NFL Preview – Washington (1-4) at Arizona (3-1) (ET)

By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor

( – Jay Gruden’s learning that being a head coach in the NFL
isn’t easy. His Washington Redskins have a short week and will try to end a
three-game losing streak Sunday on the road against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Redskins fell to 1-4 after coming up short, 27-17, Monday night versus the
defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field.

Now the Redskins are tasked with ending an eight-game road losing streak
dating back to a Sept. 29, 2013 win at Oakland. They have a good chance at
halting the road slide having won the past eight matchups with the Cardinals,
including a 22-21 triumph on Sept. 18, 2011.

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s 133 yards and a touchdown on seven
catches went to waste, while Redskins running back Roy Helu ran for 74 yards
and also had 38 receiving yards. The Redskins haven’t lost to the Cardinals
since a 16-15 setback on Nov. 5, 2000, when both teams resided in the NFC
East. The Cardinals are now in the NFC West and trail the all-time series with
Washington by a lopsided 74-44-2 margin.

Washington will try to pick up the pieces from Monday’s loss and has failed to
score more than 17 points in each of the past two games after averaging 37.5
points in two games prior.

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins made his third straight start and threw for
283 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was a far better performance than the
45-14 setback to the New York Giants in which Cousins passed for 257 yards
with four interceptions to one TD pass. Cousins has exceeded a passer rating
of 100.0 in three of his four games this season.

Cousins talked about having to start drives deep in his own territory, which
occurred often versus the Seahawks.

“When you’re backed up like that against a great defense, the odds are stacked
against you,” Cousins said. “When you got bad field position, it is a
challenge to go 89 yards against arguably the best defense in the NFL.”

The Redskins avoided Seahawks wideout and key return man Percy Harvin because
as Gruden put it, the Redskins didn’t “want him returning it.” That was the
staff’s decision going into the game and it cost the offense, which is now
seventh in total yards (393.6), 15th in points (22.4) and 21st in passing
(104.8). The Redskins are fifth in rushing (288.8), but Alfred Morris was held
to a season-low 29 yards on 13 carries. Morris has yet to run for 100 yards
this season after doing it three times in 2013.

Arizona knows a lot about offensive woes and suffered its first loss of the
season Sunday on the road against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Manning and the Broncos lit up the Cardinals to the tune of 568 yards in a
41-20 rout and the future Hall of Fame quarterback was 31-of-47 for 479 yards,
four touchdown passes and two interceptions. Except against the run, which the
Cardinals are fifth (76.8), they have struggled in all other areas. The
Cardinals are 13th in points allowed (21.5), 24th in total yards (379.2) and
31st against the pass (302.5).

There’s a huge problem if a team is giving up an average of 300 yards through
the air. Manning exposed it and the Redskins will be trying to as well. Denver
receiver Demaryius Thomas burned the Cardinals for 226 yards and two scores.

“When you give up 230 damn yards to any damn receiver, it’s not your best
day,” Cardinals defensive back Antonio Cromartie said. “No matter how you look
at it, it’s not my best day. We have to regroup.”

Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers was humbled by the loss.

“The NFL is real humbling,” Powers said. “You can go and feel like you’re up
here and then go (down). We went 3-1 in the first quarter of the season and
now it’s on to the second quarter and getting ready for Washington. We just
have to learn from this and move on.”

The Cardinals also have to deal with injuries, as cornerback Patrick Peterson
left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and defensive end Calais Campbell is
out with a balky knee suffered on a chop block by Broncos tight end Julius
Thomas, who was fined for the move. Campbell is expected to miss a few weeks.

Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will see more action with Campbell out and Alex
Okafor is expected to start at outside linebacker with Matt Shaughnessy
sidelined with a knee issue of his own. Shaughnessy landed on IR but will be
back after sitting a minimum of six weeks.

“It’s about how to face adversity,” Peterson said. “How to respond when guys
go down. That’s what it’s all about. We have to learn from it and regroup.”

Arizona better learn fast because they probably won’t have quarterback Drew
Stanton, who’s been filling in for starter Carson Palmer (shoulder). Stanton
sustained a concussion against the Broncos, forcing rookie third-stringer
Logan Thomas into an NFL game for the first time. Palmer threw sparingly
during warmups and went through position drills Wednesday. He hasn’t played
since Week 1 and is 8-2 in his last 10 starts.

If Thomas gets the nod Sunday, he will be ready. He took all the first-team
reps during practice.

