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Eagles Concerned About Cardinals’ Speed: ‘It’s a Significant Issue!’

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PHILADELPHIA – A get-right game has turned the corner into a get-right stretch for the 11-4 Philadelphia Eagles, who will welcome the rebooting 3-12 Arizona Cardinals and their head coach, former Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

The return of Gannon, a lighting-rod figure disliked by a large portion of the Philadelphia fan base, has overwhelmed the actual football set to be played with the Eagles trying to finish the regular season strongly to maximize their seeding position in the playoffs.

On paper, this is a mismatch with the rebuilding Cardinals probably more focused on draft position as an organization rather than another win or two in the final weeks although Gannon would surely like to beat his old team and stick it to his detractors who ignored his No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL last season that generated a franchise-record 70 sacks.

It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals having the firepower to stand toe to toe with the Eagles but there always has to be concern with play-making quarterback Kyler Murray, who missed two days of practice this week with an illness but is expected to play.

“He still can go,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said on Friday when discussing Murray who returned from a torn ACL suffered late in the 2022 season on Nov. 7. “He’s still a really good player. Obviously, each week he gets healthier. And you’ve got to know where he is.

“…. You’ve got to account for him on each and every play. He’s really, really outstanding. He is a playmaker, right. He can make plays with his arm and his mind and his feet.”

Nick Sirianni has some things to worry about with Cardinals.John McMullen Eagles Today
Nick Sirianni has some things to worry about with Cardinals. John McMullen Eagles Today

Defensive play-caller Matt Patricia also played the caution card with the athletic Murray.

“He’s extremely explosive, very fast, very quick. Unbelievable athlete,” Patricia said. “I think the thing about him, is you go out there and you’re like, ‘all right, I’ve got this guy lined up, and we’re good,’ and then he’s gone.

“He does a great job with the angles. He manipulates the angles on the field, and you can see where his other sports athleticism comes into play here. He just does a great job, and he sets you up. He’ll go and he’ll get real tall and then you start to rise up and all of a sudden he’s gone. He’s just down and he moves and he’s quick.”

When it comes to zero to 60, Murray might be the best in football even after the knee injury.

“The biggest thing with him that’s interesting since he came in the league that I’ve noticed is, he will hit top speed right now. Like there’s no buildup to it,” Patricia said. “It’s not like he has to get going for five yards before he’s running full speed. He can just go. I think that’s what surprises everybody right away is how fast he moves and how quickly he can get to that top speed.”

If anything is keeping the Eagles’ staff up at night this week with the Cardinals it’s speed.

Related: Eagles vs. Cardinals Preview: ‘All Love’ For New Year’s Eve Matchup

“I think they have got some skill players that have some really good speed, obviously on offense and obviously the quarterback makes that — when he’s touching the ball every time, and he has the type of speed that he has, that can show off the team speed as well,” Sirianni said. “… You definitely see the speed when you put on the tape.”

The final piece of the puzzle for the Cards is about power and perhaps the best path to an upset. Running back James Conner is a bruising chain-mover that can chew up clock and shorten the game.

“Coach Gannon has done a great job with this team and getting the team to play aggressive and physical, and certainly Conner, the running back. He’s a big, big guy coming downhill,” Patricia said. “He gets outside, he’s got good speed, good change of direction. I think they are doing a great job with him and when he gets rolling, it’s a problem.”

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