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Cardinals Ready For Up-Tempo Eagles

Notes: Gresham, Sendlein return to practice; Peterson wants to stay on punt return

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Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell rushes the passer during last year's game against the Eagles.


Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense was revolutionary when he arrived to coach the Eagles in 2013.

Almost three seasons later – and with the Cardinals having played Kelly's Eagles in each of the last two years – Philadelphia is still up-tempo. But the Cards aren't fazed.

"You get used to it," defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. "We've seen it before. We can expect it."

Added safety Tony Jefferson, "It's just what they do, so I don't think it's that much of a talking point anymore."

The Cardinals haven't been stung on the scoreboard in the previous two meetings, allowing 24 and 20 points, respectively. Last year, however, the Eagles piled up 454 yards and it took three contested passes in the end zone denied by the Cards' secondary to preserve the victory.

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said the tempo is the key to an offense that in the end, doesn't operate a lot differently than others. Communication is the crucial component.

"Everyone has to be on the same page," Bettcher said. "Then it comes down to fundamentals."

Jefferson said that communication includes having the right people on the field, noting that while watching video, it is easy to see defenses get caught with 12 men as they try to keep up.

The Cardinals are going through practice this week without huddling on defense, in order to replicate how they will work Sunday night. Bettcher said the scout team offensive is not huddling, and scout players are being shown the "look" play by four different people, as to simulate the Eagles at the line in formation as they prepare for the next play.

Campbell said the Cards also caught a break because the Eagles played the Jets earlier this season, with New York coach Todd Bowles – the former Cardinals defensive coordinator – running basically the same defense as Bettcher. That gave the Cards a feel on how the Eagles may attack.

The Eagles go faster in the first 15 plays or so, cornerback Patrick Peterson said, because it is scripted.

"After that, I think the game will settle down," Peterson added.

MISSING RASHAD?

The Cardinals got a handful of players back to practice on a limited basis Thursday, including Peterson (ankle), tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (illness) and center Lyle Sendlein (knee). But safety

Rashad Johnson – the key player on the back end of the defense and the one players point to as a coach on the field – sat out a second straight day with an ankle injury.

"I don't want to imagine life without Rashad behind us," Peterson said. "He's the one that gets everyone in line, that calls out the plays. He understands the flow of the game. Not that the other guys don't, but to have that veteran leadership and mindset is a huge piece."

Bettcher said the Cardinals will lean on the "next man up" if necessary, although there seems to be optimism Johnson could be back Sunday. Defensive tackles Cory Redding (ankle) and Frostee Rucker (ankle/illness) also sat out after going limited Wednesday. Running back Andre Ellington (toe) sat out as well.

The only Eagles player to be listed as anything but full practice was defensive end Vinny Curry (illness), who sat out.

PETERSON WANTS TO STAY ON PUNT RETURNS

Peterson said he would be fine to play this week, and emphasized his ankle injury came on defense and not returning punts. Coach Bruce Arians suggested earlier this week that Peterson could be taken off punt returns.

As he has said all season, Peterson does not want to surrender that duty. He has averaged 8.4 yards on 29 returns this season, often going down without contact if a big play is not developing.

"Like Coach said at the beginning of the week, I'm smart enough not to take those stupid hits," Peterson said. "I understand what I mean to the team. That thought (of stopping) never came to my mind. Actually, Coach told me (Wednesday), 'I'm thinking about taking you off punt return.'  I literally started to beg him no."

Images from past matchups between the Cardinals and this week's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles



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