“Thankfully, I’m a pretty quick learner,” Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to
the chance. And if Carson or Drew can come back, I’m excited to have those
guys back. But if it’s my turn, I have to be the guy.”

Arians wasn’t clear on who will be under center versus the Redskins.

“Yeah, we really don’t have any plans right now. Everything is up in the air.
We have got a game plan, and we’ll find out who can play quarterback as the
week unfolds. Logan Thomas will take most of the snaps today (Wednesday).
Carson is attempting to throw again today. He threw yesterday, and Drew is
going through the protocol trying to pass his test. So, we’ll take the guys as
they come back off of injury or we’ll go with Logan.”


If Thomas makes his first NFL start, be sure to watch the Redskins tee off on
the Virginia Tech product. Thomas is athletic, but the Redskins were able to
sack Seattle elusive quarterback Russell Wilson three times. But then again
Russell ran for more than 100 yards.

Washington is fifth in the NFL with 14.0 sacks this season. That’s not
surprising with linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan charging, and the
latter is tied for the NFL lead with six. Either way, it’s the next man up for
the Cardinals.

“That’s why we practice,” Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein said. “It’s not like
we go out on each side of the ball every day just 11 on 11. It’s about
trusting the next guy. Rarely is there a game where someone doesn’t get hurt.
There’s always someone who has to go in and step up.”

Of course, the Redskins will try to force Thomas into throwing interceptions,
something they have only done twice through five games. Only Jacksonville, New
Orleans and the New York Jets have less INTs with one apiece.

The Redskins may see a lot of linebacker Will Compton Sunday with starter
Perry Riley Jr. bothered by a knee injury. Gruden said Compton, who took reps
with the first-team defense at Wednesday’s practice, would start if Riley’s
not ready. Riley recorded a team-high 115 tackles last season.

Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been as advertised in his first
season in DC. Jackson rebounded from a poor outing against the Giants with
five catches for 157 yards and a 60-yard TD catch, beating Seattle’s vaunted
secondary for his second score of the season.

Jackson’s first touchdown in a Washington uniform came against his former
Eagles team, an 81-yard bomb by Cousins. He also had a 57-yard reception
Monday night and leads the team with 364 yards. Jackson is tops in the NFL
with 14 receiving touchdowns of 50 or more yards.

“Those two plays showed how good he is,” Cousins said. “It’s just a matter of
finding ways every week to get him the football.”

In Cousins’ defense, he still has to get the ball to Pierre Garcon, Morris,
Helu, Andre Roberts and Niles Paul to name a few. Roberts was drafted by the
Cardinals in 2010 and will face Peterson and other former teammates.

“Oh yeah, it is going to be a pleasure going up against Andre when it is for
real now,” Peterson said. “I haven’t gone up against him for three years, my
first three years here, like one-on-one in practices and all that stuff. I am
kind of familiar with the way he moves and all that stuff, but now it is going
to be different actually going up against him when it actually means
something. But I know Andre is going to be hyped up to get back here to
Arizona. It is going to be a blast.”

Peterson also has some history defending Jackson from his days in Philly.

Arizona’s offense has seen better days despite a 3-1 record. The Cardinals,
who are tied with Seattle for first in the NFC West, rank 22nd in passing
(217.0), 26th in rushing (88.5), 28th in points scored (21.5) and 29th in
total yards (305.5).

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald has caught a pass in 153 straight games and has 100 or
more yards receiving in each of the past two against Washington.


It doesn’t matter who’s under center for the Cardinals because good teams with
leadership rarely lose back-to-back games, according to Arians.

“If you have leadership on your football team, you never lose two in a row,”
Arians said.

Arians believes one of the two injured QBs will return, but until then will
devise a scheme to beat the reeling Redskins.

“We’ll formulate a game plan to beat Washington and then see what quarterback
is available to do what he does best,” Arians said. “I’m comfortable with
Logan once he gets all the snaps and all the reps that we’ll be able to put
out a plan for him to be successful. We feel like one of the other two will be

The Cardinals, winners in six of seven at home, must improve the ground
attack, which produced a mere 37 yards in Denver, and that means Andre
Ellington has to step it up running the football. Ellington had 32 yards and a
score on 16 carries and that won’t get it done with the Redskins in town.
However, Ellington caught four passes for 112 yards and a TD against Denver.

Look for a more balanced approach in an Arizona win.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Cardinals 24, Redskins 20