Over the past five weeks, one thing has become particularly apparent about the Arizona Cardinals defensive unit. For the most part, the group has struggled mightily in pass coverage. The issue could've been addressed with a quality acquisition or two last spring, but general manager Monti Ossenfort elected to roll with a group that was obviously undermanned.
The time to rectify the situation has now passed, so defensive coordinator Nick Rallis has to make do with what he has. It's a job that won't get any easier in Week 6, when the Cards take on the high-flying offense of the Los Angeles Rams. Rallis may have experienced a sleepless night or two this past week, thinking about the challenge that lies ahead for his defenders this coming Sunday.
It all starts with Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, a 35-year-old veteran who still has the arm strength to make every throw. In five starts this fall, the 6 foot 3, 220 pounder ranks second in the NFC with 1,451 passing yards. There were those who predicted doom and gloom for Stafford in 2023, but the first-overall pick of the 2009 draft has exceeded expectations.
Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua could be a nightmare for the Arizona Cardinals defense this coming Sunday
The Los Angeles scoring attack got a huge lift last Sunday when wide receiver Cooper Kupp returned from a hamstring injury. Working against a befuddled Philadelphia Eagles secondary, the 30-year-old star hauled in eight of Stafford's passes for an impressive 118 receiving yards. Marco Wilson, Antonio Hamilton Sr., and rookie Kei'Trel Clark, Arizona's top three cornerbacks, could also struggle to keep up with a stud like Kupp.
One of the biggest surprises of the season thus far has been Puka Nacua, the Rams fifth-round draft choice who has started out his pro career with a bang. The 22-year-old is leading the league with 46 catches, 30 of which have resulted in first downs. It's scary to think what Nacua could be capable of, now that Kupp has arrived to draw some of the defense's attention away from the youngster.
Los Angeles has other receiving threats as well. Wideout Tutu Atwell has tallied 24 receptions for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Tight end Tyler Higbee has caught 18 passes for 216 yards, and is averaging a healthy 12 yards per catch.
Rallis' crew will certainly have their hands full this coming weekend. Stafford and company remain capable of doing damage to the best of them. Imagine what the Rams could potentially do versus this inadequate back end of the Cardinals defense.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com)