Though the Arizona Cardinals offense is loaded with stars, new talent on defense could cause nightmares for their opponents
It wasn’t like the Arizona Cardinals defense needed much help. After all, defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s group ranked fifth in the NFL. Not bad for a first-year coordinator.
But one thing that was blatantly apparent was the team’s lack of a pass rush. Blitzing seemed to be the only way the unit could generate pressure. The problem with that was that it left Justin Bethel, Jerraud Powers and others on islands by themselves.
Enter pass rush extraordinaire Chandler Jones. After general manager Steve Keim basically crapped out in free agency, the glorious trade bringing Jones to Arizona was announced. The fifth year veteran could be the piece that puts the Cards over the top.
Adding a talent like Jones to an already excellent defense is an exciting proposition. He will line up at outside linebacker in Arizona’s 4-3 scheme. Other Cards should benefit from the attention Jones will garner, especially second-year pro Markus Golden.
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The Cardinals’ first-round pick was defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the 29th overall pick. Because of baggage the rookie brings along with him, Arizona may have gotten a top 10 talent at 29. Nkemdiche has speed, is extremely strong and can play the run and rush the passer equally well.
The club loves the length and speed of new safety Tyvon Branch. Not only can Branch “lay the wood” but he can blanket pass-catchers as well. Those coverage skills may come in handy with lingering questions at the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson.
With the addition of these three players, each level of the defense was strengthened. While Nkemdiche and Branch are looking like they could be big-time contributors, Jones should have the biggest impact. If he continues his Pro Bowl ways, the defense may go down as one of the organization’s all-time best.
It’s been said that defense wins championships in the NFL. The state of Arizona can only hope.