Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm.


–QB Josh Rosen will start each of the Cardinals’ final two games, head coach Steve Wilks said, even though the rookie has been taking a beating and will be going up against two very physical defenses when Arizona meets the Rams and the Seahawks. Rosen said he would be angry if he didn’t get to play these final two games.

“I don’t really want to speak more on that because I want to play,” he said. “I couldn’t make it any more clear. I would be very frustrated if they didn’t play me, but those are decisions above me. I’m glad, at least, from practice today I’m playing. I’m very grateful for that. I would be very frustrated, but it’s out of my control.”

–S Budda Baker (knee), DE Markus Golden (ankle), DT Rodney Gunter (foot) and WR J.J. Nelson and TE Ricky Seals-Jones, who were each recovering from food poisoning, did not practice on Wednesday. Head coach Steve Wilks, however, said he expects all five players to be available Sunday against the Rams.

–CB David Amerson is expected to start Sunday’s game against the Rams despite suffering concussion symptoms last Sunday against the Falcons. Nevertheless, the Cardinals made a series of moves at the cornerback position this week, which included elevating corners Deatrick Nichols and Chris Jones form the practice squad and releasing corners Dontae Johnson and Quinten Rollins.

–LB Jonathan Anderson was released and CB Jonathan Moxey was re-signed to the practice squad.

–LB Pete Robertson and S Fish Smithson, both of whom most recently spent time with the Redskins, were signed to the practice squad. The Cardinals released OL Justin Evans from the practice squad, only to re-sign him to the squad a day later and release WR Daniel Braverman.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: C Mason Cole is the last man standing on the Cardinals’ offensive line, having started every single game and taken every single snap as teammates topple around him. He’ll extend a pretty special streak on Sunday when he goes against the Rams and has to fend off the likes of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. It will be his 118th consecutive start since his freshman year in high school.

GAME PLAN: The Cardinals want rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to continue to get snaps as they close out a disastrous season and they think even in bad times, the experience will serve him well moving ahead. In order to keep him upright against the Rams, they’ll be employing multiple mass-protection fronts. That will limit Rosen’s targets and passing situations at times, but it’s probably for the best. It can also be a boost for running back David Johnson, who remains the team’s primary threat on offense. He’s 157 rushing yards from reaching 1,000 for the season and the Cardinals will try to pound the ball through him and its patchwork offensive line. When Rosen does throw, look for him to lock on veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald early and often as not only is Fitzgerald the team’s best pass catcher, but this might also be the last home game in Fitzgerald’s 15-year run with the Cardinals.

Defensively, the rush defense got shamed last week in Atlanta and every single missed tackle and mistake was personally hung on every individual at fault by the coaching staff during Monday’s film review session. It wasn’t pretty, according to some veteran players, and it was brutally honest. Maybe that will help propel the Cardinals in their attempts to contain Todd Gurley II, the league’s second-leading rusher and touchdown leader with 21 total scores. He’s been nursing a sore knee, but is expected to play. Considering Rams quarterback Jared Goff has been struggling the last few weeks with accuracy and decision-making, the Cardinals would be wise to unleash their pass rush and blitz out of multiple packages to confound and confuse him. Sacks leader Chandler Jones has been strangely silent the past two weeks and he needs to step up and lead the charge. When Goff gets time, look for him to avoid cornerback Patrick Peterson and pick on David Amerson or one of the backups that might also see time opposite Peterson.

–Cardinals LG Colby Gossett vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald. The Cardinals think they’ve found a hidden gem in Gossett, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Appalachian State. They’ll probably get a much clearer picture of him Sunday when he has to fend off Donald, along with help from rookie center Mason Cole and right guard Oday Aboushi, the only veteran on the offensive line. Gossett has looked capable and has had his share of fairly clean games since getting thrust into the lineup for the injured Mike Iupati, but this is a matchup that could get him exposed badly.

–Cardinals LB Haason Reddick vs. Rams RB Todd Gurley II. Reddick has faced Gurley three times and Gurley has found a way to do significant damage to the Cardinals on all three occasions. It remains to be seen how many carries Gurley will get, assuming he plays with knee inflammation, but the Rams are counting on him in their efforts to nail down home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and Reddick knows that means getting Gurley’s best. He said he thrives for such competition and is ready to bring his best against Gurley, knowing full well he’ll need help when it comes to bringing the running back down.