Cardinals visit Bucs in matchup of struggling defensesReuters | Washington DC | Updated: 07-11-2019 14:12 IST | Created: 07-11-2019 13:52 IST
Willing offenses. Acquiescent defenses. When host Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians' "no risk it, no biscuit" attack takes on Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury's modified Air Raid scheme, no scoreboard seems safe, more so this week gave the damning numerical evidence surrounding each side's defense.
The teams will meet Sunday for the first since Arians retired after five seasons as the Cardinals' coach following the 2017 season, only to miss the game so much that he unretired last summer. "It's always different (and) difficult," Arians said about facing a former team. "I don't like going against friends, but we're not friends when it's kicked off."
Arians, who favored a go-big passing game with Carson Palmer in Arizona, is using the same approach with Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston. Kingsbury, meanwhile, has spread the field to accommodate No. 1 draft pick quarterback Kyler Murray and let his athletes play in space. "He's a great offensive mind," Kingsbury said of Arians. "Been a big fan of his, how aggressive he is. Just the way he pushes the ball down the field. He cuts it loose. Huge personality. The players love to play for him. I thought he did a tremendous job while he was here."
Points may come in bunches. The Buccaneers (2-6) are fourth in the NFL scoring at 28.8 points per game despite the inconsistent play of Winston, who is averaging 300.9 yards a game passing but has thrown 12 interceptions to go with 16 touchdowns. He is tied with Baker Mayfield for the league-high in interceptions.
The Cardinals (3-5-1) have been slowly adapting to Kingsbury's offense while at the same time trying to get their footing on defense, averaging 21.7 points a game and giving up 27.9. Arizona has given up 407.6 yards a game, third highest in the league, and yielded 411 in a 28-25 loss to San Francisco on Halloween when the 49ers converted three third-down plays into first downs in the final 4:53 to run out the clock.
Tampa Bay leads the league in rushing defense (78.1 yard a game) but is 31st in passing defense (293.5 yards). Shaquil Barrett has a league-high 10 1/2 sacks, but the Bucs gave up 347 yards passing and five touchdowns in a 40-34 overtime loss at Seattle last week. "It's basically on the back end, where we thought we'd be very strong," Arians said. "We've made errors mentally in technique and judgment and everything else, so very disappointing in that way. I'm not used to giving up leads in the fourth quarter, and we've done it a few times now."
Each side will feature a new running back. Kenyan Drake was a revelation in his first game with the Cardinals, gaining 110 yards rushing and a touchdown while adding 52 yards receiving. Second-year player Ronald Jones had 82 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in his first career start last week. Arizona halfback David Johnson (back) is expected to return after missing the past two games and all but one play of the game before that. Running back Chase Edmonds (hamstring) will miss his second straight game, and the status of cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring) is uncertain.
Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard (hamstring) is expected to play after missing the past two games. Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson (hamstring) is not expected back after sustaining an injury in Seattle.