Cards OC Drew Petzing’s 1st challenge awaits in form of Commanders run defense

Sep 9, 2023, 11:45 AM

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals offense must accomplish two things if they want to have a chance at picking up a win against the Washington Commanders on Sunday: Establish the run and get the better of the front seven.

Easier said than done.

Despite dwelling in the 7-8-win range the past three season under head coach Ron Rivera, the Commanders have seen their successes defensively, especially in the run game.

While Washington finished 11th in the league behind 113.3 yards allowed per game, it came in tied for fifth in fewest touchdowns scored with 10 to go along with 14 forced fumbles.

It’s start up front with the pairing of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen along the interior. The duo each earned picked up Pro Bowl nods in 2022 after racking up 34 combined tackles for loss and 19 sacks between the two of them.

Bounce it to the outside and now you’re dealing with game-wrecker Montez Sweat.

For a Cardinals team dedicated to running the ball under new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, this will mark one of its tougher tests of the season.

“It’s no secret they got all them first-rounders up there,” running back James Conner said Friday. “The D-line’s probably one of the best in the league. We know who they are. They come to play. Those guys up front, their defense goes as they go.”

“I saw them twice a year for the first four years of my career, I know those guys pretty well,” offensive lineman Will Hernandez added Wednesday. “They’re going to bring it just like every other defensive line in this league. … Those guys are paid for a reason.”

One way Arizona can combat that run-stopping ability of Washington’s defense is opening up the playbook and generating explosive plays down the field.

And before you fire off another “easier said than done” based on the current state of the Cardinals quarterbacks room, there are areas to exploit in the passing game.

Yes, the Commanders finished last year with the fourth fewest passing yards allowed behind a stingy 191.3 per game. But when it came to Washington’s touchdown-stopping prowess, it fell near the bottom of the league behind 26 scores allowed.

They didn’t do much from a turnover standpoint, either, recording a bottom-five mark of nine interceptions in 2022.

The big thing for expected starter Joshua Dobbs — or rookie Clayton Tune — will be keeping it out off the mitts of cornerback Kendall Fuller (three) and safety Darrick Forrest (four), who combined for all but two of the team’s 2022 picks.

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