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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Washington @ Cards

Setting the Stage:
The 4 - 6 - 1 Cards lost again last week (this time 38 - 19 to the Falcones). Skins lost
to the Cowboys 31 - 26. Washington - at 6 - 4 - 1 - is third out of three NFC East teams to compete for one or two playoff spots. Although BA continues to state otherwise, the Cards are "running on fumes" in terms of playoff hopes.

Washingon's Last Game
Wash opened up a 7 - 0 first quarter lead and - aided by a couple of missed Wash FG's by Hopkins - expanded it to 17 - 6 at halftime. No scoring in a fast-moving 3rd quarter. Washington made it interesting in the 4Q but - still 12-points behind - inexibly drained 4:36 of remaining time off the clock (using 15 plays) and simply ran out of time when their onside kick rolled out of bounds and Wash used up the remaining 1:53.

First Quarter

Dallas won the opening toss. TB on KO. Cowboys gained +15, +4, +20, +12, +13 and +7 yards on consecutive plays to set up a 4-yard TD run up the middle by Ezekial Elliott. Dallas 7 - Washington 0.

TB on the KO. First four plays gained positive yardage (+6, +8, +3, +19) - the last on a short pass to D Jackson. Drive stalled at the Dallas 25. FG attempt - by Hopkins - from 43 was no good. Dallas took over at their own 33 and went 3 & out. Punt was downed at the Wash 19. A 38-yard Cousins-Crowder and 22-yard Cousins to V Davis hookup moved the Skins to the Dallas 5 to end the quarter.

1st Quarter Score: Dallas 7 - Washington 0.

Second Quarter

Wash couldn't punch it in and settled for a 24-yd Hopkins FG. Dallas 7 - Washington 3.

TB on KO. Dallas moved to the Redskin 47 where Prescott was sacked (by Kerrigan) for minus-5 yds. Prescott then hit Beasley fo +18 yds. Drive stalled at the Wash 28, and Bailey was "good" from 46 yds. Dallas 10 - Washington 3.

TB on the KO. Wash moved to the Dallas 38 in six plays but the drive stalled and Hopkins' 55-yd FG attempt was wide-right. Dallas took over on their own 45. Gains of +12, +10 and +18 helped set up a 10-yard Prescott-to-T Williams TD on a 6-play drive. Dallas 17 - Washington 3.

1:45 till the half. TB on the KO. Cousins engineered an 11-play drive that ran out of time (& downs) at the Dallas 2, and Hopkins was good from 20-yds. Dallas 17 - Washington 6.

Halftime Score: Dallas 17 - Washington 6.

Third Quarter

Wash received. TB on the KO. They managed to move to their own 45 in 5 plays before having to punt. Punt fair caught at Dallas 16. Cowboys moved to Washington 45 but had to punt. Fair caught at Wash 10. Redskins moved in 13 plays to the to the Dallas 3 as the quarter ended.

3rd Quarter Score: Dallas 17 - Washington 6.

Fourth Quarter

On the first play of the quarter, Cousins hit Reed for a 5-yd TD. 2-pointer was no good. Dallas 17 - Washington 12.

TB on the KO. A +21 yard run by Elliott followed by a +19-yard completion from Prescott to Elliott moved Dallas to the Wash 35. Completions of +12 and +13 yards helped set up a 6-yard TD run around RE by Prescott. Dallas 24 - Washington 12.

TB on the KO. On the third play from scrimmage, Cousins hit D Jackson on a "stop 'n go" route for a 67-yard TD. Dallas 24 - Washington 19.

9:22 left.Onside kick recovered by Dallas at their own 47. Prescott engineered an 8 play TD drive (featuring a roughness penalty on Washington) and a TD nullified by a holding penalty). A Prescott-to-D Bryant +26-yard completion helped set up a one-yard TD run off tackle by Elliott. Dallas 31 - Washington 19.

TB on the KO. 6:29 left. Cousins engineered a 15-play 4:36 TD drive to narrow the Dallas edge to 5-points (but this left just 1:53 on the clock. Kind of a risky strategy). Dallas 31 - Washington 26.

Onside kick rolled out of bounds. Dallas ball on their own 47. All it took was a 3-yd run by Elliott and an 8-yd pass to Beasley to put Dallas into "knee" territory. Game over.

