The Arizona Cardinals come to town “red hot” having won four in a row against the awful Atlanta Falcons, the awful Houston Texans, the awful Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts, who have been awful in the first half of their last four games. So kudos to the Cardinals I guess. They are led by 2012 Sports Writers Narrative Award winner Bruce Arians, who has broken his promise of the Cardinals going undefeated at home; quarterback Carson Palmer, leader of a quarterback room “as strong as strong as anybody’s in the National Football League” who’s 2 touchdown and 0 interception game on Sunday finally gave him a positive TD-INT ratio of 16-15; and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who you should remember from last year as the guy who took over for the incompetent Juan Castillo and did even worse.
Arians is garnering accolades for taking over a team with the worst QBing in the league in 2012 and giving them something like the 25th best quarterbacking in the league, and Bowles is being praised for inheriting one of the most talented defenses in the league and not screwing it up yet. Nice work if you can get it.
Speaking of nice work, the Jaguars of all teams put up a good fight against the Cardinals defense in the first half, scoring 14 points in the 1st quarter and entering halftime tied 14-14, ultimately falling 27-14. I wanted to know how they suddenly played relatively well against one of the best defenses in the league. One thing popped out to me in watching the All 22: Jarraud Powers was awful. Cary Williams level of bad. And what he was awful at fits right into what the Eagles try to do against defenses.
Here Powers is in the slot, the Cardinals play zone. Maurice Jones-Drew will jog out to flare, and Powers will bite on this like a bear trap. He abandons his curl/flat zone far to early to pick up Jones-Drew. This is poor discipline, the flat is John Abraham’s responsibility, not Powers’, zone defenders are not to break on a route until the ball is being thrown and Jones-Drew hasn’t broken his route yet and Henne isn’t looking at him. By vacating his zone he leaves Mike Brown clean down the seam instead of bumping him to disrupt a timing route or redirecting him inside to more defenders, and leaves no one able to make a play on a comeback by Cecil Shorts. Chad Henne reads this and hits Shorts for an 11 yard gain. But he could have had more if the play call happened to be different or he and Brown read the defense better. If Brown runs a post either by design or by WR option, Brown would be breaking his route just after Henne threw the ball here, the defense would look exactly the same, he’d have enough real estate for a big gain before Tyrann Mathieu could close on him. Imagine DeSean Jackson in Brown’s spot. This bodes well for the Eagles because both similar flare/swing passes (think Jackson against Oakland) and the deep ball, including down the middle, have been staples of the Eagles’ offense.
On this play Powers is again going to abandon his zone to pick up the short pass, but this time it’s a good read… that he screws up. Powers runs right past Brown. That could be a big play by the Eagles, who have WR screens as a staple in their packaged plays. Ace Sanders will re-direct him a little, but not enough to completely take him out of the play, Powers has done most of the work of taking Powers out of the play on his own. And if Brown hadn’t blocked him and instead ran a route as the Eagles packaged plays do, he would be open for an easy completion. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. With the Eagles gashing the league on well executed screens, this also fits right into the Eagles’ usual gameplan.
Here is another time he makes a poor decision and leaves a receiver open. Clay Harbour will come in motion from the left to cause some pre-snap coverage confusion. (Cameron Bradfield’s false start will go unnoticed by the refs.) Powers, in the slot, now has Brown and Harbor in front of him and needs to read them both because Abraham is not dropping into coverage. Powers keeps his feet planted at first, which is a huge mistake. Hesitate and you’re beat, especially against a Chip Kelly offense. With Harbour blocking, he then back pedals with Brown for a step and then for some reason decides that it would be a good idea to go cover Cecil Shorts even though Patrick Peterson has him and Powers can not possibly defend Shorts from where he is. He hasn’t touched Brown at all, who is now wide open for a 15 yard gain that could be more if Henne did not underthrow him.
Here is one that Powers does not screw up, but it shows how he can be taken advantage of physically. The Cardinals do not match their corners based on the receiver, instead they usually but not exclusively play Peterson on their right and Powers on their left. This means Powers, who is 5’9″, will see both 6’3″ Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson, both with their own advantages over Powers in size and speed respectively. On this play Ace Sanders will run a 25 yard comeback route. Powers will trail him for the entire play. If this is DeSean Jackson, he is burnt. If it is Riley Cooper, Powers is probably in phase with him, but giving up 6″ in height. On a deep comeback by Cooper like in this play, he is toast here too. Ace Sanders is 5’7″ and beats Powers for the ball, Cooper should dominate him.
Here is my favorite. Powers gets turned around the wrong way while Kerry Taylor hasn’t made any kind of move, at this point he is just running straight down the field. Powers gets turned around 20 yards down field, when Taylor breaks his comeback route. A good QB would have this completed for a big gain but since it is Chad Henne, it falls incomplete.
Against the Colts, Powers was much better, but still prone to mistakes that can be exploited by the Eagles. Once again Powers displays Cary Williams-like disregard for staying disciplined within his zone. On this play, the Colts are running a delayed RB screen and Powers vacates the deep third he is responsible for when Darrius Heyward-Bey runs a crossing route, taking Powers with him. Powers should not be following Heyward-Bey, who enters Rashad Johnson’s zone and is well covered there. Powers has left a quarter of the field uncovered… right where Trent Richardson’s route goes. While this was stopped for a minimal gain, against the Eagles this could be a bigger play. With the speed the Eagles possess, this could be a bigger gain due to Powers not staying within his assignment. No one’s offensive line can get down field as fast as the Eagles’ can, and Trent Richardson is of course no LeSean McCoy.
All this biting on routes and getting burned may be getting to Powers. Here Heyward-Bey runs a simple 7 yard in route. Powers correctly reads it at first and then doesn’t believe his eyes, coming to a near flat footed stop (which is difficult to show in stills, you’ll have to trust me) before he reads the throw from Luck and closes on the much larger Heyward-Bey, who he is unable to wrap up cleanly.
Next we have 5’11” 192 lb LeVon Brazill getting inside Powers on a slant, catching the ball for 6 yards on 3rd and 6, then breaking Powers’ tackle for an additional 8 yards. This and the previous play are more examples of how Riley Cooper could have a big day if he is matched up against Powers.
Here in the red zone he lets Heyward-Bey go right by him with no help over the top due to Rashad Johnson not dropping deep. Andrew Luck missed a TD on this play.
At this point all I was looking at was Jerraud Powers play to see how he did from game to game, I wasn’t looking at the rest of the Cardinals defense much, but this stuck out to me, in part because the rest of the Cardinals defense was otherwise very good, as you would expect. On the next play we see the same thing from the safeties, neither are deep and thus are susceptible to a deep route. One play could be anything, two plays in a row like this and we’re venturing into a coaching decision. Luck takes advantage this time and throws a perfectly placed pass over the head of the safety to Colby Fleener for the TD.
I am just a guy with an internet connection, Game Rewind and a decent understanding of football and I saw all this in about 10 minutes. Chip Kelly has had an extra week to break down film. Jerraud Powers might want to take a sick day. On top of all this, they couldn’t handle the Jaguars quick snap after substitutions, and this week they face the quickest tempo in the league:
The Cardinals defense is clearly very talented and it is no doubt playing at a high level. But it also clearly can be beat, the Seahawks and Saints each scored four touchdowns against them, and beat by executing a game plan that is basically what the Eagles play every game.