and is averaging 18.6 yards per reception. He’s a big target capable of winning 50/50 balls downfield. Floyd had five grabs for 99 yards and a score in last year’s meeting against the Eagles.
Larry Fitzgerald is still a capable pass-catcher, although he has not been the focal point of the offense. He had five grabs for 72 yards and a TD in last year’s meeting and has 23 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown on the season.
The Eagles will match up Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher against Floyd and Fitzgerald. Palmer will throw the ball up for grabs, and the ball skills of the Eagles’ corners will be tested.
Talented rookie slot receiver John Brown has played 54.7 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That means Brandon Boykin should be on the field plenty.
The Eagles’ biggest issue in coverage could be Ellington. The running back leads Arizona in receptions (25) and is averaging 10.4 yards per catch. The Eagles rank last in the NFL at covering opposing RBs, per Football Outsiders. Getting Kendricks back would help in that area.
The Cardinals feature a vertical passing game. Nate Allen and Malcolm Jenkins will have to play with discipline to avoid giving up big plays.
Up front, the Eagles have generated a good pass rush for three straight weeks. Cox has been really good, even though the sack numbers haven’t been there. The outside linebackers have been getting it done. Connor Barwin (6), Trent Cole (3.5) and Brandon Graham (2) have combined for 11.5 sacks. Vinny Curry has had success with four sacks in a situational role.
Arizona has allowed just 11 sacks and is ninth in adjusted sack rate. But Palmer lacks mobility, and the Eagles should be able to generate a good amount of pressure.
SPECIAL TEAMS, ETC.
The Eagles have the top-ranked special teams in the league, while Arizona is 15th.
These are the two worst red-zone offenses in the league. Both the Eagles and Cardinals have converted RZ trips into touchdowns just 40 percent of the time.
The Eagles’ defense is sixth in the league at getting off the field on third down, allowing conversions just 35.23 percent of the time.