Final Score: Dallas 31 - Washington 26.

Team Season Stats

First Downs - Skins 255/ Opponents 250

Third Down Conversions - Skins 69/144 / Opponents 61/132

Fourth Down Conversions - Skins 5/11 / Opponents 5/10

Offensive Yards - Skins 4,690 / Opponents 4,066

Rushing Plays/Yards/Avg - Skins 1,227/4.5 / Opponents 1,284/4.7

Passing Compl/Att/Int/AvgYds -Skins 300/438/7/8.2 Opponents - 263/393/7/7.5

Sacks - Skins 28.0 / Opponents 14.0

Field Goals - Skins 25/31 / Opponents 14/17

Time of Possession - Skins 31:48/ Opponents 29:34

Turnover Ratio - +2

Key Player Season Stats

Passing:

Cousins - 299 of 437 for 3,540 yds, 68.4%, 8.1 YPA, 20 TD's, 7 INTS. 101.4 Rating.

Leading Rushers:

Kelley - 98 for 461 yds (4.7 YPC) 4 TD's.
M Jones- 99 for 460 yds (4.7 YPC) 4 TD's.
C Thompson - 55 for 259 yds (4.7 YPC) 1 TD
K Cousins - 21 for 49 yds (2.3 YPC) 1 TD

Leading Receivers:

Reed - 59 for 630 yds (10.7 YPR) 5 TD's.
Crowder - 55 for 725 yds (13.2 YPR) 6 TD's.
Garcon - 52 for 636 (12.2 YPR) 2 TD's.
D Jackson- 38 for 585 (15.4 YPC) 3 TD's.
C Thompson - 36 for 238 yds (6.9 YPR) 1 TD

Field Goals- Hopkins: 25 for 31 (missed 3 outside the fifty)

Punting -Way: 43.5 gross avg (15 for 29 inside the 20 or TB's)

Punt Returns - J Crowder: 15 for 16.3 avg; 1 TD

Kickoff Returns - C Thompson: 11 for 21.2 avg

Tackles - Compton (91), Foster (70), Breeland (49), Whitner (43), Norman (43)

Sacks - 28 (vs. opponents' 14). Kerrigan (9.0), Murphy (7.0), P Smith (3.5), Baker (3.0_

Interceptions- 7 Picks (Opponents also had 7). Scattered among 7 players

Fumble Recoveries - 13 recovered (opponents had 9)

Rosters/Match-ups

Wash Offense

WR1....11 D Jackson (A).........19 Ross (P)
LT.........79 Nsekhe (A)..............68 Clausell
LG.......77 Lauvo (P)      
OC       61 S Long (A)..............56 Sullivan  (NA)         
RG       75 Scherff (AA)............74 Kouandjio (P) 
RT      .76 Moses (AA).............60 Painter (P)
TE       86 Reed (HQ) ..............85 V Davis (A)..................89 Carrier (BA)    
WR2    88 Garcon (AA)...........13 Harris                                       
QB      08 Cousins (AA)...........16 McCoy........................02 Sudfeld
WR3   80 J Crowder. (A)..........14 Grant (P)
RB......32 Kelley (BA)...............25 C Thompson (BA)......31 M Jones (BA).......34 M Brown (BA)

PFF ratings in parentheses (E = Elite, P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, NA = Not enough info)

Cardinal Defense

LDE      93 Campbell (HQ) ....72 Stinson (P)
NT        98 Peters (A).............69 X Williams (P).......72 Pierre (NA)                
DT        95 Gunter (P).............92 Rucker (P) ..........97 Mauro (A).......90 Nkemdiche (P)
SLB     55 C Jones (HQ)........57 Okafor (A)               
ILB       20 Bucannon (A) ......50 G Martin (P).........52 Gooden (P)           
ILB       51 Minter (A).............54 Moore (P)             
WLB    44 Golden (AA)..........96 K Martin  (P)    
LCB     21 Peterson AA)........29 Simon (A)                
RCB    41 Cooper (P)............26 B Williams (P)......28 Bethel (P)             
SS       36 Swearinger (AA)...32 Mathieu (A)               
FS       22 T Jefferson (HQ)...27 T Branch (A)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, NA = Not enough info, R = Rookie) 

Matchup: Wash Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
In Cousins is very efficient - sporting a 68.4% completion percentage and a 20 / 7 TD/Int ratio.

