The NFC West gets the honor of kicking off Week 7 with a matchup that will end up either tearing the division apart or sending the Seattle Seahawks even higher above the rest of their counterparts.
ESPN.com’s Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount discuss the Thursday night game.
How has Wilson matured since his NFL debut at University of Phoenix Stadium last season, and has it been at the rate you expected?
Blount: It's night and day from where he was at that point. Wilson is an extremely intelligent guy, but he still was learning the offense at the start of last season. The Seahawks greatly reduced their list of plays and limited the options he was given. Now this is Wilson's show with no restrictions. The coaches are totally confident in his ability to call an audible, along with his skill of improvising and extending plays. All the players have complete confidence in his ability to make the right decisions in key situations, which he does 90 percent of the time or more.
The Cardinals have played well against Seattle at University of Phoenix Stadium, winning six of seven games there since the stadium opened. And Wilson is 2-5 in his NFL career in stadiums with a roof, including 0-1 at Glendale. Can the Cardinals take advantage of those things and surprise the Seahawks Thursday night?
Weinfuss: I think they can, especially in a short week with not much time for the Seahawks to prepare for the Cardinals’ defense. This isn’t an easy unit to move the ball on, especially when teams don’t have an effective tight end. Arizona likes to swarm to the ball with a fast secondary that’s at that point where it doesn’t have to think because the defensive line is getting so much pressure. One or two big plays on Wilson and the defense becomes even more potent at home because the noise can be an issue. Yes, it’s loud back up in Seattle, but a dome amplifies things.
Soon after the Cardinals cut linebacker O’Brien Schofield, the Seahawks picked him up. Has Schofield lived up to expectations?
Blount: He really has. Schofield was one of the pleasant surprises in camp, and he continues to contribute on defense at several spots. He was a blessing for the team when defensive ends Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril were out at the start of the season. And Schofield also filled in at outside linebacker while Bruce Irvin was suspended. His quickness and versatility are the two things the coaches like the most about him.
It looks like quarterback Carson Palmer’s season has been up and down. Is he what the Cardinals were hoping for when they signed him, and how do you expect him to fare against Seattle's secondary?
Weinfuss: It’s safe to say Palmer’s first game, against St. Louis in Week 1, was the type of performance the Cardinals hoped for consistently. But then it all went downhill from there -- until last week. I think the Cardinals expected more of a calm, veteran presence in the pocket, and they haven't gotten it. Palmer makes rash decisions that have cost Arizona, and that could be an issue Thursday against that taller secondary, the likes of which Palmer hasn’t seen this season. He doesn’t have much room to make mistakes this week, which could doom the Cards before they even get going.
The success of the Seahawks' secondary has been well documented. Is all the attention warranted, and do the Seahawks rely on those guys back there too much?
Blount: Both fair questions. Certainly, the whole Legion of Boom hype brings tons of attention to Seattle's defensive backs. It's quite a sideshow at times. However, they are an incredibly talented group. Earl Thomas might be the best free safety in the league. His ability to close on a play is uncanny. And Richard Sherman can back up all the talk. The stats prove it: He has more interceptions (15) than any other cornerback since he entered the league in 2011. But the Seahawks do ask a lot of the DBs with their constant press coverage and man-to-man situations, often going with one safety, either Thomas or Kam Chancellor, up near the line of scrimmage. They take risks, and will get burned occasionally, but it's the reason they come up with so many big plays and turnovers.
Patrick Peterson is generally regarded as one of the best all-around athletes in the NFL. Like Sherman, Peterson is in his third season. How do you think these two highly acclaimed cornerbacks compare?
Weinfuss: I think Sherman nailed it earlier this week when he said Peterson is more athletic but that he is more technical. Peterson is an athletic freak. He picked up golf quickly and is shooting in the 80s -- yeah, we can all hate him for that -- and he does the same on the football field. He took up being a wide receiver with such ease that coach Bruce Arians kept four receivers on the roster because he wanted Peterson to be the fifth. Peterson’s acclaim in his first two seasons has come from punt returns and interceptions, both which take a lot of athletic prowess. Sherman is a fundamental corner who is also athletic but not at the level Peterson is, while Peterson lacks what Sherman has in technique.