The Redskins, coming off of an exciting come-from-behind victory over the New Orleans Saints, face a tough challenge against the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals this Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. The Redskins are familiar with their former NFC East rivals, having faced them twice in the last three seasons.
The last meeting came at home last season, with the Redskins squeaking by with a 21-19 victory in Week 7. The Cardinals proved to be a tough challenge, displaying an overlooked and hungry defense along with an aggressive offense. This season doesn’t appear to be any different.
“Arizona is the real deal. When I played them last year, I knew they were going to be a great team. Their offensive line coach is Russ Grimm (former Washington Redskins guard and member of “The Hogs”). At first, I didn't know who he was until someone told me and that explained why Arizona plays the way they do on offense. They have much respect from me,” said Andre Carter, who had four tackles in Sunday’s victory over the Saints.
“The Cardinals offensive line is big and strong. They have great feet and are good at the point of attack. I have seen players get pummeled because they play too high. The o-line knows how to finish plays and [they] never take any plays off,” said Carter.
Last season, the Cardinals showed a lot of tenacity on defense in their match-up against the Redskins offense. For the last couple of years, the Cardinals have collected young talent through the draft that includes the likes of cornerback Antrell Rolle, linebacker Karlos Dansby, defensive tackles Gabe Watson and Alan Branch, to go along with veteran hard-hitting safety Adrian Wilson. The team also added defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in this year’s draft.
“I feel that the Cardinals defense is underrated. They run hard to the ball and are a physical, young group. They play well together and can play even better when they are behind. What impressed me is their speed and their point of attack when the ball is snapped,” Carter said.
To combat this defense, it is important that Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell keeps his level of confidence up following such an impressive fourth quarter performance against the Saints.
“Jason, in my mind, is a hard worker and I give him a lot of [credit] for constantly working hard and [for] him loving the game. Most people don't take into consideration that he has had three-to-four [offensive] coordinators. And being a quarterback with so many changes can be tough. We have all the faith in JC. He gets the job done and that’s all we ask,” said Carter.
Another Redskin who got the job done last Sunday was rookie safety Chris Horton, who started his first NFL game in place of Reed Doughty, who sat out of the game because of a stomach virus. Horton’s two interceptions and fumble recovery were enough to earn him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors -- pretty impressive for a little-known 7th rounder.
“Phillip Daniels, Marcus Washington, and I, along with some other players, knew that Chris Horton was special and knew that he was going to bring something to the table on defense. It started in OTA’s and continued during training camp and so on. He is physical and can run. His performance was superb and I hope he can make more plays for us in the future,” said Carter.
Early on, the Redskins offense and special teams had put the defense in some tough positions with missed field goals, missed touchdown opportunities that led only to field goals, and a punt that was returned for a touchdown by Saints running back Reggie Bush.
“When those situations, that you had mentioned, had happened in the game, as a defense we kept our poise. In games we have to expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything that comes our way. So we spoke and executed accordingly,” Carter said.
The defense as a whole performed admirably, consistently pressuring quarterback Drew Brees and holding Bush to 63 receiving yards and 28 rushing yards with no touchdowns.
For the second consecutive week, the defense must face an explosive offense with big play capabilities. In their 31-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Cardinals were very pass happy, with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald catching six passes for 153 yards and fellow receiver Anquan Boldin hauling in six receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns.
The tandem was guided by veteran Kurt Warner, who wasn’t expected to start this season but was named the number one man because of a lackluster preseason performance by their “franchise” quarterback Matt Leinart.
Warner must have had flashbacks of his days with the St. Louis Rams and the “Greatest Show on Turf” with his performance against the Dolphins. His 361 passing yards and three touchdowns were second amongst quarterbacks in Week 2.
It appears the former two-time NFL Most Valuable Player hasn’t lost his touch and will present a challenge to the Redskins secondary, especially with the arsenal of weapons their offense possesses.
“Kurt Warner, despite what people say about his age, is a great quarterback. His timing is accurate and somehow finds a way to make a play. That’s all I can say about him. I have had my experience playing against him when he was with the Rams. To me, he is the same guy, just on a different team,” said Carter, who used to face him twice a year as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s hard to decide who is their most dangerous player because each player brings something to the table when the game is on the line. From the players that you had mentioned in your questions (Boldin, Fitzgerald, Warner, Wilson, etc.) those are the guys that can affect the outcome of the game,” Carter said.
As far as the rest of the offense goes, don’t forget about Edgerrin James. Despite the lack of publicity and success he obtained as an Indianapolis Colt, Carter says that nothing is stopping James from being the force he once was.
“Nothing is holding Edgerrin back. He is by far one of the best backs I have ever played against. He may not make as many big plays like he did in Indy, however, he is still dangerous and is very effective,” Carter said.
Under The Helmet:
THN: - Last week you mentioned that, despite your father being a former NFL player, you never wanted to be a football player as kid. Why not?
AC: I never envisioned myself playing football. It just wasn't in my DNA. Or so I thought when I was younger. I loved basketball but London Fletcher told me that I probably sucked. He was right. All I could do was rebound and dunk. What can I say, I was a Dennis Rodman.
THN: - What is your favorite food?
AC: My favorite food is pasta. My wife cooks a mean plate of pasta. She adds her own personal ingredients with some sausage. You can’t go wrong with that.
THN: What is your favorite activity outside of football?
AC: My favorite activity outside of football is music. I love playing my piano or listening to music on my iTunes. I love reading spiritual books from well-known pastors or just emotional enlightenment. I just finished reading the book "Ways of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman, who is also a Cal grad. Go Bears. And yes, even though I spoke some trash [before the California-Maryland football game this past Saturday] about Maryland losing, I am still going to support my Bears.