By Jay Skurski
PHOENIX -- Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals are not a team with a lot of household names. They are, however, 4-1 in the suddenly powerhouse NFC West division, so it's clear there is some talent there.
To help explain how the Cardinals have gotten off to that strong start, I spoke with their beat writer for the Arizona Republic, Kent Somers. Below are some highlights of the conversation -- including why the Bills have a good chance to get some pressure on the quarterback and who might start at running back for Arizona on Sunday -- the complete audio of the conversation is at the bottom of this post.
Q: The Cardinals have allowed 17 sacks in the past two games. Is this a matchup the Bills’ defensive line can take advantage of?
A: “They probably need to. It’s one of the weaknesses of the Cardinals, maybe their biggest weakness is their two offensive tackles. They lost Levi Brown in the preseason so they’ve had to played D’Anthony Batiste at left tackle and a rookie, Bobby Massie, at right tackle. Those two played pretty well in the first three games, but the last couple have been bad. They’ve faced some pretty good pass rushers. The Dolphins’ Cameron Wake gave Massie a ton of problems. Last week, Robert Quinn and Chris Long gave both of those guys problems. So, yeah, that’s definitely a matchup I would think the Bills need to win, no question about it.”
Q: With Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells out for this game, who can we expect to see Sunday as the Cardinals’ starting running back?
A: “Well, I think LaRod Stephens-Howling will start. He’s missed the last two games with a hip flexor injury, but he seems to be ok. He practiced [Wednesday]. But he’s only 5-8 and 185 pounds so he’s not a guy that they want to give a huge work load. In normal circumstances, he’s the third down and specialty back. Really quick in open field, great on draws and screens. If they can get him isolated one-on-one, he’s really dangerous. The other two guys (Alfonso Smith and William Powell), you know, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. They haven’t played very much. This is the first year for William Powell, who was kind of a preseason phenom. He was out of the league most of last season, they brought him in to the practice squad late. He looked really good in the preseason, quick and found holes, but then again it was against third- and fourth-teamers most of the time, so I think we’ll see. We could see some of Alfonso Smith, who was with them last year. They signed him a couple weeks ago when Beanie Wells got hurt. They’re down to three running backs and I think we’ll see all three of them on Sunday.”
Q: Who are some of the guys who have performed well on the Cardinals’ defense and could give the Bills problems Sunday?
A: “Some guys not a lot of people nationally might know: Daryl Washington, their weak inside linebacker, has been really, really good. I can’t imagine there’s an inside linebacker who’s played better. … They use him blitzing from the outside, up the middle. He’s really, really fast. He really has a knack for getting around blocks. I mean, he’s just playing really well. Calais Campbell at right end is a good player. They re-signed both of those guys. Of course, a lot of people will know about Darnell Dockett at left end. He’s coming off a hamstring injury. Really struggled last week against the Rams, only played in 19 plays. And then they’ve got Adrian Wilson at strong safety, a real force. Bills fans will remember him from that hit on Trent Edwards four years ago. They’ve got Patrick Peterson at cornerback. He’s really come a long way as a cover guy. … So they’ve got a nice mix on defense of some veterans, along with some of the young guys. They really have bought into Ray Horton’s defensive scheme. They look a lot like the Steelers when they play.”
Arizona Republic's Kent Somers