Our own Ron Wolfley, co-host of the Doug & Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 620, is also the color commentator for the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network.
Each week, Wolf pores over game film for the Cardinals' next opponent, and makes notes for the broadcast.
This season, Wolf has been kind enough to let ArizonaSports.com readers to get a look at what he sees in each week's opponent.
Here's Wolf's notes on the Philadelphia Eagles, whom the Cardinals host in Glendale Sunday.
• Play great defense in the red zone
• Pound the wide-9 defense by running the ball
• No picks (understand the psychological impact)
• Make more big plays in transition than Philly.
SCARY: In the mortal words of Lane Staley, "Scary is on the wall...Scarrrrrrry is on his way!" WOW!! This is the fastest defense in the NFL...gotta be. They fly to the ball, attack the edges and play more man coverage than anybody in the league. Great athleticism, great skill, great speed....but can they stand and fight? Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Akeem Jordan, DeMeco Ryans, DRC, Nnamdi Asomugha, their safeties...man do they run, man do they play hard, man can they cover...but what happens when you get them into a streetlight?
1) The Big Red "O" needs to get them into a streetlight. It's time for the Cards to strap on the flat-boots, scrape up the knuckles and get the Eagles into a boot parade! Playing with a lead is important to the Eagles. They want to make you one-dimensional, turn you into a pass-first offense, where all their talent, all their skill, all their athleticism can bleed you dry.
A) Defense and transition needs to keep this game close, keep it a one-possession game, so the offense can remain multi-dimensional. This is where the donnybrook needs to occur, on the offensive side of the ball!
B) Offense needs to run the ball with a dark heart and painted face. REDRUN...REDRUN!!!!!! They must make Juan Castillo and the Eagles defense play 8-man fronts, run the ball well against that wide-9 and use play action to take shots down the field. Michael Floyd...where are you, son? It's time...press man coverage? Here it is...get off the press and make a play.
Wide 9: The wide 9 is nothing more than a 4-3 swim defense where the defensive ends play wide and the linebackers play over the tackles, inside the DEs.
Jason Babin and Trent Cole make the wide 9 what it is: a play the run while rushing the passer defense. The Eagles are giving up 4.9 yards/carry, T-28 in the league.
Predictable. You know where these seven defenders will be. They do walk a safety into the box from time to time, especially if you're bashing them on the ground. Their backers will cheat to the strength of the formation and they mix their coverages, but for the most part you know where their front seven is going to be.
There is something to be said for consistency, doing what you do and doing it better than anyone else, but that consistency is also schematically predictable and that gets the Eagles in trouble in run downs.
The Cardinals had to run the ball against the Patriots in order to be successful; they had to run the ball, keep Kolb in third and manageable, and make New England come out of its cover-2 shell. The good news is the defense playing well allows you to stick to this game plan.
They are in a similar situation this week. The Cards can't let Philadelphia play their wide 9 defense in run down without thumping them in the face with their ground game. OL...this one is on you. The OL has got to punish that 43 Swim and make the Eagles walk their safety down. Just like making the Patriots come out of their cover-2 shell was important, it's the same with making the Eagles walk a safety into the box.
Last year, defenses used to do the same thing. They used to walk a safety into the box, forcing the Cards Q to beat them via the pass. I don't think that will the be the case this week. I think Andy Reid and Juan Castillo know Kolb has some skills AND they know the Cards will run the ball and don't want Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams beating them. The Eagles will try to STOP the run instead of trying to FORCE Kolb to check out of a run. But they WILL NOT do that until the Cards prove they are capable of pounding their 43 Swim.
The best run against the Eagles wide 9 seems to be the inside zone. They're too quick up front to run the tackle zone. Perimeter runs play into their strength. You need to run the ball between the tackles, north and south. What I love about the inside zone is the back ROLLS to the LOS. This makes their defense's first step lateral and then, as the back squares to the LOS, they have to stand their ground. This is where they seem to have problems and it's one of the reasons why the Ravens were able to run the ball so well.
Incredible: against 11 personnel, in run down situation ( 1 & 10, 2 & 1-6), the Eagles gave the Ravens a 6-man box and tied their safety to Ray Rice in man cover. But their safety was playing from 2 deep depth! The Ravens ran the ball consecutively against that front and moved the chains.
I believe the Patriots play as much cover-2 as they do in run down situations in attempt to make the team run the ball, after all, they're giving it to you. But their defense expects it to a large degree and play the run based on your personnel. I think Juan Castillo and the Eagles defense does the same thing to some degree. They try to bait you to run the ball. They invite you to run the ball. And teams have obliged...and the Cards will have to do the same thing. Its very risky to play man against 11 personnel out of a cover-2 look where the safety is responsible for covering Ray Rice. They tied Kurt Coleman to Rice from a two look and he was on point, almost in a sprinter's stance, waiting to force any run. It seems like baiting to me. I believe the Patriots play as much cover-2 as they do because they invite you to run the ball. I think Juan Castillo and the Eagles do the same to some degree.
The Eagles' backers really bite on play action. Now Ray Rice is an excellent runner and the Ravens are known for having an excellent running game, but I also feel like this is coached. The Eagles front four plays the run on the way to the Q; more times than not, they're rushing the passer. The backers do not have the luxury of assuming the offense is going to throw the ball so they overcompensate and play the run. Dogma? Philosophy? Coached? I think so.
They LOVE playing man cover. It makes so much sense with the corners they have. They played way too much zone last year and didn't take advantage or having Nnamdi and DRC. It's one of the reasons why they said goodbye to Asante Samuel. His strength is zone cover. They were going to play man...and they are. Man Free, Robber, 2-man as a change up, Zero cover in sub. This must be the biggest Man Cover team in the National Football League. Man, Man, Man...
They like bringing pressure in their sub-package. They like playing man free and bringing 6 if the back protects (Green Dog). They mix up their coverages well, 2, quarter-quarter-half, man free.
1) Somebody is going to be 3-0…dare we think it could be the Cards?
2) Keys to the game:
a. Pound their front-7 with the run.
b. Don't throw any picks (understand the psychological damage done with interceptions).
c. Above all, this defense must not allow the Eagles to take a two possession lead into the second-half. Mitigate their possessions, keep them out of the end zone, force them to kick field goals, but, by hook or crook, do NOT allow the scoreboard to turn the Cardinals into a one-dimensional offense where they have to throw the ball to get back into the game.
1. The Eagles defense is built to play with a lead. They rush the passer on their way to playing the run. They play man cover with those talented corners and send those edge-rushers up the field. They come after you! And QBs are struggling.
2. And this strategy, once they get you down in a game, has worked to perfection. The Eagles lead the league in DQBR (35.1). For the record…the Cardinals DQBR is 72.3 (#5).
3) And if they could make a pivotal play in transition, that would help.
4) Michael Floyd: if ever there was a game where I would love to see Michael Floyd breakout of his rookie malaise, it would be this game. This team needs him now:
a. When the Cards drafted him number 13 overall, this was the type of game they had to have in mind. The Eagles are a press-man team with two very good corners. The Eagles, because they play so much man, walk their safety down into the box if you're running the ball well.
i. Fitz can beat press man and I don't care who is covering him because he'll make catches in traffic with octopi hanging from his limbs.
ii. What the Cardinals need opposite of Fitz…is somebody that can get off the press and make a play down field to take some of the pressure of Larry, especially if they're going to walk a safety down! Michael Floyd…your team needs you…the time has come…we have no time for you to be a rookie anymore…declare, sir. Or as my old coach used to say: time to drop your bowl of nuts.