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Patriots – Cardinals Keys to the Game, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
September 9, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Patriots – Cardinals Keys to the Game, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?(PHOTO: Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Sep 09, 2016 05:00
🕑 Read Time: 7 minutes

Cardinals RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge push
The Cardinals are justifiably very confident in the emergence of 2nd-year running back David Johnson this season. After Chris Johnson showed a nice resurgence in his career he suffered a broken leg in Week 12. Since then Johnson has taken the league by storm. The big 6’1, 225-pound running back had 581 yards rushing and added in 36 receptions for 457 more yards out of the backfield. He scored 13 touchdowns (8 rushing, 4 receiving and 1KR), a year ago. He’s being touted as a legitimate MVP candidate this year. Stopping him will be priority #1 for the Patriots.

The Patriots front seven is much deeper than a year ago. Between edge players Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long who set the edge extremely well, they have 2nd-year player Malcom Brown and Alan Branch inside who will be able to anchor the line at the point of attack. Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower are outstanding in run support. They are instinctive, physical and fill the gaps extremely well.

Hightower blows it up on the goalline

Hightower blows it up on the goalline

The key from a New England point of view is not allowing Johnson to get going and putting the Cardinals in easy 3rd down situations. There their vertical passing game will be much more effective. Johnson will get his yards but they should be able to limit his effectiveness.

Cardinals WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Arizona
Carson Palmer had arguably his best season year ago, throwing 35 TD passes, 4671 yards and a gaudy 8.7 yards per pass attempt, all career highs. He has a plethora of weapons in the passing game including the ageless Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Jon Brown, and JJ Nelson as well as Johnson out of the backfield.

The Patriots secondary was solid a year ago and they’ve been upgraded by rookies Cyrus and Jonathan Jones as well as the recently traded for Eric Rowe who came over from the Eagles this week. He’s the biggest of the NE corners at 6’1, 205 and although his participation will probably be somewhat limited this week, he should see some reps, using his size to combat the Cardinals size and speed.

One area that where Patriots should be improved in 2016, is their pass rush. Wait, you say? With no Jones? Yes. With the additions of Long, Shea McClellin and Barkevious Mingo and the additional maturation of Trey Flowers, they’re more than able to make up for his absence. With players who are versatile and can drop into coverage or rush the passer from various positions or angles, the pass rush should be a position of strength.

The Cardinals have issues of their own at the OL. 2ndyear player D.J. Humphries will be the starting right tackle and facing the versatile Sheard if he’s ready to go. This is an area that the Patriots should be able to utilize to bring pressure on the immobile Palmer. Long is primed also for a comeback type of season.

The Cardinals get the edge here with their weapons and the fact that Johnson may put them in easier positions to throw. But if New England is to pull the upset, they’ll have to find a way to generate some turnovers, something that has plagued Arizona all preseason.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots special teams get the edge in the kicking game, where Stephen Gostkowski is the best, most reliable kicker in the NFL. While most people remember his missed PAT in Denver during the AFCCG, he was on a streak of 10 years without a miss. He’s consistently over 90 percent on his field goal attempts making 33 of 36 a year ago. Ryan Allen has been very adept at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line, hitting on 36 of those a year ago. With the exception of the Eagles game, the coverage units and protection were solid.

Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro did make 28 of his 31 FG attempts but missed both attempts from 50+ yards. He also missed 5 PATs. If the game came down to a final kick, New England with the steady Gostkowski would have the edge. Punter Drew Butler had 22 of his punts placed inside the 20-yard line a year ago and consistently has great hang time on his punts.

Both teams are looking to a big boost in the return game in 2016. Johnson returned a kickoff for a TD a year ago and is looking for more of the same. The Patriots Cyrus Jones looks to be a dynamic returner during the preseason. He returned four for TDs a year ago at Alabama.

Next up, who wins and why…

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Arizona Cardinals Bill Belichick Bruce Arians Calais Campbell Carson Palmer Chandler Jones Danny Amendola David Johnson Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Larry Fitzgerald Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patrick Peterson Patriots Patriots edge rushers predictions Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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