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Scouting Report: Breaking down the Cardinals


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Two teams that had very different results Monday night will clash Sunday in the Giants' home opener in MetLife Stadium. The Giants and Arizona Cardinals each faced double-digit deficits in their season-opening games. In Detroit, the Giants were unable to rally and lost to the Lions, 35-14. The Cardinals scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to edge the San Diego Chargers, 18-17. The Giants and Cardinals are meeting for the first time since Oct. 2, 2011 (a 31-27 Giants victory in University of Phoenix Stadium) and for the first time in New Jersey since 2009. The Giants lead the series, 80-42-2. In 2013, the Cardinals won seven of their final nine games to finish 10-6, but did not make the playoffs.



Head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin have a very strong group of skilled athletes at their disposal. The Cardinals gained 403 yards (294 through the air) and had 22 first downs in their victory over the Chargers. Arizona is committed to a running, ball-control offense and makes frequent use of two-tight end alignments. The Cardinals' passing game is predicated on timing and rhythm with a healthy dose of play-action. They will also take their shots down the field.

Quarterback Carson Palmer is a big, strong-armed quarterback who can make all the throws. He threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns without an interception on Monday night. His backups are Drew Stanton and rookie Logan Thomas.

Starting running back Andre Ellington hurt his left foot vs. San Diego but is expected to play. A playmaker as a runner (he averaged an NFL-best 5.5 yards a carry last year) and receiver, Ellington has vision, speed and quickness and is a threat to run deep on a pass route. Jonathan Dwyer is a tough downhill runner with deceptive outside speed. Palmer will look to him on checkdowns and screens. Stepfan Taylor is effective as an off-tackle runner, pass receiver and Palmer protector. Robert Hughes is a jack of all trades who will line up at fullback.

Eight-time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the NFL's very best receivers. He has caught at least one pass in 150 consecutive games. Fitzgerald is an excellent route runner, has rare receiving skills and is extremely competitive and tough. Michael Floyd is big, physical and strong and is the team's top vertical threat. He led the team with five receptions for 119 yards on Monday night. Jaron Brown is a big target with strong hands that enable him to secure contested balls downfield. He and Taylor caught touchdown passes vs. San Diego. Ted Ginn Jr. has excellent straight-line speed and sudden movements and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The sensation of Arizona's training camp was rookie John Brown, a third-round draft choice from Pittsburg State in Kansas. A smooth receiver with sudden movements, Brown is elusive after catching the ball.

The Cardinals' four tight ends all have receiving and blocking skills. John Carlson is a solid starter with outstanding hands. He is both a savvy route runner and a competitive blocker. Darren Fells is the brother of Giants tight end Daniel Fells. The 6-7 Fells is a former college basketball player with good strength and quickness. Rob Housler has speed to get open down the field and the toughness to catch the ball in traffic. Rookie Troy Niklas, a second-round draft choice, is a competitive blocker at 270 pounds.

Arizona has three new starters on its offensive line – left tackle Jared Veldheer, left guard Ted Larsen and right tackle Bobby Massie. The group communicates well and has played at a high level. Veldheer, a free agent acquisition from Oakland, is a 6-8, 321-pounder with the athleticism, upper body strength and foot speed to make all the blocks. Larsen, formerly with Tampa Bay, is a versatile player with natural leverage. Center Lyle Sendlein is big for a center at 6-3 and 308 pounds. He is smart and tough and competes to the whistle on every down. Right guard Paul Fanaika, a second-year starter, is a big-bodied player with good football intelligence. Massie has exceptionally long arms and has outstanding pass protection skills. The backups include Bradley Sowell, Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford.



Arizona continues to have one of the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL one year after leading the league by allowing just 84.4 yards per game on the ground. The Chargers learned that Monday night when they averaged just 2.2 yards on 24 carries, including one that went for 20 yards. The Cardinals stack the box in their 3-4 alignment, making it very difficult for opposing teams to find any kind of opening.

But the Cardinals have sustained losses. Veteran tackle Darnell Dockett is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Two players who started Monday night are also out - tackle Frostee Rucker (calf) and weakside linebacker John Abraham (concussion/on leave).

Get to know the Giants' opponent for their Week 2 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals

Tommy Kelly, an 11-year veteran, is expected to start for Rucker. Kelly can quickly diagnose the play and has the strength to hold the point of attack. Nose tackle Dan Williams is big, powerful and smart with sneaky pass rush quickness and the ability to push the pocket. Calais Campbell starts at defensive end, plays tackle in sub packages and receives little acclaim despite being one of the NFL's best linemen. He had 9.0 sacks in 2013 and has 36.5 in his career. Campbell is also a strong run defender who must be accounted for. Alameda Ta'amu is a 348-pounder who is disruptive at the point of attack. Rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson could see increased playing time because of the injuries.

Abraham, whose 133.5 sacks lead all active players, will be missed. His presumed replacement, Alex Okafor, missed practice Wednesday with a thigh injury and is a better run defender than pass rusher. The other outside linebacker is Matt Shaughnessy, who is physical at the point of attack and a tough matchup for a blocking tight end. The Cards have two new starters inside because Daryl Washington is suspended for the season and Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland. Larry Foote, a 13-year veteran, spent 11 of the previous 12 seasons in Pittsburgh. He missed most of the 2013 season with a ruptured biceps. In addition to his wealth of experience, Foote has good instincts and gives a relentless effort. Second-year pro Kevin Minter uses his quick feet to avoid blockers and is a thumper inside. The reserves include Kenny Demens on the inside and Sam Acho outside.

Physical cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie are the strength of the secondary. They are put on the proverbial island to cover receivers one-on-one. Peterson, the fifth overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft and a three-time Pro Bowler, has speed, explosiveness and outstanding ball awareness. He often matches up with the opponent's No. 1 receiver. Cromartie is a tough press corner who also has the ability to stay with the top wideouts. Former starter Jerraud Powers is now the nickel corner. He has good play speed and quickly locates the deep ball. The strong safety, Tony Jefferson, is another aggressive run defender. Tyrann Mathieu, who suffered a torn ACL and LCL late last season, has been activated off the reserve/physically unable to perform list but did not play in the opener. Rashad Johnson is starting in his place. Deone Bucannon, the Cardinals' first-round draft choice this year, is the backup.



Justin Bethel is one of the NFL's best special teams players. Bethel was a Pro Bowler in 2013, when he led the team with 21 special teams tackles, blocked two field goal attempts, downed four punts inside the opponent's 10-yard line and recovered a muffed kickoff. A fearless player, Bethel blocked nine kicks at Presbyterian College. Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro beat out veteran Jay Feely for the job. Catanzaro kicked field goals of 22 and 44 yards vs. San Diego and has an explosive kickoff leg. Dave Zastudil set an NFL record with 46 punts inside the 20 in 2012. He did not kick in the opener because of a groin injury (though he held for Catanzaro on placekicks). Drew Butler, signed on Monday, had a gross average of 54.5 yards on four punts. Ginn fields punts and kickoffs he probably shouldn't, but the Cardinals don't mind because of his game-changing ability as a returner. Last year, he averaged 12.2 yards on 26 punt returns and 23.8 yards on 25 kickoff returns.

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