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Seahawks Vs. Cardinals: A Scouting Report

Some things to watch for today when the Seahawks host the Cardinals.

Seattle plays host to their divisional rival Arizona Cardinals Sunday in what many people consider to be a litmus test for this young Seahawks team.

If the Hawks fail miserably at home against a team they dominated in two games just one season ago, it could be a very good indication of what's to come the rest of this year. If they bounce back from two lackluster road performances against the 49ers and Steelers, grab a win and some momentum, things could start to look a lot brighter.

It's never as cut and dry as those two options, but you know how NFL fanhood goes.

To get a good scouting report on this week's game, I talked to SBN Arizona Editor Seth Pollack for the scuttlebutt on what's going on with this Arizona team.

First and foremost, the most probable game-changer for Arizona is the Cardinals' all-world wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. Seahawks' cornerback Brandon Browner, --fresh off a performance in Pittsburgh where he, shall we say, didn't play up to his potential--, gets the thankless job of trying to guard one of the NFL's premiere talents. The advantage will almost always go to the Cardinals in that respect. So what about the rest of the offense?

Per Pollack, "There's a lot of talk this week about getting the run game established. Arizona has been effective with the run - Beanie Wells is seventh in the league in yards per carry, 5.7, 5.6 (yards per carry) and (he's averaging) just under 100 yards per game."

Seth added, "But he's not getting a lot of touches. There's a lot of talk this week about getting him the ball more, we'll see if it happens. I kind of doubt it, because this has been an ongoing theme -- running the ball more -- and it never seems to come true."

Sounds pretty familiar if you're a fan of the Seahawks. We'll see how involved Wells gets -- he's currently a game-time decision with a tweaked hamstring so he might not even play. If he doesn't, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Chester Taylor will look to carry the rock for the Cardinals. 

As for the coaching staff, there is one very notable change to this Arizona team. The Cardinals brought in former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs' coach Ray Horton this past offseason to run their defense, and Horton's new Cardinals D will look to do to the Seahawks what his former team did to them last week -- namely, shut them down in every facet of offense.

Per Pollack: "They (the Cardinals defense under new DC Ray Horton) have been super aggressive. They've blitzed a lot. Unfortunately, for them, the blitz just hasn't been all that effective. They got Cam Newton four times in the first game, but (but Horton backed off a little bit) they really got no pressure on Grossman in the second game.

He added, "They want to blitz, they want to be aggressive, use all sorts of different packages. They'll overload one side, they'll stand up all the linemen and have nobody in a three point stance. They'll blitz a corner, they'll blitz a safety, they'll blitz from the middle linebacker position. So, they're going to come, and I think definitely in this game, against Tarvaris Jackson, they're going to test him early and see how he reacts to the pressure."

"The problem with the defense," Pollack noted, "is that because there are so many different packages, and all these different blitzes, it puts a lot of pressure on the safeties, and the corners to be very precise in their technique and coverage, and to rotate over and to tackle. When they've gotten burned on big plays, it's really been those kind of mental errors. This guy or that guy was supposed to have over-the-top coverage and he didn't do it on that particular play, that kind of thing. So I think you'll see a very aggressive defense."

From a personnel standpoint, what can Seattle expect to see from Arizona's defense?

"The defense here in Arizona has a fair amount of talent," said Pollack. "The corners are young, for each of them this will be their 3rd NFL start, Patrick Peterson and AJ Jefferson, but they're both talented. The linebacker corps is pretty solid. Upfront is pretty solid. Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams in the middle, and they go with David Carter, the rookie, at nose tackle."

Seth explained, "But the problem with the defense in Arizona has been that they're not on the same page. This is a whole new system for them. They're thinking instead of reacting. When they see things that they haven't seen on film, and this is going to happen in every game, they don't know the fall back rules enough to just act instinctively. They're very optimistic that they'll come about, that with more time, that will correct itself, but I think it's probably too soon to say that the Arizona Cardinals' defense is going to be all that much better this week than they were last week."

Pollack added that it looks like the Cardinals will scale back some of those packages in this weekend's game. Per Ray Horton"I think you are going to get a scaled back game on both sides of the ball. I heard (Seahawks coach) Pete Carroll up there saying the same thing. We're trying to figure out what we can do best. We're trying to get them to not think and play fast so we've cut down some things, the complicated things, out of the package."

Something to watch for the Seahawks as they look to get their league-worst offense jump started.

The Cardinals offense is a little bit different story. Arizona made the big-ticket trade this offseason to acquire quarterback Kevin Kolb, and I asked Seth what his impression of the trade has been.

He replied, "I think it's definitely worked out. The only thing, you know, you kind of hesitate about is that it's painful to lose Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, though he's not even starting now for Philadelphia. He didn't really have a great year last year, but last year the entire defense struggled, but still, that's a bit of a blow."

"But it worked out how it worked out." Seth acknowledged, adding, "There are no complaints about Kolb whatsoever. You know, some of the fans that were skeptical at first have come around. They love his toughness. The team absolutely loves him, as far as the leadership, huddle guy, we'll fight for you, all that kind of stuff."

As for on the field?

"He's definitely made some big plays. He hit Larry for the big touchdown last week. He hit Larry for a big touchdown in preseason. They broke two big plays in the Carolina game. His reads have been good, not great, and again, a lot of that is going to come with time. Everybody getting on the same page."

Any issues? "The one thing he'll tell you, and you'll see, is that he'll, on occasion, get a little bit happy feet and leave the pocket instead of just stepping up and making a throw," said Pollack. "It doesn't happen a lot, it's not something that I'm too worried about, but there's an area for improvement. But overall, I don't think there's anybody here that would undo the deal if given the opportunity."

The main thing Pollack wanted to emphasize: "You just have to have a quarterback in this league, and he's given a lot of confidence that in the years to come Kevin Kolb's going to be that guy, and the feeling is that he's just going to get better."

Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald are the two main weapons for the Cardinals offense and Beanie Wells is probably the third name you'd bring up. But what about the role players? Guys that are a little less heralded but also very important. I asked Seth about the Cardinals receivers and tight ends, and which players the Seahawks' defense might need to have on their radar.

Pollack pointed out, "Well, I mean Jeff King has two touchdowns! He was completely unguarded on both of them, but... you know I don't think there's one guy between Early Doucet, Andre Roberts, Chansi Stuckey and Todd Heap that has stood out. They're all different receivers, they all do different things. They're all very capable of playing well."

More specifically, "Roberts has the ability to do a lot of things after the catch. We did see Doucet break a tackle and break off a 77-yard touchdown run on a hot read against Carolina. He's a good possession receiver. He's got good size."

Overall though, Pollack noted, "I tend to believe that with this team, and this time, they're going to go to the open guy. I don't think that you can necessarily pick out, ahead of time, which one will step up. But I think there's a lot of confidence in all these other guys."