Darren Urban of azcardinals.com provides a closer look at Seattle’s Week 7 opponent:
1. The Cardinals have looked impressive the past two weeks after starting the season with a 1-3 record, what has changed?
Urban: A couple of things. One, defensively, there were secondary communication issues for a group that had some new pieces coming into the season. Those seem to have been cleaned up. They are able, with the addition of Chandler Jones, to get four-man pressure this season, which helps on that side of the ball. Offensively, their passing game still isn’t clicking, but they understand they have a nice weapon in running back David Johnson, and they are riding him right now. Also, and the Seahawks had this happen last year, while the Cardinals were 1-3 it’s not like they were getting hammered. A bad snap/field-goal try cost them opening night against the Patriots. And they statistically were much better than the Rams – but they let the Rams hang around and it cost them.
2. The Bruce Arians Cardinals have been known for their downfield passing game, but lately running back Johnson seems to be the star. Are we seeing a shift in offensive philosophy or just a temporary adjustment based on variable factors such as opponent, injuries, game situations, etc.?
*Urban: *All of the above. Arians insists this is what they always wanted to do, although I do think they play it safe with the run just a little bit more now, which I would too if I had a back like Johnson. But there are reasons the last two games played out this way due to the opponent as well. The 49ers are the worst run defense in the league and Palmer missed that game, so it would have been dumb not to run a lot. Against the Jets, former Cards DC Todd Bowles is the NY coach and he knows Arians likes to go downfield. He played them that way, and the Cards countered.
3. It appears the offensive line has held up well through a couple of key injuries, how will the Cardinals hold up again the Seahawks D-line and Michael Bennett, who Arians on Wednesday called “the most disruptive player in the league” in a conference call with Seattle-area media?
*Urban: *They’ve done a nice job so far. Mike Iupati should be back so the only fill-in will be right guard Earl Watford, who had already played a bunch with Evan Mathis battling a lot of injuries even before he went on IR. It isn’t an easy matchup for the OL because the Seahawks are talented up front, but this offensive line – even with Watford – is better overall than the one from last year’s 13-3 team, in my opinion.
4. How has Tyrann Mathieu looked coming back from last year’s knee injury? And given his incredible versatility, how are the Cardinals using him this season? Is he more of a true safety, or a chess piece they can move around to play multiple spots in the secondary?
Urban: Mathieu is not yet the player pre-injury. He has admitted that multiple times. The hope is that it will be there sooner rather than later. But after using him at deep safety early in the season, both he and the Cards were ready to move him back to his slot CB role a lot of the time. So he is being versatile again, and he got his first interception last week.
5. The Seahawks have won three straight in Arizona, all by double digits, while the Cardinals have won two of the last three at CenturyLink Field. Is there something to that from a Cardinals perspective, or just an anomaly?
Urban: There hasn’t been much talk about the games in Seattle this week. You can make excuses about the last two games – well, at least I can, with Lindley at QB in 2014 and a stark lack of focus last year because they knew there was nothing to play for – but the Cardinals haven’t said one word about anything except how they have been whipped all three times. As Arians said when asked if there was a common thread to the three losses, “They beat the s* out of us.” Which isn’t untrue. The players believe they have to match the Seahawks physically, which for whatever reason, they clearly have not done in Arizona.
The Seahawks and Cardinals have matched up 35 times throughout their history, with an even split of 17 victories each as well as a tie that came earlier this season. The two teams face off again this Saturday at CenturyLink Field to see who will lead the all-time series.