The Washington Football team starts 1-0 after a dramatic and dominant comeback against the Philadelphia Eagles. Next up is the Arizona Cardinals, who are also 1-0 and beat divisional opponents San Francisco 49ers. Some of the questions surrounding the Football team - its offensive line, secondary, and receivers - all came to light at some point during the game.
However, Washington's strongest unit, its defensive line, was just way too much for the Eagles and allowed Washington's offense to operate in a much favorable field position. This Cardinals team has some promise and is an exciting matchup for Washington.
I take a look at the five key matchups for Washington that will determine a win against the Cardinals.
No. 5 - WFT TE Logan Thomas vs. AZ LB Isaiah Simmons:
Many teams in the league desire a player like Isaiah Simmons' versatility, so the Cardinals really got lucky being able to add him to their defense. Simmons can do many things playing linebacker, like cover and run sideline to sideline with elite speed. In turn, Logan Thomas, who had a decent debut for Washington, must find demand Simmons attention in pass-coverage.
Collectively, the receivers for Washington struggled often to create separation against the Eagles defense last week, so it came down to quarterback Dwayne Haskins making good throws or offensive coordinator Scott Turner scheming receivers open. If Washington does not want Simmons to take over the game defensively, force him into keying in on a single player, and it starts with Logan Thomas being effective from Haskins' first drop back.
No. 4 - AZ WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. WSH CB Kendall Fuller:
Larry Fitzgerald may be 37 years old, but a couple of his four catches for 34 yards came on key downs for the Arizona Cardinals. Larry mostly plays out of the slot receiver position now; his route savvy and strength makes him a difficult matchup for even the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL. Kendall Fuller is a talented, above-average cornerback that gets his shot against Fitzgerald this week. Although he may see five to six targets a game, Fuller cannot allow Fitzgerald to dominate on third-downs or short-yardage situations, because that is where Larry earns his money nowadays.
Publishers Note: Fuller was limited in practice Friday after being a full participant Wednesday and Thursday. He is officially questionable for Sunday.
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No. 3 - WFT QB Dwayne Haskins vs. Arizona Secondary:
Overall, the Cardinals have a fast defense, but it is not elite, and their secondary is where Haskins must take advantage of them come Sunday. The Cardinals defense failed to force a turnover week one and allowed the 19th most passing yards in week one. However, much of the yards the Cardinals gave up came on one 76-yard pass play, and cornerback Patrick Peterson is still their star corner, allowing zero catches on two throw attempts. Peterson is the biggest threat for Haskins', as he can eliminate an opponent's best receiver, and for Washington, that's Terry McLaurin. Can Haskins repeat his performance in week one and not turn the ball over? But more importantly, can Haskins get off to a quicker start and be a much more accurate passer?
No. 2 - AZ WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. WFT CB Ronald Darby:
DeAndre Hopkins is an elite talent going up against an average secondary. But that does not mean an average, well-coached secondary cannot contain Hopkins or ultimately make him a non-factor. Odds are, Washington will have plenty of zone coverage in their defense of Fitzgerald and Hopkins, but when the time comes to play more aggressive coverage and create tight windows for Murray to throw, Ronald Darby's reps against Hopkins becomes essential. Darby settled in quite well after a rough start against the Eagles this past Sunday, but it took some time. He'll need to match Hopkins' physicality and limit his separation that he's so good at creating.
No. 1 - AZ QB Kyler Murray vs. WFT Pass Rush:
Kyler Murray is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback and arguably top-five in the league. Murray's ability to exploit the run lanes that the 49ers defense gave him caused havoc for San Francisco's defense and extended numerous Cardinals' drives. Additionally, Murray was only sacked twice by the 49ers; he looked very comfortable in the pocket. This is because a significant percentage of his throws were no more than 10 yards down the field, and he made the right throw.
It is critical for Washington to consistently disrupt Murray's timing if they want to get off the field and give their team a chance to win. Disrupting his timing entails staying within your pass-rush lanes and being disciplined within defensive coordinator's Jack Del Rio's game-plan. The secondary will have their hands full against receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but mitigating Hopkins starts with forcing Murray to hold onto the football longer than two seconds. Can Washington do it? We'll see.
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Jamual Forrest has been a freelance sports journalist for four years, covering the Washington Football Team and can be heard as a co-host on The Hog Sty Network's "The Hog Sty" podcast. Additionally, Jamual contributes to The Hog Sty Network and SB Nation's Hogs Haven. You can follow Jamual on Twitter at @LetMualTellit and see his Washington Football Team film breakdowns here.