It’s been the Achilles heel of the defense so if the Arizona Cardinals want a Super Bowl title their new additions better get to the quarterback
The Arizona Cardinals entered the offseason looking to address one major weakness. Despite finishing the 2015 campaign as the NFL’s 5th-ranked defense they found it difficult getting to the quarterback.
The team generated just 35 sacks in 2014 and 36 last season after racking up 47 in 2013 (when Todd Bowles was defensive coordinator).
James Bettcher took over as coordinator last season and did an admirable job. But the lack of sacks remained a problem even with the defense’s 5th-best ranking. It was especially apparent in the NFC Championship game, when Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was sacked just once.
Reinforcements have arrived. Pass rush specialist Chandler Jones arrived via a trade and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was drafted with the team’s 1st-round pick.
Unfortunately the pair weren’t really on display in the Cards’ preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders. Nkemdiche sat out the contest with an ankle injury and Jones got just a few snaps. The other pass rushers on the team didn’t pick up the slack at all, generating zero sacks.
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Besides Jones and Nkemdiche, 2nd-year pro Markus Golden has flashed potential. Golden recorded four sacks last season as a rookie. With the presence of Jones on the other side, those numbers are expected to go up for the outside linebacker.
Another outside linebacker, Alex Okafor, played well against Oakland. He found his way into the backfield a few times though he recorded no sacks. The 4th-year pro had eight sacks in 2014 but only two last season.
The front office decided against bringing back wily veteran and sack artist Dwight Freeney. The future Hall of Famer managed eight sacks in only eleven regular season games plus another in the playoffs. His performance showed there’s still life in those old legs, letting him leave may have been a mistake.
The Cards are expecting big things from the talented Jones. He recorded 12.5 sacks last season and landed in the Pro Bowl. Nkemdiche is talented but, being a rookie, he will be given time to grow if he needs it. But the sooner he can contribute the better.
General manager Steve Keim went out and got the defense the help it needed. Arizona may have won the Super Bowl last season if they had been able to get to the quarterback more.
Will Jones be the final piece, the player that puts the team over the top and leads them to a championship? There are many NFL “experts” who believe he will do just that. Let’s all hope they know what they’re talking about.