Though the Washington Football Team’s Week 1 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was memorable and impressive, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” business. That means come Sunday, all that will matter is how the team performs against the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona itself is coming off an impressive win against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers and houses a formidable defense and a talented offense led by quarterback Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Week 2 will be anything but easy.
For Washington to leave the desert 2-0, former player and current NBC Sports Washington analyst Brian Mitchell believes three things must happen.
The first relates to the Burgundy and Gold’s talented defensive front. Receiving a lot of hype prior to the season, the unit delivered in Week 1 with eight sacks and constant pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Chase Young looked as good as advertised and Ryan Kerrigan was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, despite his low snap count.
When looking at the elusiveness of Murray, Mitchell believes a similar performance must follow in Week 2.
“Last week, they had an unbelievable defensive output, and if they do that, they have to make sure that they get to Kyler Murray,” Mitchell said.
It won’t just be about creating pressure either, as making Murray uncomfortable in the pocket may not be enough. Murray ran 13 times for 91 yards and a score in Week 1, as his legs constantly hurt the 49ers’ defense.
If Washington wants to limit his ability, Mitchell feels they’ll need to keep him in the pocket and wrap him up once they break through the line of scrimmage. They were able to do it against Wentz, but Murray is a different animal.
“When you get to Kyler Murray, you make sure you corral him,” Mitchell said. “Don’t allow him to get outside the pocket and don’t allow him to hit creases because he can hurt you.
“Carson Wentz can move around, he’s good. Kyler Murray is magnificent.”
The defensive front will have its hands full with Murray but won’t be the only unit tasked with slowing a talented star on Sunday. DeAndre Hopkins is now a Cardinal and he happened to catch a nonchalant 14 passes for 151 yards in his debut. The Washington secondary will have to try and make sure that doesn’t happen again.
That is Mitchell’s second key to the game, as it was clear Arizona’s offense ran heavily through Hopkins right out of the gate. Shutting down the talented wideout is a tall task but keeping him out of the stat sheet isn’t needed, or plausible. Instead, Washington must only allow Hopkins’ receptions to come in small chunks and outside of the red zone.
“I feel you must stop — or limit, you’re not going to stop him,” Mitchell said. “You must limit DeAndre Hopkins output. Fourteen receptions, he did not get into the end zone.”
The defense has plenty to worry about, but the offense isn’t off the hook. Mitchell’s third key revolves around Dwayne Haskins and company looking sharper right out of the gate.
“I think the offense of the Washington Football team has to start faster,” Mitchell said.
That didn’t happen in Week 1, as the offense put together numerous three-and-outs in the first half and quickly fell behind 17-0.
While the team eventually rallied, that’s not a formula for success. Going up against a Cardinals offense that will take advantage of mistakes and score efficiently, Mitchell stated that there cannot be another slow start.
“They have to start fast, put some touchdowns on the board, because I think Arizona will have opportunities and probably will score,” Mitchell said.
Football is an unpredictable game, but if the Washington Football Team can succeed in these three areas, Mitchell believes the winning can continue for another week.