For the second week in a row, the Redskins' secondary will face the NFL's top-ranked passing offense.
Last Sunday, the Redskins limited the St. Louis Rams' high-powered offense to just one touchdown and 142 passing yards. It helped, of course, that the Rams had to start rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was sacked three times and bewildered by the Redskins' aggressive defense.
This week, the Redskins square off against the new No. 1 passing offense--and Arizona will be starting a two-time league MVP and Super Bowl winner in quarterback Kurt Warner.
At wide receiver, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald make up one of the NFL's top duos. Bryant Johnson, a first-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2003, is the third receiver.
Warner has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 2,343 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Fitzgerald is tied with Carolina's Steve Smith for the league-lead in catches with 82. Boldin is fifth with 68 catches. Fitzgerald and Boldin have combined for 2,220 receiving yards.
Last week against the Rams, Springs lined up mostly against Pro Bowl receiver Torry Holt. Springs was able to keep Holt in front of him--limiting the possibility for big plays--and hold Holt to six catches for 75 yards.
Springs said the Rams' receivers are more speed-based while the Cardinals' young group tends to be more physical.
"[Fitzgerald] is not afraid to use his body in traffic," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "He'll go up over defensive backs and make tough catches. He doesn't seem to back down from any challenge, week to week. Anquan is a strong, physical guy. After the catch, he's probably one of the most dangerous guys in the league as far as running with the ball in his hands. He breaks tackles."
Rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers, who started last Sunday's game against the Rams, knows he will be tested as well.
"Boldin can take a 1-yard catch and break it for 54 yards," Rogers said. "He's like a running back at the wide receiver position. He's a big guy, almost 230 pounds, and that can make it tougher for a cornerback who's smaller. We're going to have to tackle him well."
Added Rogers: "Being a rookie, I know that they're going to come after me like they did in the Rams game. I need to step my game up each and every week. I'm going to be in on every down, so it's a big challenge for me."
And then there's Warner. Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams is more than familiar with Warner, having coached against him and the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. Warner has adjusted to his third team in as many seasons.
"Kurt is putting [the Cardinals] on his shoulders," Williams said. "He's got a talented, physical wide receivers corps and he's throwing it down the field. It's like some of the old 'Run and Shoot' teams in the league."
The one positive, from the Redskins' standpoint, is that Warner is not very mobile. He has been sacked 19 times this season, so he could be a target for the Redskins' aggressive defense.
It could also help the Redskins' defense that Arizona has become somewhat one-dimensional offensively. The Cardinals have the NFL's 32nd-ranked rushing offense. Fifth-year back Marcel Shipp is the leading rusher with just 297 yards and a 2.6 yards-per-carry average. Rookie back J.J. Arrington has seen increased action in recent weeks as Shipp recovers from a neck injury.
"It's not that the Cardinals don't run the football much, it's that they soften you up by throwing it," Williams said.
Added Rogers: "We know they're going to throw the ball. They come out with a lot of receivers on first, second and third down. Most teams come out just on third down with a lot of receivers. They haven't been effective with their running, so we'll have to continue to stop the run and try to contain their passing game."