Defensively, the Arizona Cardinals ‘prepare for the unknown’ in Week 3

Sep 23, 2016, 12:30 PM
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwi...
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

TEMPE, Ariz. — For many who are close to the sport, the acronym N.F.L stands for more than National Football League.

It stands for Not For Long.

The latest example is the Buffalo Bills firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman just two games into the season.

The Bills made the move following their loss to the New York Jets last Thursday, giving them three extra days with replaement Anthony Lynn heading into this week’s matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.

Lynn, the Bills’ running backs coach, will be the man in charge on Sunday following his in-house promotion to offensive coordinator. His ascension to play-caller, a position he’s never held before, has made the Week 3 preparation that much more difficult for the Cardinals’ defense.

“When you have a new offensive coordinator, there’s a lot more unknown. We don’t know the tendencies. You don’t know what plays he’s going to call. You could have new wrinkles in there. You kind of have to just prepare for the unknown. Be ready for anything,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said Thursday. “But you try to go off of what they’ve done before because that’s probably going to be the base of their offense because it’s kind of hard to install a whole new playbook. It should be a lot of the same plays that we’ve seen, just probably called a lot differently.”

Bills players approve of the change. Running back LeSean McCoy told local reporters, “there’s not as much thinking,” while quarterback Tyrod Taylor mentioned tempo as the biggest difference with the offense under Lynn.

“Just trying to get in and out and put pressure on the defense,” he said on a conference call with Arizona reporters.

Despite the comments coming from Buffalo, Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher is preparing for a Bills offense that’s far more similar than different from what’s been showcased in losses to the Ravens and Jets.

“Their M-O, as we know from last season, is to run the ball and to run the ball well and to be physical in the run game. You see a lot of gap-scheme runs with pullers (pulling guards) and then they’re going to try to throw the ball over the top of your head. We don’t anticipate that to change,” he said. “How they run, how they throw it, how they distribute it, in the course of the game we’ll figure those things out and we’ll have to adjust to them. I think after the first series of the game, you really find out what and who they’re trying to be.”

The early numbers suggest the Bills are relying more on the pass than the run, averaging 201 yards through the air and 75.5 on the ground. Overall, the Cardinals will face the league’s third-worst offense on Sunday, though they did drop 31 points on the Jets last week.

“I see an explosive offensive with tons of speed in the backfield, on the perimeter, at tight end,” Bettcher said. “These guys are a very, very explosive offense.”

It begins, of course, with Taylor, now in his second year in Buffalo and sixth overall in the NFL.

Earlier in the week, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians compared Taylor to Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

“He can make all the throws and on top of that, he’s a threat with his legs,” $ linebacker Deone Bucannon said.

Thus far, Taylor is completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He’s added 36 yards rushing.

The Bills’ leading rusher is also their leading receiver, McCoy.

Their main threat offensively would appear to be wide receiver Sammy Watkins, though he has yet to practice this week because of a foot injury, leaving some doubt as to his availability.

“Honestly, (his absence) might not change (their gameplan) as much because, we all see it statistically, he only has six catches for 63 yards, so I don’t think it will change much because he’s been hurt pretty much all season. You can tell on film he’s playing on one leg. You can tell that foot is really, really bothering him and from last year to this year, Tyrod is not really giving him the attention that he was getting last year,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Those guys still want to take their shots with 88 (Marquise Goodwin). Try to get the ball to 14 (Watkins). He’s more of the deep, over guy, stop, comebacks-type guy. But I don’t think it’s going to change, dramatically, their gameplan at all.”

It’s not often NFL teams deal with the unknown, especially here in the tech-savvy, digital, social media age where information is never lacking and even harder to hide. Yet, that’s exactly what the Cardinals face this week.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think these type of games really help us within our division, dealing with Seattle and San Francisco with the read zone and different zone runs, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us so hopefully we’re ready.”

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