Expectations and Keys to Victory for Washington in Arizona
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
After last week’s thrilling comeback win against Philadelphia, another tough test lies ahead in Arizona. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray looked spectacular against the 49er’s vaunted defense, throwing for 230 yards and running for another 91 in their 24-20 week #1 win. Murray wasn’t a one man show, though, with newly acquired receiver Deandre Hopkins also chewing up San Francisco’s defensive backs to the tune of 151 yards on 14 receptions (led all receivers through week #1 in rec).
Washington looked impressive in week #1, but in contrast to Arizona, the Burgundy and Gold had one of the most dominating and thrilling comeback wins in recent memory, relying heavily on their defensive front. Many in the national media have pointed to Philadelphia’s injury woes for their offensive breakdowns last week, rather than Washington’s dominating performance on defense (8 sacks, 1 FF and 2 ints). The defense continually gave Dwayne Haskins a short field to work with, after they recorded multiple ints to rally from a 17-0 in the closing minutes of the 2nd quarter, enroute to a 27-17 victory.
Game Plan on Offense
OC Scott Turner displayed his ability to adjust on the fly against Philadelphia’s pass rush. Down 17-0 in the closing minutes of the half, Dwayne Haskins started to get into a rhythm with Turner focusing on quick game concepts leading to their first touchdown. Haskins continued to emphasis RPO and quick game concepts in the second half, having success with various slants and stick routes. Against the Cardinals’ defense, Haskins and the offense will have opportunities to expose the middle of the field, while targeting Arizona’s linebackers. San Francisco took advantage of Arizona’s linebackers in coverage and had success in the run/pass game. An increase in run plays is likely and will also help Washington set up more play action.
Second year receiver, Terry Mclaurin, is sure to have All Pro corner Patrick Peterson shadowing him most of the day. Although McLaurin will have his work cut out for him, his ability to quickly get in and out of his breaks will keep Arizona’s defensive backfield on their toes. The attention that Mclaurin will draw will open up opportunities for the WFT’s skill players. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson and receiver Steven Sims Jr. need to be heavily involved in the game plan. Both players should have roles in the run game, with Sims Jr. getting a run or two, but getting the pair involved in the screen game could lead to a big day on offense. At times, Haskins put too much heat on his short/intermediate throws leading to incompletions, he’ll need to correct that quickly against a fast Arizona defense.
Fans have been clamoring for a WR#2 to rise with Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gandy-Golden and Cam Sims as possible options. Getting those receivers involved is important, but beating Arizona will entail a lot of pre-snap movement with receivers and running backs lining up all over the field. Tight End Logan Thomas likely sees time in the backfield as an extra blocker. Turner ran the same packages for TE Ian Thomas in Carolina with varied success.
Arguably, the left side of the offensive line is the team’s biggest weakness and both Geron Christian and Wes Martin will need to have big days. All-Pro, edge rusher Chandler Jones will be moved all around in an effort to overwhelm Washington’s line and should be the primary focus when calling line protections.
In the end, getting the ball in the hands of McLauirn, Sims Jr. and Gibson are imperative for the offense to have success.The trio will help Haskins get into a rhythm and should give Arizona’s defensive backs fits all-day. After reviewing the Eagles’ film, Scott Turner will realize that continuing to play uptempo, with better run/pass balance, should help Haskins and the offense put more points on the board
Game Plan on Defense
Washington will have their hands full with Kyler Murray and wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Keeping Murray in the pocket is an obvious key to victory, but will not be easy. Arizona HC Kliff Kingsbury has continued to evolve his Air Raid offense and Murray’s impromptu style makes it that much more difficult to defend. Murray will scramble to create passing lanes, but will also have designed runs called at times.
Washington will be in a lot more nickel/dime packages with Arizona often sendong out 4-5 eligible receivers on most plays. The pressure will be on the defensive backs to step up, after an up and down performance in week 1. Although Jimmy Moreland and Fabian Moreau both recorded ints and had good games, the rest of the group needs to play a lot better against a quick strike Cardinals offense. Although Washington’s corners played closer to the line last week, using more press coverage as opposed to years past is necessary against these big-play Cardinal receivers. They’ll need to get physical with Arizona’s receivers early, especially Hopkins. WIth Fuller’s status up in the air, the question is, who matches up against Arizona’s star receiver?
After defeating Philadelphia, fans have high expectations for Washington. Kingsbury’s offense has many layers and as good as Washington’s pass rush was against the Eagles, the defending NFC East Champs threw everything they had at Arizona. 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Nick Bosa was held to zero sacks. Against Murray, Washington’s defense can’t afford miss tackles or to give up big chunk plays.
Starting Cardinal’s center Mason Cole will be inactive with a hamstring injury and second year center Lamont Gaillard will start in his place. Although Gaillard played well after taking over in the second half of the week #1’s win, the San Francisco pass rush didn’t take advantage of the line change. Unlike San Francisco, a key for Washington will be to have frequent defensive line rotations to keep fresh bodies on the field. It was evident last week that Bosa and the 49er’s defensive front was gassed by the 4th quarter.
Unlike San Fran, Washington has the depth along the defensive line to make frequent substitutions. Washington boasts pure speed and size on the edge in Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Utilizing their sub 4.5-4.6 speed to pressure Murray on stunts should keep him uneasy. Keeping Murray in the pocket is key, but Arizona will make sure to get Murray out of the pocket as much as possible.
Washington lined up in 2-3 deep zone coverage often versus the Eagles and got additional pressure utilizing underneath zone blitzes. This week they’ll likely deploy the strategy, but a key will be to get even more pressure from their linebackers. Other than John Bostic, their linebackers missed a lot of plays which included missed tackles.
Spying Murray is no easy task, but using a linebacker shouldn’t be an option. Washington will likely have an extra defensive back on the field most of the game. Although rookie, safety Kamren Curl had limited snaps (22%) last week, he made his presence felt by making two tackles for a loss against Philadelphia. His 4.6 speed and athleticism make him a possible option to spy Murray. Utilizing three safety looks is something that has been effective in the NFL when facing dual threat passers and The Burgundy and Gold Report expects to see a lot more of those defensive looks this Sunday.
Dwayne Haskins will have an opportunity to show how far he’s come and that Washington’s offense will improve week to week, but their defense will once again need to have a huge day and continue to give their quarterback a short field to work with. In the end, consistent pressure from all over the field with a healthy rotation along Washington’s defensive line will keep Murray rattled, which will lead to mistakes. Last season, Murray was sacked over 40 times, but their approach to get the ball out of his hands quickly was effective an Murray avoided big hits last week. Flustering Murray with multiple looks and attacking the center of their line could result in a big win for Washington.