The Arizona Cardinals won’t be the only 5-1 team in town this weekend. On Sunday, they’ll play host to the Philadelphia Eagles, who boast the same record.
In his second season in the NFL, coach Chip Kelly has maneuvered the Eagles to several close victories this season, losing only to the San Francisco 49ers on the road, 26-21. The team’s two blowout wins came in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and in Week 6 against the New York Giants, whom they beat 27-0. That was the last time they took the field.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are coming off of a 24-13 road victory over the Oakland Raiders, tying their largest winning margin of the season. It was Carson Palmer’s second game back under center for the Cardinals, after a shoulder injury left him sidelined for three games.
Two key cogs in the Eagles offense, quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy, have hobbled out to slower starts this season than many expected, but they’ve nevertheless shown glimpses of brilliance.
With the Eagles coming off of a bye week, ESPN senior NFL analyst Ron Jaworski focused his look-ahead to the Eagles upcoming game with the Cardinals on those two players. A guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday, “Jaws” had a lot of insight into the matchup.
“(McCoy) is coming off a bye week, so he will be fresh. And conceptually, Philadelphia has changed their offense,” Jaworski began.
“You know, last year, they were a down-the-field passing team. They wanted to get those explosive plays. This year, they’re a little bit different. They’re using 12 personnel — one back, two tight ends. (There have been) 154 snaps of that this year. Last year, only 80 snaps.”
Jaws said this change in Kelly’s offense will be on display against the Cardinals, based on Arizona’s defensive formation tendencies.
“They’re not getting the ball vertically down the field,” he continued. “They’re using the horizontal passing game from sideline to sideline and it’s been effective. So I expect you’ll see that against the Cardinals, because the Cardinals love to play that dime package — I’ve got them 218 snaps in that dime package… By far the most of any team in the league.”
That Cardinals’ dime package will be similarly compelling to watch when it comes to defending the Eagles’ running game, featuring McCoy and fellow back Darren Sproles.
“It will be interesting, the speed versus speed matchup — those six dime backs on the field against Shady McCoy,” Jaworski said.
The Eagles quarterback, meanwhile, may also benefit from the bye week, perhaps helping him to snap out of an unforeseen funk in 2014.
“I see a quarterback that’s inconsistent,” the analyst began in his comments about Foles.
“I did not expect to see seven interceptions through six games.”
In 2013, Foles racked up 27 touchdowns in 13 games played, passing for just shy of 3,000 yards while throwing just two interceptions and fumbling twice. In addition to his seven picks this season, the third-year quarterback out of Arizona has fumbled three times in the first six games of the season.
“His deep ball has been inaccurate and I think some of it comes down to mechanics,” Jaworski explained. “There has been pressure on him because the Eagles have had trouble with the offensive line. For a while, they had three starters out, now they have two starters out for a number of weeks. Clearly, like any quarterback, when you have bodies around you, you kind of press a little bit and I think Nick was doing that.”
Foles, McCoy and the Eagles’ offense aside, when it comes to the other side of the ball, Jaworski pointed out some areas where he expected the Cardinals to exploit.
“If there is a weakness on the Eagles (defense), it’s probably both of their corners,” he began. “And I think that would be the area that Bruce Arians would try to attack. Billy Davis, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, will try to help those corners out with linebacker help and safety help over the top.
“If Carson Palmer can get the ball to the wide receivers on those out routes and those dig routes, the Cardinals will be successful. If he can’t get those routes and work over Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, then clearly the Cardinals will lose the football game in my opinion.”
The Cardinals and Eagles kick off at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. Pregame coverage begins at 9 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 Fm.