The Arizona Cardinals play the Washington Redskins this weekend in a battle to remain undefeated. The Cards are coming off a comeback win against the Panthers, while the Redskins beat the New York Giants by double-digits.
Arizona is looking to quiet critics and beat a Washington team that looked very good against the Giants. Several areas like passing protection and offensive line play were problems in Week 1 for the Cards, and the Skins are playing like a team able to take advantage of that.
Read on for five keys to an Arizona Cardinals victory in our nation's capital.
New Quarterback Kevin Kolb was sacked twice in Week 1 against the Panthers, and was constantly flushed out of the pocket. The Cards have to do a better job of giving Kolb time to make plays because better teams will take advantage of their mistakes.
It doesn't help the team is Kolb is constantly on the move all the time.
The Redskins had four sacks against the Giants, so offensive line play will a big key to an Arizona win. Constant pressure equals problems for any quarterback and especially one with a suspect offensive line.
Kolb has the ability to scramble away from the on-coming rush, but it's always easier when he's in the pocket.
Defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Kerry Rhodes were both burned on deep throws and the protection had a ton of issues, en route to 422 yards passing from rookie Cam Newton. Newton set the rookie record for passing yards in a debut start and absolutely destroyed Arizona's secondary.
This will only get worse when they play better quarterbacks, and Redskin QB Rex Grossman played pretty good against the Giants. Grossman was 21-of-34 with two touchdowns and no interceptions and was an effective game manager for the Skins.
Arizona really needs to work on staying with receivers and communicating on defense. If Santana Moss, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley get free in coverage, it will be a long day for the Cards.
Against the Panthers, Arizona had constant pressure on Cam Newton but they only had two sacks. It seemed like Newton was usually able to avoid the pressure and make a big play. They need to have similar pressure at Grossman, but he's a different player than Newton and plays more in the pocket.
That should translate to a sack or two more, but it could come at the cost of a couple big plays.
When blitzing, it always leaves defensive backs on islands and coverage will be that much more important. Rex Grossman was able to throw all over the Giants depleted secondary but was sacked four times. If he's able to throw well even after being sacked, it will be a difficult game for the Cards.
Pass coverage goes hand-in-hand with the ability to pressure the quarterback, and will determine how much the Cardinals blitz. If coverage is solid, look for more blitzing from defensive co-ordinator Ray Horton. But if they're getting beat on the outside, they might have no choice to drop back in to coverage.
In Week 1, Beanie Wells had a solid day against the Carolina Panthers with 18 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown. Wells was dependable all game and provided the running game the team has been missing for years.
He has the talent to play even better and his agility lets him break free of tackles to gain more yards.
If Wells can rush for around 90-100 yards, quarterback Kevin Kolb will have more freedom to do play action and defenses won't cheat to pass coverage. Offenses that can keep the defense guessing play much better because of the simple fact they keep the defense guessing constantly.
The Cards might not have a ton of threats, but they have enough to make some noise.