It could be a long day for the Arizona Cardinals defense this Sunday when Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons come to the desert
To say that the first five weeks of the 2019 campaign have been a struggle for the Arizona Cardinals defense would be putting it mildly. New coordinator Vance Joseph is presiding over a group that currently ranks 29th in the NFL. Cards fans are patiently waiting for a solid showing from a unit that is giving up an ugly 27.6 points per game.
It doesn’t appear that things will be getting any easier for Joseph’s crew this coming Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons, owners of the league’s third-ranked passing attack, will be flocking to the desert. Will Arizona’s defensive unit find a way to rise to the challenge?
Matt Ryan, the third-overall pick of the 2008 draft, is leading an offense that is averaging 313.2 passing yards per contest. Atlanta’s starting quarterback has completed 70.3% of his throws for 1,655 yards and 11 touchdowns in five starts for the club. Ryan has no shortage of pass-receiving weapons at his disposal.
The outstanding Julio Jones has hauled in 26 passes for 359 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns. Second-year wideout Calvin Ridley has caught 21 balls for 295 yards and three scores. Veteran Mohamed Sanu, who’s in his eighth professional campaign, has tallied 29 receptions for 281 yards and touchdown.
It’s no secret that the Cardinals have had a tough time with tight ends thus far in ’19. The Falcons’ starter at that position, Austin Hooper, just happens to be the squad’s leading pass-catcher. The fourth-year player has chipped in 34 catches for 363 yards and two scores, so there’s a good possibility that Hooper will be a major part of Atlanta’s upcoming gameplan.
The good news for the Cards is that the Falcons running game is nothing to write home about. Devonta Freeman has toted the rock 58 times for 187 yards, and Ito Smith has totaled 18 carries for 93 yards and one touchdown. However, Freeman’s 22 receptions for 173 yards and a score make him a viable option in the Atlanta passing attack.
Arizona’s defenders certainly have their work cut out for them this coming weekend. Ryan and company will present the Cardinals with an extremely tough assignment. Here’s hoping that Joseph can come up with a scheme that will slow down the high-flying Falcons.