Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 08, 2018 at 1:32 am.


–WR Larry Fitzgerald is in his 15th NFL season and playing on a struggling team like the Cardinals this year hasn’t been easy. That hasn’t stopped the veteran from showing up every single day and continuing to give his all in practice.

“When you look back over his career, there’ve been some bumps in the road here before, but it doesn’t shatter his character,” head coach Steve Wilks said. “Meaning right now, he’s not going to sit here and take the backseat. He’s still up front. He works hard just as he did Day 1. I think that’s an example and a testament to his commitment.”

Having the opportunity to coach Fitzgerald is something Wilks said he will never forget.

“It’s glorifying, but most importantly, what I look at, I look at the person because I’m trying to figure out exactly the things that he’s bringing to the table outside of football,” he said. “What he does in that locker room, what he does in this community, most importantly, he’s just a pillar of the National Football League itself. It’s great to be around him. It’s great that he’s on the team, particularly for a first-year head coach like myself, having that kind of voice in the locker room. It’s a major help.”

–LG Mike Iupati (back) and RG Justin Pugh (hand) practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, a good sign that both starters should be able to play Sunday against the Chiefs.

–S Tre Boston, who has been battling ribs and shoulder problems, practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and told reporters he’s hoping to play at Kansas City on Sunday.

–WR Chad Williams is dealing with an ankle issue and did not practice on Wednesday.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: WR Larry Fitzgerald is coming off his most productive game of the season with eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, plus a two-point conversion in a win over the 49ers. It was his best day since the season opener when he caught seven passes for 76 yards in a loss to the Redskins. Fitzgerald enters Sunday’s game against the Chiefs needing just 33 receiving yards to surpass Hall of Famer Terrell Owens (15,934) for second place on the NFL’s all-time list. Jerry Rice is the leader with 22,895 yards.

GAME PLAN: The Cardinals’ only chance against the Chiefs is to try and exploit a Kansas City defense that is allowing a whopping 427.4 yards per game, the second most in the league. But even that probably won’t help as the Chiefs simply outscore their opponents at will. The Cardinals can counter this by controlling the tempo and the clock, which means getting their running game going behind David Johnson, who is still searching for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. The good news is the offensive line finally looks healthy for really the first time all season. The addition of veteran blocking tight end John Phillips will help when the Cardinals elect to use max protection in both the running and passing game.

Defensively, coordinator Al Holcomb is going to have his hands full with trying to stop one of the league’s most dynamic offenses the league has seen in years. If the Cardinals play their typical zone defense, they will need every player to completely stay in their respective gaps and not miss a tackle. Those two things have been plaguing this defense all season, however. Arizona will have to be aware of all the misdirection plays quarterback Patrick Mahomes has in his arsenal and extra film study won’t be enough to stop it. The Cardinals will have to be intensely reactive and try to limit yards after contact, whether it’s running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill or tight end Travis Kelce.

–Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill. Peterson has had a solid first half of the year, earning midseason All-Pro honors by, and he’ll have to have one of his best games if the decision is made that he will shadow Hill, who has 70 receptions, ranks seventh in receiving yards (774) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (seven). Though Peterson rocked the boat a couple weeks ago by demanding a trade from the Cardinals, he’s still playing at a very high standard. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranks sixth among all corners in overall defense with a grade of 82.7. He ranks fifth in coverage with an 85.0 grade.

–Cardinals S Budda Baker vs. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. If the Cardinals elect to play mostly a zone defense against the Chiefs, which is the thought, they’ll need everyone to be on the lookout for Kelce. But there will be times in their five-defensive back scheme in which the undersized Baker, all 5-foot-10, 195 pounds of him, will be one of the primary defenders asked to contain Kelce, who is 6-5, 260. It will be a mismatch the Chiefs will look to exploit regularly and Baker is going to need a ton of help if that’s the case.