Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 13, 2018 at 12:54 am.


–RB David Johnson is dealing with a quadriceps injury that caused him to skip most of Wednesday’s practice in anticipation of Sunday’s game in Atlanta, but head coach Steve Wilks said he expects Johnson to play against the Falcons. “I think David will be fine. We just wanted to give him an extra day,” Wilks said.

–Not practicing on Wednesday were S Budda Baker (knee) and WR Chad Williams (hamstring). Head coach Steve Wilks said he expects both players to likely be available this Sunday against the Falcons.

–LB Deone Bucannon (chest) returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday after missing the past three games and there’s a chance he might be able to play Sunday in Atlanta. “I’m going at it one day at a time, that’s what the trainers told me,” Bucannon said. “I’m not going to jump the gun or anything. Of course, I want to be out there with my teammates, but I’m going to take it one day at a time.”

–LB Thurston Armbrister (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve.

–The team signed LB Jonathan Anderson and DT Vincent Valentine. Anderson spent the last three seasons with the Bears, appearing in 31 games with 47 tackles, one interception, five passes defensed and 14 tackles on special teams. He was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2015 out of TCU and was released by Chicago in September. Valentine is back with the Cardinals after spending three weeks on Arizona’s practice squad earlier this season. He entered the league with the Patriots as a third-round pick in 2016 out of Nebraska.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: CB Patrick Peterson has not allowed 80 or more receiving yards in a game dating back to 2014, according to the metrics website ProFootballFocus, which is the longest such streak among any cornerback in the 13 years since PFF began tracking that data. Peterson has only allowed 25 total receptions this season, the second-fewest by a corner in 2018. On Sunday, he’ll be shadowing the Falcons’ Julio Jones, who leads the league with 1,429 receiving yards and ranks fourth with 94 receptions.

GAME PLAN: As much as the Cardinals have turned their attention to evaluating players down the stretch, particularly all the young ones they’ve added to the roster this season, they’re still in the business of trying to win football games and this might be the last one they have a chance to win. The best way they can exploit the Falcons is by attacking their below-average rush defense, which is allowing 131.2 yards per game. David Johnson is nursing a sore quadriceps, however, and although he is expected to play, he may not be close to 100 percent. With the offensive line and wide receiver unit already decimated by injuries and turnover, the Cardinals may have to turn to Larry Fitzgerald to help bail them out.

Defensively, the Cardinals will look to throw an all-out blitz attack on quarterback Matt Ryan. They’ve had their success in confounding the Falcons quarterback, too, intercepting him five times during a game in 2012 and intercepting him four times during a game in 2013. Though the Cardinals have put up some stellar sack statistics this season, they’ve lost two of their best defensive tackles to injured reserve in Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre. The pass rush will have to come from the outside with defensive ends Chandler Jones and Markus Golden. The Cardinals won’t have to worry too much about Atlanta’s rushing game. It ranks last in the league at 81.2 yards per game and the Falcons have had the fewest rushing attempts (273).

–Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones. Peterson shut down Jones the last time they met in the regular season, holding Jones to just four receptions for 35 yards and no touchdowns in 2016. In the two previous games before that, however, Jones got the best of Peterson and the Cardinals with 10 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown in 2014 and nine receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown in 2012. Peterson has shadowed five top receivers this season and according to ProFootballFocus, he didn’t allow more than two receptions against any of them.

–Cardinals QB Josh Rosen vs. Falcons S Damontae Kazee. Kazee is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions and Rosen has more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10). Rosen hasn’t had much time to go through his progressions because of a patchwork offensive line, but he also has a tendency to lock onto his primary target and stare them down before throwing the ball. That’s where many of his interceptions have come and Kazee has proven to be an instinctive ball hawk, which could make this matchup an interesting one to watch.