Washington Football Team vs. Cardinals preview, matchups to watch, score prediction
Washington offense vs. Cardinals defense
It took the Washington offense a little while to get going against the Eagles on Sunday, but they eventually were able to put together some quality scoring drives. Against the Cardinals, they will need to avoid a slow start and keep the ball moving against a solid Washington defense.
Since last season, the Cardinals defense has made some major improvements. They added a few talented linebackers in De’Vondre Campbell, Isaiah Simmons, and Devon Kennard to their 3-4 linebacker corps. They also signed Dre Kirkpatrick to add more experience at the cornerback position. And thanks to the improvements that Byron Murphy has made, Arizona’s secondary looks pretty good.
As such, it will be hard to attack the back seven of the Cardinals defense. Perhaps their linebackers can be beaten, as Campbell is best against the run and Simmons is still developing and played just 18 snaps in the season opener. This could open up opportunities for tight end Logan Thomas, especially since Arizona was weak against tight ends last year. Thomas saw eight targets in the opener and caught a TD, so look for him to be a focal point of Washington’s offense.
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The other area that Washington can try to exploit is the defensive line. Outside of Chandler Jones, who serves as an edge rusher/outside linebacker hybrid in this 3-4 defense, the line is merely solid. There are some decent players up front, and the Cardinals have plenty of youth in Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence, and Zach Allen, but they aren’t proven yet.
Washington will have to look get something going in the run game against these guys as a result. Antonio Gibson may have to step up as the most explosive option in the Washington backfield. He’ll need to rip off some chunk plays and draw some attention to open up the passing game a little bit. Peyton Barber can continue to be a short-yardage hammer, but he just doesn’t make big plays. It will be interesting to see how the carry split works as a result of this.
There are two other key matchups to watch on defense. The first is Patrick Peterson against Terry McLaurin. McLaurin wasn’t able to do a ton in the opener as the Eagles gave him a lot of attention because there aren’t a lot of established weapons on Washington’s team. The Cardinals may do the same, so McLaurin will need to find a way to get open.
The second, and most important, matchup will be Chandler Jones against the Washington offensive line. Geron Christian and Wes Martin struggled immensely in the opener against the Eagles and will need to improve moving forward.
The Cardinals will look to take advantage of their elite pass rusher, Jones, and get pressure on Dwayne Haskins’ blind side. Christian, in particular, will need to be ready to play. Otherwise, Haskins will have a lot of trouble getting the ball downfield.
Overall, Arizona has the personnel needed to slow down the Washington offense. Between Peterson and Jones, they should have the ability to limit McLaurin and pressure Haskins. The equalizers for Washington will be Gibson and Thomas, but for now, Arizona has a slight advantage on this side of the ball.