Double Coverage: Russell Wilson, Seahawks will have to handle Cardinals’ pressure
Oct 21, 2016, 1:18 PM
A closer look at the Seahawks’ Week-6 matchup against Arizona with the help of Adam Green, who covers the Cardinals for ArizonaSports.com:
Henderson: Greetings, Adam. It was a surprise to a lot of folks up here how Arizona struggled out of the gates. What’s the Cliff’s Notes version of how the Cardinals’ season has gone and how they’ve climbed back to .500 after starting 1-2?
Green: Funny thing is, the Cardinals are a last-minute field goal away from being 4-2, so it’s not like they have been terrible. That said, their offense has been the culprit for the slow start as the big chunk plays they’ve been known for have just not been there. Carson Palmer was picked off five times in the team’s consecutive losses to Buffalo and Los Angeles, mostly on plays where he was trying to get the ball to a receiver deep down the field. As the team has begun to take advantage of what’s open underneath (and faced off with some terrible opponents), the wins have started to come.
Henderson: I saw that Palmer got banged up Monday night and hasn’t practiced much. Is there any concern down there about his availability or how he may be affected Sunday by his hamstring injury?
Green: We will have a better idea Friday when the final injury report is posted and coach Bruce Arians chats with the media, but after missing two days of practice yeah, there is concern. He left Monday’s game against the Jets with a hamstring injury, but the game was out of hand at that point and afterwards there seemed to be no concern over his status. These days, are the Cardinals hiding something or is it just a little extra rest for an older quarterback on a short week? If he is active and starts Sunday, it’s difficult to imagine this being a big issue other than the potential of re-injury. He’s not the most mobile of quarterbacks anyway, so other than that he’d probably be OK.
Henderson: Recent games between these two teams have to seemed to be defined to some degree by how the Seahawks have handled Arizona’s pressure. Russell Wilson had two of his worst performances in the last two Arizona victories (in Seattle in 2013 and 2015). The Seahawks’ win in Glendale in 2014 was arguably the best performance of his career at the time. He beat Arizona’s blitz for several big plays in that game. Are the Cardinals as aggressive in bringing pressure as they have been in recent seasons? And have they been as effective in doing so?
Green: They are aggressive, yes, but not in the same way. The addition of Chandler Jones as well as the growth of Markus Golden – both of whom are among the league leaders in sacks and QB pressures – has allowed the Cardinals to generate a pass-rush without blitzing all of the time. The team’s newest wrinkle is a defensive front that features only lineman Calais Campbell, often times standing up, with linebackers Jones, Golden and Alex Okafor. It offers more speed and, in the right situations, a better chance at getting to the quarterback. Rest assured, defensive coordinator James Bettcher will still dial up pressure, especially as Tyrann Mathieu gets more and more comfortable back in his role as the slot corner, though in an ideal world the Cardinals would get to Wilson without having to send an extra rusher or two.
Henderson: I’m not sure how familiar folks up here are with David Johnson. He wasn’t yet the Cardinals’ starter in the first meeting last year and only carried 11 times in the second, when Arizona was in catch-up mode. He looks like the real deal. What’s the scouting report?
Green: Johnson is every bit as good as the statistics suggest. He’s a big back with excellent speed and shiftiness who is also excellent as a receiver out of the backfield. He has the speed to get outside, the vision to find holes, the power to break tackles and a pretty deadly stiff-arm. The Cardinals have turned to him quite a bit lately, and he has rewarded them with back-to-back 100-plus yard rushing efforts against the 49ers and Jets. But remember, there is a reason he leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage, and if the Cardinals can get him matched up with a linebacker, they’ll like the odds. The Cardinals feel like they will have to establish some semblance of a running game to at least keep the Seahawks’ defense honest, though if they can have the same kind of success as they did against the Jets’ tough front, then they’ll ride Johnson as long as they can.
Henderson: Cornerback Tharold Simon was a fairly polarizing player during his time in Seattle, to put it charitably. The potential was evident, but it never materialized. What have been your impressions of him and how has his time in Arizona gone?
Green: Simon’s addition was not met with much fanfare, and for the most part he’s been fairly quiet, seeing most of his action on special teams. Against the Jets he did play 23 defensive snaps, however, and showed some solid cover skills as well as sound tackling. Thus far the Cardinals have been pleased with him, though he has not been relied on too heavily. For them, he is another option in a secondary that seems to be finding its way.
Henderson: Alright, Adam. Prediction time. How do you see this game playing out?
Green: This is such a tough game to call. Are the Seahawks really 4-1 good? Are the Cardinals truly 3-3 mediocre? If the answer to each question is “no,” how far off are they? If Palmer plays and is not hampered by injury, I’ll take the Cardinals establishing enough of a run game and turning that into a couple of big passes down the field on the way to a 23-17 victory. If Palmer does not play, or is limited due to injury, then this will likely be another one in a growing line of Seahawks blowouts in Glendale.