While it’s still springing leaks here and there the defense of the Arizona Cardinals may be on the verge of something special
The Arizona Cardinals knew they were losing someone special when Todd Bowles bolted for the New York Jets last year. Their defensive coordinator left to become a head coach and the Cardinals had some big shoes to fill.
After flirting with defensive coaching legend Dick Lebeau, they ultimately decided to promote from within the organization. The youthful James Bettcher took over and proceeded to lead the unit to a 5th overall ranking in the NFL.
The team entered this year’s training camp with a big hole at the cornerback position. While Patrick Peterson is a stud, the NFL requires two starters at the position. They anointed a rookie, Brandon Williams, who just wasn’t good enough to handle it.
A brilliant trade in early September brought Marcus Cooper into the fold and he has settled in nicely. Three interceptions and twenty tackles in four starts by “Coop” has the deal looking like a steal.
General manager Steve Keim struck gold again when he dealt for pass rushing stud Chandler Jones back in March. He’s been everything they hoped for and more, as good against the run as he is rushing the passer. He’s well on his way to a double-digit sack campaign, accumulating four in his five games as a Cardinal.
Markus Golden has benefited greatly from Jones’ presence. He already has six sacks in five games, and appears to be on the verge of a huge season.
When watching the Cards play you’ll rarely hear Peterson’s name during the telecast (unless he’s making a tackle). Teams have for the most part refused to throw at him. It’s the ultimate show of respect for a cornerback.
After a slow start to the season, Calais Campbell came up with a huge performance this past Thursday night. The free agent-to-be accounted for two sacks, a pick and a safety. It will be interesting to see how his contract situation plays out in the offseason.
Safety Tony Jefferson is playing for a contract and is on a tear. He’s making plays all over the field and leads his mates with 46 tackles. At this rate he’ll be due for a big raise in 2017, either in Arizona or elsewhere.
There’s a load of talent on the defense that hasn’t even gotten going yet. Players like Tyrann Mathieu, Frostee Rucker, Alex Okafor, Josh Mauro, Rodney Gunter and rookie Robert Nkemdiche comprise that group.
The pieces are in place. The Arizona defense is gonna be a scary bunch when they pull it all together. The rest of the NFL best be prepared when they do.