It’s safe to say that Clayton Tune’s first matchup is less-than-ideal, and if I were the Arizona Cardinals, I would have briefly talked Colt McCoy into coming back for a week (or the rest of the year). Why? Not to start, as those days are long gone for McCoy, but because no one knows what it’s like to face such a strong defense in their first career start better than the 37-year-old.
In 2010, McCoy made his first start against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had the league’s most tenacious pass-rusher in James Harrison. Ironically, McCoy made that first start as a member of the Cleveland Browns, the team rookie quarterback Clayton Tune will square off against this afternoon - or late morning, if you’re in Arizona.
It’s safe to say McCoy would have made for an excellent mentor for Tune today, especially since the rookie quarterback is facing the same exact situation: Facing arguably the league’s most dangerous pass rusher in his first career start on the road.
3 key matchups for the Arizona Cardinals vs. Browns
1 - Cardinals line vs. Browns pass rush
Myles Garrett is arguably the NFL’s best EDGE rusher, and he has 83 sacks in 88 career games, putting him well on pace to challenge Bruce Smith’s all-time record if he keeps this up. This season may be the 28-year-old’s best, as he has 8.5 sacks in seven contests, 17 quarterback hits, and four forced fumbles.
When a team has an EDGE rusher like Garrett, it also means they can open things up for others trying to get to the quarterback. If that proves to be the case today, then the Arizona Cardinals offensive line will have its hands beyond full with Cleveland. And with a rookie at quarterback, it makes this the top key matchup of the week.
If the Cardinals can get the ball out of Tune’s hands quickly and establish the run, then perhaps they can curtail Cleveland. But the Browns will look to rattle Tune and set the tone early, and if that happens, it could be a long afternoon.