While he spreads the ball around to many different receivers, DeSean Jackson is his primary home-run guy. Top pass-catcher is their TE (Reed). Garcon, Crowder and Thompson round out the receiving crew which seems to be relatively deep and experienced. (Note - #2 backup Redskin TE is one Vernon Davis (historic Cardinal Killer moving into the back nine of his career). Gotta keep an eye on him.

Cousins has been sacked 14 times (only half as many times as Redskin pass rushers have sacked opposing QB's.

Cards have been getting a pretty solid pass rush from edge=guys C Jones and Golden and have done OK inside with C Campbell, and other guys in rotation.

Patrick Peterson has held down the lock-down corner spot, but has a gimpy leg. After a promising start on the opposite side, Cooper has slipped considerably and no one (including Bethel, B Williams and Simon) has stepped up to cement the position. T Jefferson and Swearinger have graded out well at the two safety positions. T Mathieu has improved week to week coming off injury, but his progress has been glacial. Rumors are that the Cards will use their recall-back IR spot to bring back S Tyvan Branch.

Last week, the Cardinal secondary sabataged what could otherwise have been a pretty solid performance vs. the Falcons by overplaying bubble screens, getting sucked out of position, tackling poorly etc. On one set of downs, they had 3 consecutive sacks of Ryan, but then they turned around and let a backup receiver (Gabriel) outrun them on short screens and outlet passes.

This looks like one of those games where the #2,3, 4 and maybe 5 Cardinal coverage guys will have the challenge of containing 3 or 4 Redskin receivers (including Jackson, Reed, Garcon and Crowder). On paper, the Cardinals look physically up to containing the Redskin offense, but they've all too often also proved that they can let the so-called "intangibles" of defensive play get the better of them.

Play calling pattern for Redskins (as I perceive it) is dink-dink-dink-dunk- go long to D Jackson. (Memo to PP21: Do not get lulled to sleep).

Key Matchups: Peterson vs. D Jackson. Bethel &/or Cooper vs.Garcon &/or Thompson. Jefferson vs. Reed

Matchup: Wash Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Washington is averaging 4.5 yards per rushing carry and giving up 4.7 ypc to their opponents. - not enough to strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenders, but good enough to put a hurt on any defense who lets their guard down.

Redskin offensive line is above average on the right side, but just Average to Poor left of center. Stats reflect Cardinals' ability to stop the run, but only if the defense stays disciplined and physical.

Key Matchup: Minter vs. Kelley. Cardinal Front 3 and ILB's vs. Washington OL.


Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald (HQ)......10 Golden (P)..........18 Bundy (R)
LT        74 Humphries (BA)             
LG       76 Iupati (A)...... .........78 Watford (P)..                   
C         53 Shipley AA)...........70 Boehm (BA)........65 Boggs (P)                    
RG       73 Wetzel (P)..............61 Toner (R)                    
RT........75 John (P)    
TE       .85 Fells (BA).............89 Valles (P)      
WR2    15 M. Floyd (BA).......12 John Brown (A)...14 JJ Nelson (P)        
QB       03 Palmer (A)............05 Stanton (P)     
RB       31 D Johnson (AA)....38 Ellington (BA) .....30 Taylor (BA)........K Williams (A)
TE        84 Gresham (P)

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality, R = Rookie, NA = Not enough info)

Wash Defense

LDE......99 Jean-Francois (P).......73 C Jenkins (BA)
NT........90 Hood (P).....................98 Ionnidis (P)
RDE.....92 Baker (AA) .................72 Lanier (A)
SLB....94 P Smith (P)..................93 Murph (A)y
MLB.....51 Compton BA)............50 Spaight (A)
MLB.....54 Foster (AA)................36 Cravens (AA)....52 Garvin (P)        
WLB.....91 Kerrigan (AA)............96 Bates (P)    
CB....26 Breeland (P)..................20 Toler (P)...........35 Phillips (P)
CB...24 Norman (AA)..................47 Dunbar (P).......38 Fuller (P)
SS.....29 Ihenacho (A) ................39 Whitner (P)        
FS.....41 Blackmon (A) ...............22 Everett (NA)....xx Evans

