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NFL Week 7 Preview: Cardinals at Rams

By PFF Analysis Team
Oct 20, 2017

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GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 15: Running back Adrian Peterson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals steps up to the line of scrimmage during the first half of the NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Buccaneers 38-33. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals visit the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.

Coverage by: Mark Chichester

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals offense vs. Los Angeles Rams defense

  • G Earl Watford vs. DI Aaron Donald – Fifth-year guard Earl Watford replaced Evan Boehm at right guard last week and provided a moderate improvement in pass protection. Watford allowed just a single hurry on his 24 pass-blocking snaps, but there is certainly room for improvement, as he ended the game with poor pass-blocking and run-blocking grades of 35.9 and 35.0, respectively. This week, Watford is very much in for a baptism-of-fire, as he’s set to face up against one of the best pass-rushers in the game in Aaron Donald. Through six weeks of the season, Donald has racked up 36 total pressures, the highest mark among interior defensive linemen.
  • RB Adrian Peterson vs. LB Mark Barron – If Adrian Peterson has proved anything in his eleven-year Hall Of Fame worthy career, it’s that he should never be counted out, and his first game as a Cardinal was a testament to that. Last week, Peterson carried the ball 26 times, racked up 134 yards, with 57 of those yards coming after contact. He forced four missed tackles on the day, more than Chris Johnson (3) managed on his 45 carries with the team. If he’s to repeat his performance this week, he’ll have to navigate past inside linebacker Mark Barron, who has produced 26 tackles and 18 stops on his 154 run-defense snaps this year, resulting in a run-stop percentage of 11.7 percent that ranks sixth among inside linebackers.

  • TE Jermaine Gresham vs. LB Alec OgletreeKayvon Webster (80.0 coverage grade) and Nickell Robey-Coleman (81.9 coverage grade) have both performed well in coverage for the Rams this year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Carson Palmer read past the receivers in their coverage, and instead send a few extra targets to the tight end. Through six weeks, Jermaine Gresham has caught 12 of his 14 catchable targets and will most certainly be looking to improve his average of 0.90 yards per route run. Gresham will be hoping to line up against Alec Ogletree, who has allowed 14.8 yards per reception and a passer rating of 115.8 when covering tight ends this season.

Coverage by: Mike Cahill

Match Up: Los Angeles Rams offense vs. Arizona Cardinals defense

  • QB Jared Goff vs. Cardinal Blitz – Jared Goff’s passer rating is 104.9 as compared to the NFL average, which is 96.6, but slightly increases when blitzed to 107.3, well above the 90.4 NFL average in 2017. He has also thrown two of his eight touchdowns on plays where he was blitzed, and he will be tested against the Cardinals as they have blitzed 40.6 percent of the time over the last three weeks, well above the 30.1 NFL average. The Cardinals like to throw six and seven-man blitzes against teams in 11 Personnel, as shown by 20 times they have done so this season, while the Rams are in 11 Personnel 67 percent of the time, well above the NFL average of 58 percent. Getting the ball out quickly will lead to big plays, as shown by Goff throwing six of his eight touchdowns when getting rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds or less. He owns the 12th best passer rating of 98.6 when he gets the ball out quickly.

  • T Andrew Whitworth vs. Edge Chandler Jones – Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, Andrew Whitworth led all tackles in pass-blocking efficiency with a mark of 99.2, with only one pressure allowed on 123 pass-blocking snaps. Meanwhile, over the last two weeks Whitworth has allowed seven quarterback pressures on only 75 pass-blocking snaps and ranks 38th in pass-blocking efficiency with a mark 92.7. He still graded at 82.4 however, seventh among tackles. Getting back on track in Week 7 will be difficult, as he will be going up against edge defender Chandler Jones. He leads all edge defenders in quarterback pressures with 33 and has produced 27 of them from the right side.
  • WR Sammy Watkins vs. CB Justin Bethel – The Rams are not getting the ball in Sammy Watkins’ hands and his 10 targets in the last three weeks have been concerning, as is the low total of 28 reception yards in that span. Perhaps lining up across from cornerback Justin Bethel will help see some targets, as Bethel has allowed six touchdowns while in coverage this season, two more than any other cornerback. He’s also averaging the most yards allowed per coverage snap with 1.87 in 236 snaps.

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