The Giants and Cardinals will be looking for their first wins of the season on Sunday afternoon. You would expect both of these teams to rely on the run game to jump start their offenses. Here are the matchups to watch.
Cardinals run game vs. Giants run defense
After watching the Cardinals' opener against the Commanders, and understanding that Josh Dobbs was only traded to Arizona on Aug. 24th, the passing game will likely be limited in scope again Sunday. Their pass game featured a lot of screens, play action, and quick throws to the perimeter.
The rushing attack was far more varied with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing utilizing different run schemes from a variety of formations and personnel groups. After using a lot of zone runs in the first half, the Cardinals came out in the third quarter and worked more gap scheme runs with edge defender Jesse Luketa as a lead blocking fullback in the backfield. The Cardinals ran six plays in either "22" personnel (RB, FB, 2 TE) and "13" personnel (RB, 3 TE).
James Connor led the Cardinals in carries with 14 that went for 62 yards, including 38 yards after contact (according to PFF). Conner is a bruising big-bodied running back that excels between the tackles and can catch the ball out of the backfield. He had five catches for only eight yards in Week 1.
Three other players got running opportunities, backup running back Keaontay Ingram, along with wide receivers Rondale Moore and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who have the speed to turn any touch into a big play. Moore lined up in the backfield on seven different plays in Week 1, including plays alongside Connor and Ingram. Conner lined up as a fullback in front of Moore on one play, and Ingram ran a wildcat play with Moore on another.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs is also a threat in the run game. He is more than capable of scrambling when a play breaks down, and they used him on a quarterback draw in the red zone.
The Giants played solid run defense against the Cowboys last week, allowing 4.1 yards per carry on 30 rushes. According to PFF, the Giants had eight men or more in the box 14 times, which was tied for seventh in the NFL. Dallas had three runs that went for the 10+ yards, including one that went for more than 20.
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 2 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
Giants run game vs. Cardinals run defense
Despite the 40-0 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, the Giants had some success with their traditional running game. Saquon Barkley ran twelve times for 51 yards, and the team's -.04 EPA per rush ranked 12th in the league in Week 1. Of Barkley's 51 rushing yards, 37 came after contact.
The Cardinals allowed 92 rushing yards against the Commanders, but it took them 28 rushes to accumulate them, putting their rushing average at just 3.3 yards per carry. Washington's -.21 EPA per rush play ranked 21st the NFL in Week 1.
Arizona did not stack the box to stop the run. They only played eight or more men near the line of scrimmage six times in the game, which was the eighth-fewest in the NFL in Week 1. Arizona ran split-safety defense (at least 2-deep) a league-high 68.4% of their snaps and led the NFL in quarters coverage (41%).
In other words, they do not bring their safeties up in run support, which invites teams to try to run against them. The Cardinals will play their base defense often (ninth-most in the league) and that will likely repeat itself this week, given the Giants frequent use of at least two tight ends (46.2%), which ranked third in the NFL.
Despite not giving extra help, the Cardinals' front did not allow a rush of 10+ yards. They also only managed two tackles for loss or no gain. They play their edge players very wide to prevent offenses from attacking the edges of their defense. Washington only gained three yards on six carries running to the right and left ends in Week 1.
Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon brought defensive coordinator Nick Rallis (Eagles LB coach from 2021-2022) with him from Philadelphia, and they signed their former MIKE linebacker from the Eagles, Kyzir White to lead their defense. He led the Cardinals in tackles with nine in Week 1, and slowed the inside run game despite the lack of bodies around the ball. We'll see if the Giants go out of their way to test that area of the field this week.
The Cardinals' coaches and some of their players (White, K'Von Wallace) should be very familiar with the Giants' offense, while the Giants should recognize the basis of the Cardinals' scheme.
View rare photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Cardinals.