Gru­den: Pay no at­ten­tion to the Car­di­nals’ record

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

ASH­BURN | Claim one from Wash­ing­ton Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den: Don’t pay at­ten­tion to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals’ record. Ig­nore that pal­try 4-6-1 mark, the one that has the Car­di­nals out of the cur­rent play­off pic­ture de­spite be­ing among the pre­sea­son fa­vorites to win the Su­per Bowl. Never mind that they have lost two in a row and three out of four. It’s all pop­py­cock.

“This is a good foot­ball team that we’re play­ing, I don’t care what their record is, they are a very good foot­ball team,” Gru­den said. “If you go 13-3 not too long ago, you have good play­ers – Car­son Palmer, Larry Fitzger­ald, Michael Floyd, [David] John­son – I mean it goes on-and-on the list of play­ers that they have of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively. We have to get geared up. It’s at their place. It has al­ways been a tough place to play. If we don’t get geared up, it’ll be a long day.”

“Not too long ago” is last sea­son, when the Car­di­nals were 13-3, fi­nally usurp­ing the Seat­tle Sea­hawks in what has been a rough-and-tum­ble NFC West di­vi­sion since 2010. The Sea­hawks be­gan their as­cen­sion then. The San Fran­cisco 49ers grew dur­ing the same pe­riod. In three of the last four Su­per Bowls, the NFC representative has come from the NFC West, and it has ei­ther been Seat­tle or San Fran­cisco, mak­ing Ari­zona’s upris­ing so no­table.

The di­vi­sion has back­tracked this sea­son. Three of the four teams are be­low .500. The 49ers are among the league’s worst teams, bum­bling along at 1-10. Even Seat­tle has not been its dom­i­nant self. It’s atop the di­vi­sion at 7-3-1.

Which means there have been un­ful­filled op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Car­di­nals, most of which have come on the road. They lost at Carolina to a strug­gling

Pan­thers team. In the last two weeks, they could not knock off Min­nesota or At­lanta when away from home. Ari­zona is a mere 1-4 on the road, which makes them all the more pleased to be host­ing the Red­skins on Sun­day in Glen­dale, Ari­zona. There, things have been more dif­fi­cult for op­po­nents. Ari­zona’s first home loss was a two-point de­feat against the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in Week 1. The Car­di­nals also lost to the Los An­ge­les Rams in Univer­sity of Phoenix Sta­dium. It tied Seat­tle in a yawn-filled 6-6 game.

Team to­tals help bol­ster Gru­den’s point. The Car­di­nals have give up the fewest yards in the league. Yet, they are 11th in points al­lowed.

“Well, they have good ath­letes across the board,” Gru­den said. “Ob­vi­ously the ad­di­tion of Chan­dler Jones helped them in the pass-rush depart­ment. They have good run-stop­pers, and then they have qual­ity cor­ners. I think [Mar­cus] Cooper and Pa­trick Peter­son are a great tan­dem back there. You throw in the fact the Honey Badger [Tyrann Mathieu] is an all-around good foot­ball player... They run to the ball, they pur­sue, and they do a nice job all across the board. They have a good blitz pack­age also.”

Flip to the of­fense where vet­eran quar­ter­back Car­son Palmer and wide re­ceiver Larry Fitzger­ald team with ver­sa­tile back David John­son. The Car­di­nals are ninth in to­tal yards gained.

One no­table spot for the Red­skins to pay at­ten­tion to is the slot. Teams have moved their mar­quee re­ceivers into the po­si­tion in or­der to avoid Wash­ing­ton cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man. Nor­man did not fol­low the op­po­nent’s best re­ceiver early in the sea­son. He has for sev­eral weeks, but does not track them into the slot. That may change Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to Gru­den, when Fitzger­ald makes his way into the po­si­tion.

John­son also lines up in the po­si­tion. Typ­i­cally, a run­ning back who can be used in the slot is of the smaller and speed­ier va­ri­ety. John­son is fast, but there is noth­ing small about him at 6 foot 1 and 224 pounds (to con­trast, the Red­skins’ route-run­ning back, Chris Thomp­son, is 5 foot 8 and 195 pounds). John­son ar­rived at North­ern Iowa to play re­ceiver. Even­tu­ally, he be­came a run­ning back who un­der­stood how to run routes, some­thing he con­tin­ues to work on in the NFL. He’s rushed for 921 yards and has 55 re­cep­tions this sea­son.

“Big-time chal­lenge, big-time chal­lenge be­cause when you think of a guy that can move out­side and catch the ball, you think of a lit­tle scat-back type guy that doesn’t run be­tween the tack­les, but he runs be­tween the tack­les as good as he catches the ball,” Gru­den said. “I mean, he is prob­a­bly the best all-around back there is in the Na­tional Foot­ball League right now as far as be­ing able to move out­side, be a great route-run­ner but also run be­tween the tack­les and run out­side with his speed. So it’s go­ing to be a matchup prob­lem.”

Which is what Gru­den is say­ing all along about the Car­di­nals, record be damned.

A for­mer wide re­ceiver in col­lege, Ari­zona Car­di­nals run­ning back David John­son has rushed for 921 yards and has 55 re­cep­tions this sea­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.