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What Wolf is watching for as the Arizona Cardinals host the Panthers

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 08: Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals hands the ball to David Johnson #31 during a game against the Detroit Lions at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals will attempt to win their first game of the 2019 season in a Week 3 matchup with the winless and Cam Newton-less Carolina Panthers.

Our own 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Ron Wolfley says there are three things he’ll be looking for on Sunday.

How much will the Panthers commit to running the ball if the game is close?

Defensively, the Cardinals’ biggest strength is stopping the run. Arizona has held opposing running backs to under four yards per carry through two games.

“Quarterbacks have hurt them on boots, zone reads, scrambles, but that’s not the same as getting your face kicked in at the line of scrimmage as we all know,” Wolf said.

In last week’s 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 120 yards on 16 attempts (7.5 yards per carry), but held Mark Ingram and Co. to 56 yards on 17 attempts (3.29 yards per carry).

With Kyle Allen making his second career start in place of the injured Newton, the Panthers will want to keep the likes of Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs from getting to their second-year quarterback.

Wolf said that the best way to do that is for Carolina to be able to run the ball effectively and keep Allen in third and manageable situations.

“They don’t want to become one dimensional, right?” Wolf said. “They don’t ever want to become one dimensional. Because if and when that happens, it’s time to turn out the lights. The party is over.”

Can the Cardinals run the ball effectively in the red zone?

It’s no question what Arizona’s Achilles’ heel has been offensively. The team is just 2-of-8 this season when in the red zone (second-worst in NFL), including going 0-of-3 inside the Ravens’ five-yard-line in Week 2, becoming the first team to manage that feat in over three decades.

Wolf says the Cardinals don’t have to be balanced prior to the Panthers’ 20-yard-line, but they do need to run the ball effectively in the red zone.

“The NFL red zone is really a different animal, it just is,” Wolf said. “You can get away with throwing the ball at the college level in the red zone, but you cannot do it in the NFL. You have to be able to run the ball and stay balanced if you want to be a good red zone team.”

Kyler Murray’s ability to throw the ball against the Panthers’ pass defense

The strength of Carolina’s defense is their ability to limit their opponent’s yards through the air. The Panthers rank No. 3 and No. 9 in fewest passing yards per game (186) and passing yards per play (10.1).

Simply put, it’ll be a battle of Carolina’s pass defense against Arizona’s Air Raid offense.

Wolf said that although the sample size may be small, the Panthers have two good corners in Dante Jackson and James Bradberry alongside safeties Eric Reid and former Cardinal Tre Boston, who both play a “buttoned-up back end.”

“Will Kyler Murray be able to throw the ball with the accumane and the accuracy and the intelligence that we have seen him throw the ball through two games?” Wolf said.

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