PFF ratings in parentheses (P = Poor, BA = Below Avg, A = Avg, AA = Above Avg, HQ = High Quality), NA = Not enough info, R = Rookie) 

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Skins Pass Defense
Carson Palmer is hampered by a banged-up receiving corps. Jarod Brown is on IR. John Brown hurt his hamstring. Michael Floyd is playing hurt. Fortunately, Larry Fitzgerald continues to play a gritty brand of FB, but unless he gets some help, it leaves Carson with a TE (Gresham), Fitz and JJ Nelson as his primary targets (and JJ has had issues hanging onto the ball).

This in turn puts a lot of pressure on Palmer (who has to hang onto the ball longer than he might otherwise wish - especially challenging when operating behind a "musical chairs" offensive line featuring Humpries at LT and someone named Ulrick John at the other tackle).

As frustrating as this has been, you have to give credit to Palmer who's responded to the adversity by staying upright and being just good enough "in streaks" to keep us competitive late into ball games. Challenge for the Cardinals will be for their receivers to get better separation on routes and for Palmer to find enough time in the face of pass rush pressure to get set and hit them in full stride. Leave us not forget that Washington pass rushers have sacked opposing QB's 28 times (double what opponents have done to Cousins).

(Note - as we've done in recent games, this may be still another where Carson looks to his RB (David Johnson) to get open and make plays).

Key Matchups: Palmer vs. Norman and Breeland. D Johnson vs.Blackmon. Humphries vs. Kerrigan. Johns vs. Murphy.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs.Skins Run Defense
Washington is giving up an average of 4.7 yds per carry.

David Johnson continues to post big receiving and rushing numbers and, if nothing else, can occupy defenders who'd otherwise be locked onto Fitz or other Cardinal receivers.

Banged-up Cardinal line may be better at rooting their opposite man out of a hole than spending the day keeping pass rushers away from Palmer. Expect BA to run the ball early and to stay with the running game until the Redskins make us stop.

Key Matchup: D Johnson vs. the two MLB's (Compton and Foster)

Special Teams

Skins

K          03 Hopkins                       
P          05 Way                        
H          05 Way
LS        57 Sundberg                           
KR       25 C Thompson               
PR       80 J Crowder

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                                 
H          02 Butler                             
LS        46 Brewer                                 
KR       38 Ellington              
PR        12 Jn Brown

Matchup: Skins Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Chandler Catanzaro may have met his match in Hopkins (who has missed something like 5 FG's). Redskin returners have taken one KO to the house (Cards....eh....have scored zero times).

Erratic special teams performance has cost the Cardinals 3 wins so far this season. The danger, here, is that - in our effort to beat the Skins in other aspects of the game, we ignore ST's and have them cost us yet another win.

Key matchups: Catanzaro vs. Hopkins. Butler vs. Way. Thompson and Crowder vs. Cardinal coverage teams.

Coaching
ATL: Jay Gruden is in his third season as Redskin Coach
. He has QB coaching creds on his resume. He's got to contend with keeping his lockerroom happy and hungry despite posting a positive W & L record but still falling behind the Giants and Cowboys

AZ: This is the first year with the Cardinals that BA has had to deal with the adversity of falling nearly entirely out of the playoff hunt. He's presented pretty much of a "stay the course/we're not out of it yet"public face, but there have also been rumblings of locker room dissension in the midst of all that losing (to which I continue to say: "Things like that happen when you're losing"). A win would go a long way toward setting things right.

Last Word
Cards are now 4 -6 - 1.
We'll continue to say it: "The Cardinals, talent-wise, are capable of competing with any team in the NFL." But they're not winning (mainly because their mental game hasn't been as good as their physical one).

Playoffs are becoming a fading possibility. But in the NFL: "you never know." At the very least, we want to see to see a good, smart, fast, physical effort every week. Many fans and writers are shifting their attention away from the playing field and toward such mundane issues as Salary Caps and the Drafts. We'll worry about after the season ends. We still have 5 football games to follow.


 
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