The Arizona Cardinals will have their hands full in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams are undefeated at 3-0 and Rams coach Sean McVay knows a thing or two about being undefeated against one particular team.
The Rams have absolutely owned the Cardinals with McVay. They’re 8-0 against Arizona under McVay.
But the past is the past according to the Rams coach.
“I don’t know that there’s really an answer other than when we’ve played them, our guys have found a way to deliver in that three-hour window and do an excellent job coming away with the wins,” said McVay. “But we all know this, and you guys know how I feel, what’s happened in previous years has zero to do with what we’re going to try to do on Sunday. Those things have no merit.”
Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray are both in the very early MVP conversation and are both top five in passing yards in the league. Murray understands what he’s dealing with going against a defense led by All-Pro Aaron Donald.
They’re one of the best in the league, if not” the best. “There’s no shying away from it. If you shy away from it, you’ll be eaten alive.”
But there’s another player that the Cardinals should be concerned with.
Ramsey’s Elite Play
Coach Kliff Kingsbury had a lot of positive things to say about four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
“I mean, up to this point he’s probably the defensive MVP when you see how he’s affected games and he’s been dominant on the perimeter, whether he’s asked to cover or go and tackle, blow up screens, he’s just been all over the place.”
When asked if you should throw to Ramsey’s side, Kingsbury didn’t hesitate to answer.
“You don’t want to, and the way they’re using him as that nickel and that rover-type player has been phenomenal. Lots of physicalities he’s playing with.”
It’s tough to navigate when it comes to Ramsey who has no limitations as far as moving around the football field. Before Week 3, Ramsey had the lowest passing rating when targeted according to PFF.
The Rams do a great job of disguising coverages with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Tom Brady even chimed in after the Bucs’ loss to the Rams about how unstoppable the pass rush and corners are, which obviously includes Ramsey.
“You can’t really pick up on anything pre-snap because they’re holding disguises and, at the same time, they have a pass rush that gets home really quick,” said Brady. “The corners do a great job of locking onto receivers and I think they do a good job of all having their eyes on the quarterback and reacting to where the quarterback is looking.
How Arizona Can Combat Ramsey & Co.
The Cardinals have been one of the best teams at avoiding sacks and pressures on Murray. But this matchup will be a huge test.
When forcing pressure on quarterbacks, the Rams defense has allowed a 24.8 passer rating (third-lowest in the league), according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com. At the same time, the Rams haven’t faced a player like Murray who can avoid pressure with his pocket awareness and agility like no other. They’ve faced immobile QB’s in Andy Dalton, Carson Wentz and the gifted Tom Brady.
So what will Murray do against Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey?
“Whoever’s open, they’re getting the ball.”
Murray didn’t sugarcoat what the Cardinals will do on Sunday. So far, that plan has worked for the first three weeks. The offense has seen star-wideout DeAndre Hopkins ranking fourth on the team with yards. Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore and even A.J. Green have more yards and all are close to Hopkins’ 18 targets.
Hopkins has been average at best against Ramsey in the past. According to Stadium, Hopkins has averaged six catches per game and 66 yards with four touchdowns in nine games. So taking into account Hopkins’ rib issue, it’s fair to say the Cardinals will spread the ball often.
That means to look out for Kirk and Moore in the middle of the field and maybe even running back Chase Edmonds, who had seven catches in the last game against the Jaguars.
A balanced attack should remain Arizona’s focus against the unstoppable Rams.