Sunday’s matchup featuring the Arizona Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns could be a strange one. We could see Kyler Murray vs. DeShaun Watson, a pair of former first-round picks trying to prove they can live up to their respective lofty contracts. Or, we can see Clayton Tune vs. P.J. Walker, two players who would like to prove they are cut out for the NFL.
That said, whoever starts at quarterback this week won’t just tailor the Cardinals game plan on offense, but also their defensive game plan. If we see Tune under center, don’t expect the Cards to play the most aggressive game. Tune will take on the role of game manager, and likely won’t be asked to take too many shots downfield.
While it would be Kyler Murray’s first game back since December 2022 if he’s good to go, he’s also a seasoned veteran at this point. Therefore, while Murray probably won’t be in vintage form, don’t expect him to take on the role of a fully-fledged game manager, either.
Arizona Cardinals must be ready for DeShaun Watson, P.J. Walker
Watson hasn’t looked like himself since the 2020 season, but it also doesn’t mean he can’t still be the playmaker he was during his days with the Houston Texans. Watson looked good in the last full game he played, a 27-3 blowout win vs. the Tennessee Titans, and you can expect quite a bit of throwing if he’s in the game and his shoulder is feeling good.
While you may think otherwise, might I remind you that the Cardinals secondary struggled against an injured Joe Burrow. So you can expect the Browns to trust Watson in getting the ball downfield, thanks to how badly the secondary has played, particularly Marco Wilson.
The Browns will also likely throw the ball often with P.J. Walker, as he’s eclipsed 30 passes in both of his starts and the three games he’s played in. But Walker has also completed just 49.5 percent of his passes, and has just 6.4 yards per pass attempt. Walker also won’t likely take too many chances downfield, so the Cards will need to account for passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Per PFF, Walker is just 10 for 36 on passes for more than 10 yards, with 0 touchdowns and three interceptions. Knowing this, expect the Arizona Cardinals to treat the P.J. Walker-led Browns differently from an offense DeShaun Watson would lead.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference and PFF [subscription])