slides: What to Watch For: Patriots vs. Cardinals

Sunday, September 11, 2016

 

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The New England Patriots will visit the Arizona Cardinals tonight in the 2016 season opener with kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. 

This is the Patriots first meeting with the Cardinals since 2012. 

See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below

“Seeing obviously a lot of the film on the Cardinals. It's a really impressive team. I think they do a lot of things well. They're obviously well coached. They have a good organization. They've done a great job of building the team and [have] a lot of strengths, a lot of things, a lot to deal with,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in a press conference earlier this week. 

The game will mark Jimmy Garoppolo’s first career NFL start, and marks the first time since the 2001 that a quarterback other than Tom Brady has started a season opener for the Patriots. 

“This is why you play the game. You play to be in the game and play; you don't want to be the backup. The opportunity is here. I've just got to go take advantage of it,” said Garoppolo in his Wednesday press conference. 

The last time we saw Jimmy Garoppolo was in the Patriots third preseason game against Carolina. Garoppolo went 9 of 15 for 57 yards and had a fumble, an intentional grounding penalty and a near interception. 

“In preseason, you don't really game plan as much as you do in the regular season. We're really getting into that; just the finer little details that you go over, just every down. It's been going really good,” said Garoppolo. 

Injury Report 

On Friday, the Patriots ruled out tight end Rob Gronkowski, left tackle Nate Solder and guard Jonathan Cooper. 

Gronkowski and Solder are both recovering from hamstring injuries that they suffered during training camp and the preseason respectively. 

Cooper has been back at practice but is still working his way back from a foot injury which he suffered early in camp. 

See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below

 

Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Patriots vs. Cardinals

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Pats Defense

With the Patriots offense expected to struggle without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, it will be on Jamie Collins and the Patriots defense to win games. 

The Patriots front line and linebackers look to put pressure on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer who was sacked 25 times last year and threw 11 interceptions. He also fumbled 6 times. 

New England's defense forced 22 fumbles and racked up 49 sacks last season to go along with 12 interceptions. 

The Cardinals return an offense that was one of the best in the league in 2015, ranking 1st in yards per pass attempt, 3rd in passing touchdowns and 2nd in yards gained passing on the season. 

The running game is a three headed attack and includes Chris Johnson, David Johnson and third down back Andre Ellington.

Arizona ranked 6th in the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season. 

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Butler vs. Fitzgerald

Malcolm Butler will see time against a future Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald. 

At 6'3," Larry Fitzgerald has 13,366 career receiving yards and averages 13 yards per catch for his career. He needs two touchdowns to reach 100 for his career. 

Butler enters his 3rd season with the Patriots and his second as New England's shut down corner. 

At 5'11," Butler has a bit of a size disadvantage against Fitzgerald, however, he has had success against bigger receivers in the past. Last season, Butler had success against Antonio Brown, Demariyus Thomas and Brandon Marshall among others. 

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Pats Running Game

The Patriots have 5 running backs on the roster, including Brandon Bolden who is mostly used on special teams. 

In the final two preseason games, LeGarrette Blount began to get it going, even leaping over a diving player against Carolina. 

The Arizona defense ranked as the 9th best defense in the NFL when it came to yards allowed per attempt, only allowing 3.9 yards.

Arizona is most likely to load the box to try and stop the run and force Garoppolo to beat them with his arm, so if the Patriots can get a solid night from Blount, or anyone else for that matter, it could change the game. 

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Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line will be without Nate Solder in this game, meaning Marcus Cannon (pictured) or Cameron Fleming will be filling in his spot at left tackle. 

The Arizona Cardinals defense had 35 sacks last season and forced 22 fumbles. They are returning many of the same players from tha team and have added former Patriot Chandler Jones, who sees time mostly on the edge. 

“Defensively this is a team that turns the ball over very well. They have a good pass rush, a lot of big guys up front. They're hard to block," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick earlier this season. 

The Patriots offensive line allowed 38 sacks last season. 

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Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first career NFL start in Arizona. 

How will he handle the crowd noise? 3rd and longs? and how will he respond to adversity? These are all questions which will be answered. 

Garoppolo will benefit from having Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and newcomer Chris Hogan in the lineup but will be hurt by the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski. 

Expect short passes over the middle or out in the flat to keep it simple for Garoppolo. If the Patriots can get the running game going with LeGarrette Blount, that would be big. 

The Cardinals defense was the fifth best defense in the league last season, forcing 33 turnovers and allowed teams to convert on third down only 35.7% of the time. 

 
 

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