Five to Watch: Cardinals @ Eagles

The Arizona Cardinals would like to gobble up some birds when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.'s Jason Harris evaluates a combination of players and units that could help or hinder the Cardinals progress.

1. WR Anquan Boldin

Boldin was playing at a Pro Bowl level before getting hurt in week four. In five games since his return, Boldin has pulled in 46 passes for 513 yards and 6 touch downs. That is an average of nine grabs, more than 100 yards and a touchdown a game since his stepped back onto the field. Boldin has become an even bigger part of the Cardinals offense with his ability to run. He has carried the ball at least once in every game since his return, including three touches for 19 yards against the 49ers. With Boldin lining up in the backfield it won't be long before defenses begin to creep up. When that happens expect Boldin to be ready to throw it. Until then just enjoy the show.

2. Tight Ends

The core has been healthy for a few weeks and still nobody has emerged as a clear No. 1. Leonard Pope was healthy but inactive and his back up, Ben Patrick, was still second string to mid-season pick-up Stephen Spach. The Cardinals started the year a two tight end team but injuries and lack of production have made the group almost non-existent as of late. Patrick leads all tight ends in receptions with eight. Any production whether it be a tough catch or a big block should get the coaches attention.

3. Cardinals Run Game

The red bird rushing attack headed south for the winter after week nine. The Cardinals are a passing team but they are going to have to be able to run or at least try to if they expect to get deep into the playoffs. The Cardinals have run for a measly 145 yards since Hightower's 109 yard breakout rushing performance against the St. Louis Rams three weeks ago. Hightower has averaged 12 carries for 26 yards in his last three games. He did however find the end zone twice last week against the New York Giants after being shut out in back-to-back weeks for the first time in his rookie career. With Edgerrin James averaging a yard a carry since being benched, Hightower is going to have to shoulder the bulk of carries down the stretch.

4. Defense as a Whole

After getting pushed around last week by the Giants the Cardinals should respond with a physical game against a struggling Eagles team. With quarterback controversy in the air and both Eagles running backs banged up, don't expect the Cardinals to show any mercy. With Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter possible out of the line up due to the short week, the Cardinals should be able to pin their ears back and come after who ever lines up under center.

5. Kick Coverage

Domenik Hixon fielded three returns for a total of 180 yards on Sunday for the Giants. Outstanding field position made it easy for the Giants to score points. The Cardinals are going to have to do better on kickoffs if the expect to keep the Eagles out of the end zone. With the Eagles offense on the verge of quarterback controversy doesn't expect the Cardinals to give either a short field to work with.

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