Can the Arizona Cardinals respond to a trade like the Cleveland Browns?
Rarely does anyone cite the Browns as any sort of benchmark, but if Cleveland can put together a winning streak after trading away former first round pick Trent Richardson mid-season, then why not the Red Birds, right?
In this case, we're referring to the Cards trading away former fifth pick overall Levi Brown to the Steelers for a conditional draft pick. This mid-season maneuver is known as the "addition by subtraction" game plan.
"I don't think it comes as any surprise that Levi Brown was not living up to our expectations," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said.
When Arizona hosts Carolina on Sunday at sold-out University of Phoenix Stadium, Brown will be replaced by Bradley Sowell, claimed off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 1. Sowell played in 10 games for Indianapolis as an undrafted rookie last season, when Arians was offensive coordinator, then interim head coach.
Does Arians see a risk in going with an unproven player at left tackle instead of an unproductive one? During a Wednesday press conference, Arians stated that he expected "no drop-off at all" at the position.
"The problems that have occurred I don't think will get any worse," Arians said. "Hopefully they're going to get better, not only in pass protection but in the run game."
Now, if the Cardinals want to emulate a rushing attack, then they can easily look at the opposing sideline on Sunday. Carolina enters the game ranked No. 3 in rushing yards per game. Featuring DeAngelo Williams, who's coming off 120 yards rushing in a 38-0 rout of the New York Giants, and rookie speedster Kenjon Barner, no team has rushed for more yards in the NFL since 2008.
And, of course, let's not forget Cam Newton. The Panthers are 7-3 in three seasons when the 6-foot-5, 245 pound QB runs the ball nine times or more in a game.
Luckily for the Cards, the recent run defense woes of last season (AZ ranked 28th vs. the rush) under former defensive coordinator Ray Horton appear to be a thing of the past.
Current coordinator Todd Bowles currently runs the NFL's second-ranked run defense, allowing just 75 yards per game. In fact, the Cards win in Tampa marked the third time in four games this season that the Cards have held opponents below 3.0 yards per rushing attempt.
"They definitely present a lot of problems to our defense," said Patrick Peterson, who earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after a pair of interceptions at Tampa.
"But I think that we have the guys on this side of the ball that have the ability to slow those guys down. And try to slow down those big plays," Peterson said. "I believe if we do a good job of doing that, we'll have a good opportunity of winning the ball game."