This Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Jess Root from Revenge of the Birds and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!take on the
Chris: "I view the Cardinals as the most complete team the Browns have faced this year. The only shred of optimism I have about this week's game is when I look at how the Steelers took out Arizona with backup quarterbacks two weeks ago. Was there a particular element of the Cardinals' game that struggled that week?"
Jess: "Against the Steelers, they ran into a couple of things. One, they had not done any game prep of Landry Jones, so they were unprepared. Then, the defenders simply let up, thinking 'we got this,' since they know how it goes when a team has their third QB playing. Aside from that, the Cardinals had the same things happen as against the Rams -- turnovers and poor red zone execution. They turned it over three times and were 1/5 in the red zone. It was missing a wide open receiver in the end zone, a turnover, penalties in the red zone. That's how you beat the Cards so far -- make them beat themselves.
In the tight victory over Baltimore last week, special teams was an issue. Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point and a field goal. They had a punt blocked. So they can have moments in that phase. Offensively, they did well, although they only were 2/4 in the red zone. Defensively, they did allow Joe Flacco drive down the field, allowing them to almost score a potentially tying touchdown."
Chris: "Larry Fitzgerald is having a resurgent season statistically. Do you attribute it to Carson Palmer being back, or has Arizona changed the way they use him on offense compared to 2014?"
Jess: "Fitz is being used the same, but there are three big factors. One, he is healthy. He was banged up for the last couple of seasons between hamstrings and a knee ligament. Two, Palmer is healthy. When Ryan Lindley is throwing you the football, you are not going to do well. Lastly, the running game is good. He is used a lot in play action and, early in the season, he was finding matchups against linebackers. He wins those every time. Essentially he is playing and performing the way Arians envisioned when he first moved him inside two seasons ago."
Chris: "On paper, the Cardinals' defense does it all: they stop the run, stop the pass, and generate turnovers. However, they are currently in the bottom third of the league when it comes to the number of sacks they've registered. Does Arizona get to the quarterback exceptionally well, despite their sack numbers? And, if they do, if you had to pick one weakness defensively, what would it be?"
Jess: "They are very weak in the pass rush department. They get very little pressure without extra rushers and Alex Oakafor, their top rusher, is out. There was some optimism Monday, as Markus Golden generated seven pressures and Dwight Freeney had a sack. But the pass rush is THE concern."
Chris: "How are the Cardinals currently splitting reps / utilizing the tandem of Chris Johnson and David Johnson?"
Jess: "You have to include Andre Ellington in the group. David Johnson is only the nickel back on offense. CJ is the lead dog, while Ellington gets a role in the passing game. He also becomes the second half guy with fresh legs to try and break the defense's back with his speed. Bruce Arians did say on Friday Ellington would see an increased role on Sunday."
Chris: "Tell us about one player on the Cardinals who is making pretty good contributions on gameday, but who Cleveland fans might not be aware of."
Jess: "Tough question, as in the "know everything now" world we tend to know everyone. I'll go with Kevin Minter, who has really been very solid at inside linebacker. He calls the defense and always is around the ball. He has been known as a thumper, but he hasn't been a liability in coverage, which he has always been. His play has kept Sean Weatherspoon on the bench.
The other guy is Deone Bucannon. Drafted as a safety, he plays every down at linebacker. They call him a moneybacker. He leads the team in tackles with more than 60. He blows up plays and is a ferocious hitter. "
Thanks again to Jess for taking the time to answer my questions.