W2W4: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is ready for the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is ready for the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is going to be a handful for the New England secondary. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

Arizona Passing Offense vs New England Pass Defense

The Cardinals got a career year out of veteran quarterback Carson Palmer last season as he threw for 4,671 yards, completed 63.7 percent of his passes and 35 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. Palmer has three lethal weapons in his trio of wide receivers in veteran Larry Fitzgerald (1,2153 yards receiving), Michael Floyd (849 yards receiving) and John Brown (1,033 yards receiving). Each plays a different role in the offense as Brown is the deep threat, Fitzgerald is the savvy possession receiver who often works the middle of the field and Floyd primarily outside the numbers. This is one of the most dangerous trios of wide receivers in the league and can attack defenses in a variety of ways–especially vertically down the field.

The Patriots will have to have their cornerbacks primed and ready to cover as Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones will have their hands full with the big, strong, and speedy receivers in Arizona. Butler will likely spend time chasing Fitzgerald while Ryan locks up Floyd and rookie Jones will have to get help from safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon over the top to prevent these big plays down the field.

Stopping theses receivers is near impossible; slowing them down is what the defense has to do. Of course, the Cardinals can also throw out receiving tight end Jermaine Gresham and running back David Johnson who can also contribute in the passing game. The Patriots will lean on their duo of young, athletic linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower to slow Johnson out of the backfield. Safety Patrick Chung can help out with cover Gresham (who is the answer to the trivia question of “What tight end was drafted ahead of Rob Gronkowski in the 2010 NFL Draft?)

The surest way to slow the explosive Arizona passing attack is to pressure Carson Palmer. With a strong interior, the best bet is to try to exploit tackles Jared Veldheer and DJ Humphries. Neither is a dominant tackle and the Patriots can roll out their top pass rushers from the edge with defensive ends Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, and Trey Flowers.

Long has been a revelation in the preseason looking to gained his his quick first step after two years marred by injury. He needs to carry that momentum into the regular season. Sheard was injured early in the preseason and will be leaned on to bring pressure from the edge. Finally, second year pass rusher Trey Flowers (if he plays as he is questionable with a shoulder injury) may get his chance to contribute in the regular season. He could bring fresh legs and energy off the bench if he is able to go.

New England can bring pressure from other spots on the field and look for defensive tackle Anthony Johnson to bring pressure up the gut as the third down interior rusher. In addition, expect to see different formations where the Patriots use linebackers Barkevious Mingo, Shea McClellin, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower to blitz and disrupt the Arizona passing game.

Arizona is going to have the advantage against almost every team in the NFL in the passing game (except maybe division rival Seattle); however, the Patriots have rebuilt their defense adding impact players each of the past three seasons. They may be one of the few teams in the league capable of matching up on defense.


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