The Arizona Cardinals’ new look defensive line introduced themselves with a strong Week 1 performance. Altogether they held the Washington Commanders to under 100 rushing yards on a paltry 3.3 yards per carry.
The Cardinals amazingly did not allow a single rush over seven yards. The subtractions of Zach Allen and J.J. Watt over the offseason seemed to indicate that the unit would perform poorly in 2023. However, the current players on the defensive line are looking to shift that narrative and their Week 1 performance is a great start if they want to be viewed as a potential strength rather than a weakness.
Heading into Week 2 the Cardinals are now up against a team where running the ball is their offensive identity. The defense has to prepare for Saquon Barkley being the superstar he is capable of.
The New York Giants offensive line, which was embarrassed on national television against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, still needs to be taken seriously as a good run blocking unit. Despite everything that could and did go wrong for the Giants in Week 1, every single offensive lineman who played at least one snap still recorded an average to above average run blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus.
For as good as the Arizona Cardinals defended the run during opening week there is still one stat that is a potential cause for concern.
The Cardinals did an excellent job preventing any explosive running plays, but the Commanders were generally successful in chunk yardage on the ground. Excluding the last drive by the Commanders when they were purely trying to chew clock, they had 24 total rushing attempts.
Of those rushing attempts they had a successful run (a gain of four or more yards) ten times. That results in a success rate of 42%. The Arizona Cardinals held the Commanders to a rush of two yards or less nine total times but five of those stops occurred during their last two drives of the game. A way to contextualize this information is that the Commanders’ rushers were reaching the second level of the defense fairly regularly but weren’t ever able to break through that line.
The question that will be answered this week is if that second line is able to hold strong against a running back like Saquon Barkley. This is going to be a tough test for the Arizona Cardinals and a lot can be gleamed from how they withstand going face to face with a team looking to run you over.
If the Cardinals can control the line of scrimmage again on Sunday, then it may be time to praise Jonathan Gannon’s ability to get the most out of his players. For now, I am going to approach the Cardinals defensive front with cautious optimism.
Prediction: Saquon Barkley finishes with 24 rushes, 109 yards, and 2 touchdowns
(Statistics provided by ESPN.com)