Saturday, December 7, 2013
Matchup breakdown: Rams-Cardinals
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS – Three individual matchups to keep an eye on as the St. Louis Rams take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Cardinals left tackle Bradley Sowell
Quinn terrorized Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer in the first meeting between these sides, posting three sacks and whipping Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown repeatedly.
Since, the Cardinals have traded Brown and made some adjustments to the line by installing Bradley Sowell as the starter at left tackle. Sowell hasn’t been much of an upgrade in that spot and it will likely be a vulnerable spot for the Cardinals once again.
It’s interesting to note that Quinn had a trio of sacks against Arizona in the teams’ first meeting last year but was shut out the second time when the Cardinals made the necessary adjustments to help.
Quinn’s speed off the edge figures to be a tough matchup for the plodding Sowell but it stands to reason that Arizona will do what’s necessary in terms of additional blockers to help him. That could, of course, leave Chris Long in position to make for a long day for Eric Winston on the other side.
This is a different coaching staff in Arizona, so we’ll see what adjustments they’ve made to keep Quinn from wrecking another meeting between these teams.
Rams tight end Jared Cook vs. Cardinals safeties and linebackers
Cook’s record-setting performance against Arizona in the first meeting left Rams fans salivating over what his first season in St. Louis could become. But since that game, Cook’s production has never really come close to that big debut.
In the first meeting, Cook used his size to overpower Arizona’s smaller safeties and speed to run past the Cardinals linebackers. He finished with 141 yards on seven catches with a pair of touchdowns.
While Cook has struggled to reach those numbers again, Arizona has continued to struggle with tight ends cut from a similar cloth. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians likens those players to a group of basketball players playing tight end.
“I think there’s a bunch of guys that decided they weren’t going to make it in the NBA and decided they could make it in the NFL,” Arians said. “They’re very athletic and they’re all 6-6, 6-7 and can run. He’s [Jared Cook] obviously one of the best ones to come out in a while.”
Don’t be surprised if Arizona attempts to neutralize Cook by using Daryl Washington, its most talented linebacker, in coverage on a more regular basis. Washington is athletic enough to stay with Cook and didn’t play in the first meeting because of a suspension.
Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson vs. Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd
Larry Fitzgerald has posted better numbers against the Rams than any other team in the league. In fact, he’s put up better numbers against St. Louis than any active receiver has against any team in the league.
But Arizona’s turnaround in the second part of the season has been due in large part to the emergence of Floyd as a legitimate option opposite Fitzgerald. Floyd has 396 receiving yards in his past three games, second most in the NFL in that span.
Palmer has actually had more success targeting Floyd than Fitzgerald, completing almost 66 percent of his passes to him.
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Floyd has become the type of big target that Palmer can simply throw jump balls to and get big plays.
“He’s in his second year and really with Carson and having spent or at least getting a number of games under their belt, Carson’s very comfortable now just putting the ball up to him,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He knows he can jump and elevate. So, he’s just trusting him to put the ball up then he’s coming down with it. He’s doing a nice job. He can run and is a big target in the end zone.”
Johnson won’t exclusively matchup with Floyd but he represents the Rams’ best chance to keep him in check in terms of size. Johnson struggled last week against San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin but the Rams will need him at his best to slow down Floyd and keep him from continuing his recent surge.