To preview the Seahawks' upcoming matchup with the Cardinals, I swapped scouting reports with Jess Root from SB Nation's Cardinals Blog, Revenge of the Birds. My questions are below in bold, his follow.
1. How is Arizona's injury situation looking right now? In addition to all the early-season losses, we know you've recently lost Carson Palmer as well. Are there any other players on the injury report this week to be concerned about?
Well, rookie defensive end Ed Stinson might be out again. He is unheralded, but has been key in the defensive line rotation. He is stout against the run. The biggest injury of the week is Larry Fitzgerald. He has an MCL sprain and he missed the first two days of practice. It looks like a toss-up as to whether or not he will be a go for Sunday.
2. On offense, who are the key players that the Seahawks will have to game plan for?
The focal point of the offense is Andre Ellington. He hasn't had a great year, but the threat of a big play is always there. He can beat you in the running game and in the passing game. After Ellington, you have to look at the receivers. Rookie John Brown has been a stud, making four game-winning fourth quarter catches on the season. He is another home run threat. Then the combo of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd is always something to watch. They never seem to have a big game together, but that makes things even harder.
3. Defensively, what are the Cardinals' strengths and weaknesses? How well do they defend the run? How are they against the pass?
Well, they are great against the run. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 6 of last season and that was Frank Gore with 101 yards. Since Todd Bowles was defensive coordinator, that's it. This season, only one team has rushed for 100 yards. Only seven times in 26 games have they allowed a team to go for more than 100 yards. So...that's their bread and butter.
The pass was a struggle early on, but with the return to health of Tyrann Mathieu, things look good. Over the first five weeks, they allowed 309 yards per game. Over the last five, they allow 221 per game through the air. They have held teams to under 200 passing yards in four of the last five weeks and three straight.
The pass rush has gotten better, too. After only eight sacks in the first eight games, they have gotten 10 sacks in the last two.
They force turnovers and they can core touchdowns, too.
4. Which under the radar players have stood out for Arizona this year? Bright spots? Glaring liabilities?
On offense, the play of the tackles has been phenomenal. Bobby Massie and Jared Veldheer have been great. A guy to watch is Jaron Brown. A second-year undrafted player out of Clemson, he has been impactful in limited snaps. He has been a big third down target and, should Fitzgerald be unable to play on Sunday, Brown will be the guy that replaces him.
Glaring liabilities? The interior line has struggled and the run game has been mediocre...at best. They still run the ball, but not with much success.
On defense, they are getting great production out of everyone. But outside linebacker Alex Okafor is a guy you might not be familiar with. He missed almost his entire rookie season and was injured for the first several weeks. But he has five sacks in the last six weeks to lead the team.
Jerraud Powers, a starter a season ago, is the team's slot corner and has had a great season. He has three interceptions, tied for the team lead and has been physical and effective against almost everyone.
5. How has Arizona's special teams units performed this season? Who are their main returners and how successful have they been?
Ted Ginn is their only return guy. He is a threat, but has been really not much of an impact. His punt return touchdown won the game in New York, but he mostly kneels the ball in the end zone and makes fair catches with punts. That's what the Cards are paying $3.75 million for.
Big thanks to Jess for taking the time to answer a few of my questions! Make sure you head over to our 45 minute podcast from yesterday too for more on the game.
Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a one-week $550,000 fantasy football league this weekend. It's $10 to join and first place wins $50,000. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday night. Here's the link.