The Philadelphia Eagles head into this Sunday one step closer to clinching the NFC East as they face one of their toughest opponents so far, the 11-2 Cardinals. Arizona have a notorious passing attack and more weapons than what you will see in the new Star Wars film. But whilst the focus should be on those deadly wideouts…you cannot ignore the battle upfront.
A large part of the Cardinals success this season has been 35 year old Carson Palmer. Bruce Arians has somehow struck gold with the veteran who is en route to having a career season..and sure his ability to sling dimes down the field is impressive..but the protection he’s getting is perhaps even more so.
The Cardinals have allowed just 21 sacks on palmer this year..buying him plenty of time and giving him more than enough space to average over 6 yards per play. But this is where the Eagles focus needs to lie..because if they can’t get to Palmer, it’s forcing all of the pressure on a Secondary that is without Nolan Carroll, that is being let down by Byron Maxwell’s errors and that depends on a rookie to make big plays against some of the leagues most fearsome wideouts.
What’s more worrying is that the Eagles blitzed just 13 times in the last 98 pass plays they faced (spanning over both the Pats and Bills games). If that same mentality is applied to the Cardinals where the linebackers are conservative..it’s only going to end badly.
Not because they’re bad….at all. But when you’re relying on Kiko Alonso to plunge through a hole and stop a running back…or even worse stay on his receiver, this happens.
This is an Offense that puts up over 400 yards on average per game, you simply cannot afford to give Palmer time in the pocket. Alonso is a dominant force when used in the right situations. There has certainly been a decline in form since he returned from injury..but is that down to the Eagles playing him out of his comfort zone or a more personal issue?
The Eagles pass rush has the ability to be one of the best in the league. Fletcher Cox is heading for a career season with 6.5 sacks which is scary enough..that’s without mentioning Thornton, Barwin, Curry or Graham.
But there’s only so much they can do if Davis refuses to adjust and play the same 3-man rushes over and over. This Defense has been great so far and with Hicks it would be even better. But if Davis plays against the scheme as opposed to throwing mud at a wall until something sticks then we could see Palmer rocked for the first time this season.
The Rams hit Palmer with 4 sacks, the most of any team this season back in week 4..it was their first loss of the season. If the Eagles can constantly set the edge and bring pressure to Palmer then there is no reason why they can’t lay out a rope to trip this Offense up.
What’s the best way to kill a dragon? A sword through the heart. It will be down to the Eagles linebackers to plunge the heart of the Cardinals and ensure their cornerbacks are under as little pressure as possible.