Although the Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars both suffered close losses a week ago, neither team played particularly well in their regular season opener. The Cardinals’ usually potent offense accumulated less than 300 total yards including a mere 40 yards on the ground. Arizona’s aerial attack has a chance to get back on track this week as the Jaguars’ pass defense was torched for nearly 300 yards through the air last week against the Indianapolis Colts.
While the Cardinals may be without the services of Pro Bowl wideout Anquan Boldin, backups Steve Breaston and Early Doucet could return to action. Additionally, Jerheme Urban is poised to acquire more responsibilities in the passing game and might be due for a breakout game if he starts opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is licking his chops to face a Jaguars’ secondary that allowed WR Reggie Wayne to reel in 10 grabs for 162 yards and a touchdown last week.
One major point of emphasis for the Arizona offense will be establishing the running game. The team failed to consistently accomplish that feat last year and will attempt to break an early season trend heading down those same lines. Expect to see more of rookie RB Chris Wells as he displayed excellent patience and vision for a first-year runner against the 49ers. Meanwhile, RB Tim Hightower will likely be utilized in more of a receiving role out of the backfield after hauling in 12 passes for 121 yards in Week 1.
On defense, the Cardinals will have their hands full with Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew complied 97 yards on 21 carries against the Colts and added five catches for 26 yards. Arizona managed to keep San Francisco RB Frank Gore under wraps for the majority of the game last week but could struggle to contain the shifty Jones-Drew due to his extreme versatility.
The Cardinals’ pass rush racked up four sacks of QB Shaun Hill against the 49ers and will need a similar performance in order to contain Jaguars QB David Garrard throughout the afternoon. Garrard struggled in Indianapolis completing just 14-of-28 passes for 122 yards but returns to Jacksonville for the team's home opener. Look for the Jaguars to establish Jones-Drew early on in order to open up their passing attack as the game progresses.
Sunday’s matchup in Jacksonville marks a critical point in Arizona’s season just two weeks into the year. If the Cardinals are unable to prevail for a second consecutive week, they could be staring at a 0-3 start with Indianapolis next up on the schedule in Week 3. Look for Arizona to come out with an extreme sense of urgency, particularly after a relatively flat effort in the season opener against San Francisco.
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