Cardinals vs. Panthers: Matchups to watch

With several newcomers, Arizona won't be too elaborate on offense and play in the trenches will likely determine Sunday's outcome.

GAME PLAN: The Cardinals won't get too elaborate on offense. At least they will try not to.

Kevin Kolb has been with the team just six weeks or so, and while he has a good handle on things, Whisenhunt and his staff will be careful not to overload him.

Look for the team to try and use tight ends Todd Heap and Jeff King more in the passing game. That should take pressure off Larry Fitzgerald. Kolb has shown he's adept at knowing when Fitzgerald has single coverage, and he's not afraid to throw the ball even when Fitzgerald is covered.

Defensively, the Cardinals need to be effective against the run. It would help, of course, if they could get a lead against the Panthers, who aren't built to play from behind. Look for defensive coordinator Ray Horton to not only throw several blitzes at Cam Newton but to also try to fool him with coverages.

Defensive end Darnell Dockett is a wild card. He plays end in the 3-4 and often moves to the nose in passing situations. He also has dropped into coverage on zone blitzes. Horton will try to keep the Panthers guessing where Dockett and Wilson will be.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Cardinals DLE Darnell Dockett vs. Panthers right offensive linemen - The Panthers are unsettled at guard because of injuries. And while tackle Jeff Otah is capable, Dockett can be a beast to handle, especially if given the freedom to pick a gap and go.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Panthers secondary - Fitzgerald has averaged nearly eight catches and 120 yards a game in seven previous games against the Panthers. That was under former coach John Fox, however. Panthers coach Ron Rivera employed some effective defenses against Fitzgerald while with the Chargers. Keeping Fitzgerald from making big plays downfield will be a key for the Panthers.

Panthers running game vs. Cardinals defensive front seven - The Cardinals' front seven is unchanged from last year, and the Panthers hurt it on the ground. They got the lead and then wore the Cardinals out. The Cardinals were toward the end of a 5-11 season, so they didn't have much fight left in them.


CardinalsSource Top Stories