Green Bay Packers’ next opponent: Arizona Cardinals present a ‘get well’ game
The Green Bay Packers have lost four of five — all on the road — and they return home to Lambeau Field to take on an Arizona Cardinals team that has lost three straight. Under first-year coach Steve Wilks, the Cardinals are 2-9 and in the running for the No. 1 overall draft pick in April after a 45-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Basics on the Cardinals
The Cardinals' defense allowed one of the most efficient passing performances in NFL history (which is saying something) when the Chargers’ Philip Rivers went 28-for-29 while throwing for three touchdowns and posting a rating of 138.4. They also allowed 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns. For their part, the Cardinals … played. Rookie Josh Rosen went 12-for-19 for 105 yards with a touchdown and interception and all-everything running back David Johnson had 79 yards of total offense. Defensively, Robert Nkemdiche did sack Rivers 2½ times while making eight tackles (four for loss).
The offense has been a train wreck from the beginning. Wilks began the year with veteran play caller Mike McCoy as his offensive coordinator, but he fired McCoy after seven weeks. So, the guts of the offense is a version of the Ray Perkins/Ron Erhardt concept-based system, which the Packers have seen against teams like New England and Miami. New coordinator Byron Leftwich has been very quiet on what he would do to change things, but while he couldn’t totally change the playbook, the belief is he has tailored play calls to what Rosen does well. That said, the Cardinals have scored 20 or more points just once since the change.
Wilks got the job after coordinating Carolina’s defense in 2017 and being a highly regarded position coach and assistant head coach from 2013-16. His Cardinals run a similar 4-3 under coordinator Al Holcomb, relying on their front four to generate pressure.
Defensive rank against the pass, largely because teams just run the ball on the Cardinals (30th).
Turnovers by the Cardinals this season.
Offensive ranks both in total offense and scoring, last in the NFL.
Players to watch
Chandler Jones, DE
Packers fans might recall the name as Jones was floated as a possible trade target in the offseason. The 28-year-old, 6-foot, 5-inch, 265-pound defensive end is a legitimate pass rusher with 75 career sacks. The two-time Pro Bowler has 11 quarterback takedowns this season and has gotten to the passer in all but two games. He also has three multisack games. He often lines up on the right side of the defensive line, so if David Bakhtiari is hobbled or out, Jones may command some help in pass protection.
Josh Rosen, QB
The No. 10 overall pick in the last NFL Draft assumed the starting role in Week 4. He has been up-and-down, as one could expect with a rookie. He threw for three of his 10 touchdowns against Oakland two weeks ago, but he’s completing just 55.5 percent of his passes and has thrown 11 interceptions. He also has been sacked 24 times.
David Johnson, RB
Johnson remains one of the league’s best multipurpose threats even though his total numbers haven’t been as great as in years past. He is the Cardinals' main threat on the ground (185 carries, 692 yards), averaging 3.7 yards per carry. He has also rushed for six scores. He is also third on the team in receptions with 34 for another 325 yards and two scores.
Reasons to worry
The Cardinals aren’t good, but they have won two games against the San Francisco 49ers, and it’s because they’ve gotten after the quarterback. They sacked 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard four times in each of the two victories. With the Packers nursing a beat-up offensive line, Jones can single-handedly wreck things for Aaron Rodgers. Nkemdiche (4.5 sacks), Benson Mayowa (3.0), Zach Moore (3.0) and Rodney Gunter (2.5) all play along the defensive line, so the Cardinals can get some pressure with their front four. And, they still have all-world cornerback Patrick Peterson to single up on Davante Adams to help neutralize Rodgers’ best option. The Cardinals have a great pass defense statistically because teams just run it down their throat, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Packers play into the one strength the Cardinals have (and perhaps exacerbate their own weakness on the offensive line) by continuing to throw the ball.
Reasons to relax
The Cardinals have only beaten the 49ers this season and they are experiencing what it’s like to play with a rookie quarterback. Teams have been able to take Johnson out of the mix because Rosen isn’t much of a threat just yet. The Packers did give Aaron Jones a season-high 17 carries Sunday, and if they continue that path and work in Jamaal Williams they should be able to do what they want on the ground as opponents average 4.5 yards per carry and 144.8 yards per game on the ground. The Packers should also be able to turn Rosen over (11 interceptions, six fumbles). The Cardinals have played some teams close, and actually led last week and got a turnover in Chargers territory — but promptly missed a kick and gave up 14 straight points to totally flip the game. They may play hard early, but if the Packers punch them in the mouth it should be a cakewalk.