How will the Arizona Cardinals stop Christian McCaffrey?
The Arizona Cardinals run defense isn’t the best, and on Sunday, they will face one of the league’s best in Christian McCaffrey.
For those who think Christian McCaffrey is finished, they are making a mistake. McCaffrey toiled through two injury-riddled seasons where he started in only 10 games between 2020 and 2021. Fast-forward to 2022, and McCaffrey has 243 rushing yards on 50 attempts, good for 4.9 yards per carry. So can the Arizona Cardinals stop the still-elusive rusher?
The Cardinals run defense has been better this season than in recent memory, ranking 10th in the league. However, that higher ranking comes because of opponents being more willing to throw the ball and pick on their weak group at corner. They also allowed 4.5 yards per carry as a unit, which ranks 17th in the league.
Arizona Cardinals need to stop McCaffrey
The Cardinals need their trio of middle linebackers to step up in this one. With Zaven Collins listed as Questionable, look for Isaiah Simmons to sense opportunity here. Nick Vigil, Collins, and Simmons need to find ways to penetrate the backfield, but that won’t be easy with nose tackle Rashard Lawrence slated to miss the contest.
Leki Fotu, who has seen time in just 40% of the snap counts this year, needs to step up and allow his linebackers to converge. McCaffrey can also take it outside and to the house on any given play, necessitating edge rushers Dennis Gardeck and Markus Golden to further stack the line coming off the edge.
Given the lack of production quarterback Baker Mayfield has shown in 2022, look for the Panthers to turn to the run early and often. This will force the Cardinals to line up closer to the line of scrimmage and shut down McCaffrey before he has a chance to get started.
If the Cardinals prove they can stop the run early, they can turn Mayfield’s afternoon into a long one. For some, this is a must-win game for Arizona, so shutting down McCaffrey is crucial. The Panthers running back is listed as Questionable for the contest, but he did see limited practice time on Friday.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)