The Seahawks have one of their biggest games of the year this Sunday Night, so to preview the upcoming matchup with the Cardinals, I traded scouting reports with Jess Root from SB Nation's Cardinals Blog, Revenge of the Birds. My questions are below in bold, his follow.
1. The biggest storyline for this week for the Cardinals is that Ryan Lindley is starting at quarterback. What do you expect from Bruce Arians in terms of the gameplan? Still going to air it out, or take a more conservative approach?
Well, he isn't just going to completely forget his philosophy of taking shots down the field and stretching the defense. However, with last year's win over Seattle and the losses Seattle has had this year, I am sure he will focus on the running game. It failed miserably in Seattle, in part because of the Seattle defense and also because Andre Ellington was not good before his season-ending injury. Since Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams have been handling the load, plus adding more Darren Fells at tight end and Jonathan Cooper into the lineup, the running game has been very effective. I expect a concerted attempt to run the ball and then let Lindley take a few shots down the field.
2. How has Jonathan Cooper looked now that he's starting? He was one of my favorites in the run-up to the Draft but the leg injury he sustained must have been a huge challenge to return from. How is the outlook for his prospects as a pro?
Cooper has been inconsistent. You can see the upside, but you also see the rust. He sometimes goes "caveman" and just fights. Other times he looks very athletic. He has been better in run blocking than pass protection. He is puzzling because after a year and a half of time to recover from his leg injury, it still is just flashes of greatness, mixed in with competence and some struggles.
Cooper, though, might not play. He hurt his wrist and missed practice Thursday, while Paul Fanaika is healthy again.
3. What is the injury situation looking like in Arizona apart from the obviously questions at quarterback? Larry Fitz good to go? How about Honey Badger?
Fitz is good to go, as is Mathieu, although he will play with a big cast. As I mentioned, Fanaika might be back in the lineup at right guard, which means Ted Larsen would move to left guard and Cooper goes to the bench. The defense is relatively healthy -- as healthy as it has been all year. Everyone should be available.
4. Which players have been the most integral to Arizona's defense this season, in your opinion? Everyone knows that's a stacked group, but which guys have really stood out this year?
Antonio Cromartie has been fantastic. He had one atrocious game against the Broncos and a not so great performance against Atlanta, but he has been crazy good. What he and Patrick Peterson can do in coverage allow Todd Bowles to do more up front in terms of scheme. But if I have to pick some key players, it would be Alex Okafor, Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers. Okafor leads the team in sacks and has been very good off the edge. Powers has been money in the slot this year and Johnson has made play after play in the secondary, having picked off four passes and returned two for TDs. I really could mention almost everyone, though.
5. What is the confidence level among fans heading into the Playoffs? Obviously, Arizona has an elite defense, but do you sense that the feeling is an elite Defense will be enough? Can Lindley hold down the fort until Drew Stanton's return?
The big question is Lindley. How much will he be asked to do and can he simply not screw up? That's the key. Arizona hasn't asked much of their QBs. Playing at home with a dominant defense against a Seattle offense that, to be honest, has flaws and is banged up on the offensive line, all the offense needs to do is not screw up. There is a real feeling of the possibility of "shocking the world" and coming out with a win.
My personal prediction -- the team that wins will score on defense or on special teams. It's going to be a bloodbath. The 36.5 over/under Vegas has this game is ridiculously high. If both teams combine for 25 I would be surprised.
Big thanks to Jess for taking the time to answer a few of my questions!
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