Five things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Seahawks at State Farm Stadium:
Let the Josh Rosen Era commence
Josh Rosen is the starting quarterback. That was inevitable once he went in the game last week late against the Bears. But this will be the first chance for Rosen to make this his offense, on his terms, with a week of practicing with the starters. Rookie quarterbacks have had disparate results over the years in their first start. Usually, it’s about the defense helping out – remember, Max Hall won his first Cards’ start in large part because the defense had a big game – but in Rosen’s case, he has the ability to jump-start the offense. Whether that produces a lot is TBD, and certainly, the Seahawks still have a defense that can cause problems. We saw that last week against the Cowboys. But it’s hard to argue that Rosen should make the Cardinals more interesting to watch, even has he works through his learning curve.
Re-engaging with the top offensive playmakers
It’s been a subject the last couple of weeks, but with a new quarterback, the wait is on to see just what it might mean for running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz, of course, was targeted just twice last week. Johnson only had 16 touches in a close game, in a week when it was expected his role would increase in terms of those touches. How much the offense can improve, especially with a rookie quarterback, is to be determined. Having huge expectations would not be fair. At the same time, nothing has changed with the anticipated formula coming into the season: The Cards need production from Johnson and Fitzgerald to be the kind of offense they hope to be.
Hello Russell, our old friend
Russell Wilson, a quarterback who has been a thorn for the Cardinals since his very first NFL game, which just so happened to be at State Farm Stadium in 2012. Wilson has led some excellent teams, one Super Bowl winner, and while the Cardinals have sometimes come out as winners against him, there is little question Wilson has always made life difficult regardless of who he has around him on offense. The Cards have to find a way to bottle him up and keep him in the pocket – as usual – because giving Wilson a chance to run around in the backfield until receivers pop open means plays could end badly for a coverage unit who figures to play a decent amount of zone.
Shoutout to Beast Mode, a little bit
Since the departure of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have had a hard time with once was their bread-and-butter of the offense – pounding the ground with the run game, and letting Wilson work off of that. But last week, the Seahawks finally committed to running back Chris Carson more – the Seahawks did work with a lead for the whole game, allowing them to run it more often, so there is that – and Carson responded with 100-yard game. The Cardinals have slowly gotten better with their run defense through three games, and against an offense that isn’t overly explosive, more improvement is a must this week.
Remember what it’s like to beat the Seahawks here
The last time the Cardinals triumphed over the Seahawks at State Farm Stadium was 2012. It was Wilson’s first game, it was close – Wilson had the Seahawks in the red zone at the end looking for the game-winning touchdown, but the Cards’ defense held – and since then, home games versus Seattle haven’t gone well. Mostly, the Seahawks have won by double-digits. The one year the Cards should have won, somehow, the Seahawks snuck away with a 6-6 tie (I won’t rehash the gory details.) Finding a way to get one against their division rival would be a nice way to notch the first victory of the season.