Throughout the week leading up to a game, coaches and players spend countless hours watching film, game planning for their upcoming opponent right down to each and every player's tendencies before, during and after the play.
What happens, though, when there's a question mark a certain position? For the Washington Redskins, they're faced with that very challenge this week as they take on the Arizona Cardinals and their revolving door at the quarterback position.
This season, the Cardinals (3-1) have seen Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas on the field calling the shots, and any one of three could get the nod this weekend at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Palmer began the season as the team's starting quarterback, but has been sidelined after injuring his shoulder in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers. The 12-year veteran has resumed throwing this week, and was limited at practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
In three games in Palmer's absence, Stanton threw for 529 yards and a pair of touchdowns, putting up a 75.4 quarterback rating in the process. But he was knocked out of the Cardinals last game against the Denver Broncos with a concussion, putting Thomas, a rookie dual-threat quarterback, under center.
The Chesapeake, Va., native completed just one pass – an 81-yard touchdown toss to running back Andre Ellington – against the Broncos in eight attempts. The former Virginia Tech Hokie rushed for 1,359 yards and 24 scores in college, but has yet to showcase that ability in the NFL.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said that his team will be prepare itself to be ready for all three quarterbacks on Sunday – and even veteran quarterback Dennis Dixon, whom the Cardinals signed to as insurance to their practice squad this week.
"I think you have to go at it based on what they've been doing," Gruden said. "I don't think they've really tapered back offensively. They've done just as much. We expect a similar type of attack and approach that they've had every game."
Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland agrees that the Redskins don't need to necessarily focus on the individual player, but rather the X's and O's of the Cardinals' offense.
"We got to prepare for the scheme, prepare for what they do because any quarterback can run their scheme," the rookie cornerback said. "We just got to focus on what they do day in and day out."
Schematically, the Redskins' most lethal weapon to counter with is their pass rush. Fifth in the NFL with 14 sacks, Washington's front seven reached Russell Wilson for three sacks on Monday night, but laid hits on the quarterback on several other occasions.
Arizona's quarterbacks have been sacked nine times, but are yet to throw an interception this season. By bringing pressure, Washington hopes to be able to force errant throws that can be intercepted by a lurking member of the secondary.
"We'll just continue to do the things we do in practice, continue to stress getting turnovers," Redskins middle linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "Hopefully we can rattle the quarterback by bringing pressure."
While it may not be until game time on Sunday that the Redskins know who they'll be dealing with, Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher believes that this week leading up to the game is no different than any other, and that the overall objective will remain the same: bring the pressure.
"You just game plan for two different quarterbacks. One of them is going to scramble, one of them is going to sit there," Hatcher said. "Whoever they have, we have to take the same approach to get out there and try to pressure the quarterback."