TEMPE, Ariz. – It’s a homecoming of sorts for Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins, who spent the 2009 season as the running backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
He shouldn’t expect any welcome-back presents from a physical Cardinals defense that ranks 11th overall in total yardage and has playmakers throughout.
That list starts with inside linebacker Daryl Washington, who’s playing as well as anyone in the league at that position. Washington, a second-round pick out of TCU in 2010, has made 39 tackles and four sacks so far this season, along with a forced fumble.
“He’s a good player. He’s fast. He has a knack for being around the ball, getting to the ball, and he’s a great blitzer. And he went to TCU so that makes it even better,” said Modkins, a former three-year starter at running back for the Horned Frogs.
Modkins’ offense will also have to contend with cornerback Patrick Peterson, a second-year veteran out of LSU.
“He’s come a long ways from where he was [last season] as a defensive back,” Modkins said. “We all know he’s a great athlete, a great return guy, but he’s really improved and he has a chance to be a special player in this league for a long time.”
Peterson is expected to be matched up against Bills receiver Stevie Johnson most of Sunday.
“He’s different,” Peterson said of Johnson. “He has a different approach at the line of scrimmage. He’s very shifty. He’s quick.
“He gives you a couple of different looks, and he’s going to try to force the corner to open up his hips. I have to do a great job of staying patient, staying square, so I can dictate pretty much where I want him to go.”
The Cardinals have also rushed the passer well, recording 17 sacks. They run a base 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, in which they send pressure from all different angles. Of those 17 sacks, just two have come from a lineman, defensive end Calais Campbell, and another two from blitzing safeties. Their play-making linebackers have the rest.
Rookie Nigel Bradham confirmed Friday he will replace Arthur Moats as the Bills’ starting strong-side linebacker.
“I’ve got an opportunity to start, [I’ve] just got to take advantage,” said Bradham, a Florida State product. “Hopefully I can lock the position down and keep it.”
He was in for 42 snaps last week against the 49ers, his most extensive playing time this season, tying for a team high with six tackles. The coaches informed him Monday that he’d be starting.
The Bills like Bradham’s ability to get to the ball. The 6-foot-2, 241-pounder has a good blend of size and speed. He also might be the only starting linebacker in the NFL with braces.
“It’s funny you mention that. I hear some kind of trash talk about that on the field,” he said. “It’s all good, I just got to show them what I can do.”
The Bills listed four starters as questionable for Sunday’s game following practice Friday at Arizona State University.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (foot), guard Chad Rinehart (calf), center Eric Wood (foot) and safety Jairus Byrd (chest) are all questionable. Williams returned to practice on a limited basis Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday. Rinehart, Wood and Byrd all participated on a limited basis for the second straight practice.
Out Sunday are offensive tackle Cordy Glenn (ankle), defensive end Mark Anderson (knee), guard Kraig Urbik (ankle), defensive tackle Spencer Johnson (ankle) and center Colin Brown (hamstring). Brown is on injured reserve, but has to appear on the team’s injury report this week after he was hurt in Week Five.
Probable for the game are cornerback Aaron Williams (hand) and defensive end Mario Williams (wrist). They both have practiced fully the past two days.
The Cardinals do not rule any players out, but have an extensive injury report with 14 players listed. Four of those players – cornerback Michael Adams (hamstring), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) and linebacker Reggie Walker (head) – are listed as doubtful. Only Adams was able to practice at all during the week, on a limited basis Friday.
Questionable for Arizona are defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (hamstring), tight ends Jim Dray (knee) and Todd Heap (knee), linebackers Paris Lenon (knee), Quentin Groves (hamstring) and O’Brien Schofield (knee).
The four probable Cardinals – running backs LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) and William Powell (head), quarterback John Skelton (ankle) and guard Adam Snyder – practiced fully.