Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 22, 2018 at 1:34 am.


–LT D.J. Humphries (right knee) did not practice on Wednesday and yet head coach Steve Wilks felt good about Humphries’ availability for this Sunday’s game at the Chargers, even though the lineman did not play last week against the Raiders.

“I’m very hopeful that he’s going to be able to participate and play in the game,” Wilks said. “Hopefully we can try to get him back (Thursday).”

–Also not practicing on Wednesday were safeties Budda Baker (knee) and Rudy Ford (heel), tight end John Phillips (knee), linebacker Deone Bucannon (chest) and wide receiver Chad Williams (ankle). Baker, Ford and Williams did not play in last week’s game against the Raiders.

–QB Josh Rosen has started to become far more vocal, especially in the huddle and after plays when it comes to scolding a player for missing an assignment or running the wrong route.

“I’m just trying to do as best as I can in the situation,” he said. “I’m just trying to take care as much as I can in my game and make sure everyone else is on top of theirs. However, I need to get that across to them, it’s just kind of on an individual basis.

“I’m not like MF-ing guys all over the field. I’m encouraging and trying to get guys on the right track – along with myself.”

–P Andy Lee leads the NFL with a 48.8-yard gross average and is on pace to break his own single-season record of 47.3, set a year ago. “We don’t want him punting the football, but when he does, I think he’s doing a great job, and he’s been pretty consistent all year,” head coach Steve Wilks said.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RB David Johnson has totaled 327 yards from scrimmage the past two weeks. Part of that might be explained by the fact Arizona was going against two run-porous defenses in Kansas City and Oakland, but there’s no doubt Johnson has got a lot of his swagger back after rushing for 98 yards and 137 yards and is making catches while lining up both in the slot and outside as a wider receiver. With two touchdowns of any kind on Sunday vs. the Chargers, Johnson would have 10 or more in a season for the third time in his four-year career and would join wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (five) as the only players in franchise history with 10 or more touchdowns in a season in at least three different seasons.

GAME PLAN: The Cardinals have finally got running back David Johnson going and they’re going to want to keep maintaining what he’s been able to do in the ground game. He rushed for 98 yards two weeks ago against the Chiefs and ran for 137 last week against the Raiders. The rest of the offense is still trying to find its way under rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who last week threw for three touchdowns but only completed nine passes overall. For the Cardinals to have any chance at all of an upset over the Chargers, Rosen has to do a better job protecting the football and limiting his own mistakes. He’s been intercepted more times (10) than he’s thrown touchdowns (nine).

Defensively, the Cardinals have to try and slow down running back Melvin Gordon, who ranks fifth in the league with 741 rushing yards and is tied for fourth in touchdowns (seven). Even if they do, they’ll still have to contend with a Chargers passing attack led by Philip Rivers that has accounted for 2,860 yards and 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions. To limit Rivers, the Cardinals will have to get under his skin and force him into mistakes and that can happen if edge rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden can get free often enough to make sacks and quarterback pressures. Arizona’s secondary has been torched the past couple of games and if the defensive backs don’t do a better job at covering and tackling, this game could get away from the Cardinals in a hurry.

–Cardinals DE Chandler Jones vs. Chargers LT Russell Okung. Jones continues to pile up the sacks and they’ve come against everyone and anyone. Okung represents an interesting challenge, though, in that he’s seen it all and has plenty of his own tricks up his sleeves to fend off quality edge rushers. Jones is difficult to defend in that he often changes his moves that get him into the backfield and linemen rarely know what he’s going to do on any given pass-rushing situation.

–WR Christian Kirk vs. Chargers S Derwin James. It could be a classic battle between two quality rookies when these two knocks heads and get after it come Sunday. Kirk has emerged as the Cardinals’ wide receiver of the future and has become a favorite target for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. He’s deceptively quick and can excel on deep routes even though he was projected to be nothing much more than a slot receiver. James has become the Chargers’ leading tackler and plays more like a veteran than a first-year draft pick. He’s a ball hawk and a pest to deal with for opposing receivers.