Cardinals vs Buccaneers: Breaking Down Arizona's Game Plan

Andrew Nordmeier@@AndrewNordmeierContributor IIISeptember 26, 2013

Mike Glennon (right) gets the start at quarterback for Tampa Bay.
Mike Glennon (right) gets the start at quarterback for Tampa Bay.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday and they will face a much-different Tampa Bay team. The Bucs are going to start rookie Mike Glennon at quarterback according to Adam Schefter and Ed Werder of ESPN. It marks the first time in 60 games that someone other than Josh Freeman will start at quarterback. Glennon stands 6'6" and 225 pounds. He was drafted in the third round from North Carolina State in April's NFL draft. 

With Glennon getting the nod under center, it has a drastic change on the Arizona game plan. Let's break it down starting with the defense. 

Defensive Game Plan

1. Pressure Glennon

This should be fairly obvious, but the Cardinals need to bring pressure on the rookie quarterback. Last week, they got to Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints four times. The push has to come from the front four since the linebacking unit is badly beaten up. Darnell Dockett picked up three sacks last week. Nose tackle Dan Williams will be out of the lineup for a second straight week. He will be attending his father's funeral this weekend according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic

Last week, Arizona attacked rookie guard Tim Lelito and found success rushing against him. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers don't have a starter with less than five years of experience, according to their depth chart. There won't be an obvious point of attack and the Cardinals will have to figure it out on the fly Sunday. 

The last thing Arizona should do is what's seen in these highlights from YouTube. In most of them, Glennon was given a clean pocket and an open receiver. That's a deadly combination especially when it involves a receiver like Vincent Jackson. 

2. Cage the Hamster

It should be self-explanatory that we're referring to Doug "Muscle Hamster" Martin. Arizona needs to stop him. Martin has been the most consistent offensive threat on the team, averaging 99 yards per game rushing.

Martin hasn't been used much as a receiver this season. He has just four receptions in three games but had 49 catches for 472 yards last season. Martin's off pace from last season, but a new quarterback might look to him as a security blanket. 

Martin will pose a challenge to the new linebacking corps. In the past week, Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Kevin Minter were all lost to season-ending injuries. According to Darren Urban of the team's official website, Dontay Moch has been moved to the active 53-man roster to fill one of the holes. 

John Abraham will start as the weak-side linebacker while Matt Shaughnessy will start out on the strong-side of the formation, according to Urban. They will be challenged trying to keep Martin in a cage of defenders. 

If you look at this chart from, you'll see that most of Martin's runs last week were up the middle. He had 14 carries that were between the guards and six rushes that were outside of them. If the defensive line can crash the middle, Martin could have a tough day. 

3. Don't get burned by play action 

The Cardinals need to stay focused on the ball and not get baited into play-action passing situations. Tampa has a workhorse running back. Look for them to use him time-to-time as a decoy and see how many Cardinals he can pull in. 

Arizona has eager linebackers and they need to stay home to disable this potential weapon of the Tampa offense. If they get sucked in by the fake, Glennon might find open receivers and wreak havoc in the passing game. 

Offensive Game Plan

1. Don't Pull a Hurley

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs to make sure he doesn't make like Hurley and spend his day lost on Revis Island. That's the unofficial moniker of where Tampa cornerback Darrelle Revis takes opposing receivers when he covers them one-on-one. Fitzgerald will likely have Revis all over him all day long. 

It's going to be up to Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts to step up. They will need to fill in the production that the Cardinals will be missing from Fitzgerald. There will be no flash-forwards in this game but Fitzgerald will have a difficult game against Revis. 

2. Get In the Red Zone

Excluding the series that led to the opening-drive touchdown, Arizona ran one play inside the New Orleans 35-yard line for the rest of the day. That play was a Carson Palmer interception. The Cardinals need to get deeper down the field in order to have legitimate scoring chances. 

Field goals from that distance can be a tricky proposal, even when kicking in a dome. Arizona kicker Jay Feely missed a 50-yarder in the season opener against the St. Louis Rams. The Cardinals need to get closer to increase Feely's chances. 

Another factor that might slow them down is the weather. It has been raining all week in the Tampa area but is expected to break for the weekend, according to The field could be sloppy. As if it wasn't hard enough to move the ball last week, Mother Nature might also play a role too. 

3. Read the Pressure and Pick Up the Blitz

Palmer has been sacked nine times in three games this season and that won't cut it against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have posted 12 sacks in their first three games. They've come from eight different players and that's the key here. 

Arizona needs to figure out who is coming on the blitz and make sure they can stem the flow. It could require a running back to stay in and offer extra pass protection. Perhaps it's a tight end making a chip block before running his route. 

It's a poorly-kept secret that Levi Brown has had his share of struggles at left tackle this season. Look for him to get support to keep Palmer upright. 

Tampa is tied for third in the league in sacks with the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets. Only the Kansas City Chiefs (15) and Dallas Cowboys (13) have more sacks. 

When you put it all together, Arizona has a good chance to win. If they do, they will push Tampa Bay to 0-4 as they head to their bye week. 


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