Scouting Report: No matter who's at QB, Cardinals' o-line is awful
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Coming off their first loss since Week 2, the Minnesota Vikings return home on Sunday to face Arizona at the Metrodome. Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Cardinals in his weekly scouting report:
The Arizona Cardinals offense looks a little different depending on whether QB Kevin Kolb or QB John Skelton is throwing passes for them -- and based on Kolb's health, it appears Skelton will be the man on Sunday. They run with a power-blocking scheme up front, making use of pulling guards and clear, designed running lanes, and they usually run with three wide receivers or at least tight ends or backs split into the slot to give that same formation look.
Kolb generally attempts far more quick, short passes around the line of scrimmage, and the offense looks a lot like a traditional West Coast offense when he is in control. Things open up a little more when Skelton comes into the game. Skelton's accuracy isn't as good as Kolb's, but he has more of an aggressive streak and a bigger arm, so the Cardinals take more deep shots.
On defense, the Cardinals run a 3-4 scheme with quick, penetrating defensive ends rather than monstrous two-gap players. They will run a lot of press-man coverage on the outside, especially with CB Patrick Peterson, who will shadow a team's top receiver and may well find himself tracking Vikings WR Percy Harvin in this game. On the back end, the Cardinals rotate coverages, often running with a single-high safety or even shifting or split coverages.
Arizona has key players on both sides of the ball, but for vastly different reasons. The defense is loaded with talent that needs to be accounted for, but the offense, particularly the offensive line, is a chain corroded with a series of rusty, weak links that can be exploited.
RT Bobby Massie has already given up 10 sacks this season. If there's a player that can put Vikings LE Brian Robison's season back on track, it's him. On the other side, LT D'Anthony Batiste has surrendered nine sacks and seven penalties. These two form the worst tackle pairing in football, and things don't get much better on the interior, with RG Adam Snyder in particular a real issue. The Vikings' front four should dominate this matchup and cut off the passes to WR Larry Fitzgerald at the source.
On defense, the Cardinals have playmakers at all three levels. DE Calais Campbell may not be as flashy as DT Darnell Dockett, but he is a far superior player and the main source of interior pass-rush. His size is a real issue for offensive linemen and also gives him a natural advantage when it comes to batting down passes (four this season).
ILB Daryl Washington is quickly developing into one of the league's best, too. He has speed to burn and an energy that sees him impact the game in all facets. Arizona will send him on blitzes regularly -- he averages more than 10 a game -- and he actually leads the team in sacks as well as tackles and defensive stops. He is the player the Vikings need to be able to pick up wherever he surfaces.
Peterson, the former first-round draft pick, is the Cardinals' true No. 1 corner and is finally playing up to that role after having been thrust into it almost from his first game with the team. He will shadow opposing receivers and press them at the line of scrimmage -- an intimidating prospect for some, given his ridiculous size (6-foot, 220 pounds). He represents a stern test for the Vikings, especially if Arizona intends to use him to follow Harvin wherever he lines up. If Peterson isn't in a shadow, Minnesota might as well forget throwing to whatever receiver he does draw.
• Peterson has been thrown at 37 times this year but has allowed only 16 receptions and no touchdowns for a QB rating of 29.7.
• The blitz-happy Cardinals have 13 players on defense that have rushed the passer at least 14 times this year -- including two members of the secondary.
• Fitzgerald has nearly double the targets of the next Arizona receiver (61, to Andre Roberts' 36).
• Thanks largely to the blocking in front of them, none of Arizona's top three running backs are averaging more than 2.8 yards per carry and no Cardinal has broken a run longer than 25 yards.
• Skelton's QB rating under pressure this year is just 11.9, while Kolb's is a far healthier 76.4.