Cardinals: Game Plan & Matchups To Watch

A preview of matchups to watch and what the Cardinals' game plan might look like against the St. Louis Rams in a battle to stay out of last place in the NFC West.

GAME PLAN: The Cardinals' defensive plan when facing the Rams is always to focus on stopping RB Steven Jackson. They have done a decent job of that over the years, and the run defense has been solid in recent weeks.

Offensively, the Cardinals need to work on everything that hurts efficiency: penalties, missed assignments, dropped passes, etc. RB Beanie Wells' availability is key. The Cardinals have a much better offense when he is healthy.

If Wells can play, the Cardinals should try to pound away at the Rams and then hit Larry Fitzgerald for big plays.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Cardinals RT Brandon Keith vs. Rams DE Chris Long -- Long had three sacks last week against the Saints. Keith has not pass-blocked well, and even average defensive ends have given him trouble.

Cardinals ILB Daryl Washington vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson -- Washington is very fast, but harnessing that speed is sometimes difficult for him. He tends to overrun plays, and the Ravens made him pay for it last week. Controlling Jackson will be the biggest task for the Cardinals' defense.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Rams cornerbacks -- The Rams lost both starting cornerbacks to injuries in September. Fitzgerald traditionally has given the Rams problems, although his impact has been hurt by the lack of another playmaker at the position. Look for the Cardinals to try to target Fitzgerald more than five times. That's how often they looked his way in Baltimore last week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Outside linebacker Joey Porter might have started a game for the final time in the NFL. Porter missed last week's game against the Ravens with a sore knee. His replacement, Sam Acho, had a sack, as did backup O'Brien Schofield. Both contributed more than Porter had all season.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt promised to look at changing his starting offensive line, but don't look for that to happen. The club has no one to replace left tackle Levi Brown. Brandon Keith was replaced by Jeremy Bridges two weeks ago, but that didn't prove to be an upgrade.

Keith was back in the starting lineup and likely will stay there, at least for this week.

With free safety Kerry Rhodes out for another couple weeks with a foot injury, defensive coordinator Ray Horton will continue to fiddle with personnel in passing situations. In nickel situations, cornerback Richard Marshall has moved to free safety, with Rashad Johnson coming out. Mike Adams has done a nice job as the nickel cornerback.


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