With two preseason games already in the books, James Bettcher’s defense is starting to come together.
With an off-season riddled with changes, the Arizona Cardinals come into 2017 looking to remain an elite defense. After two preseason games and solid performances from key players, new and old, the defense is starting to make strides.
For two weeks in a row, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche continues to turn heads. Questions whether the line would be in trouble after the departure of Calais Campbell are now gone. With Nkemdiche eating up opposing offensive lines like they were free samples at Costco, the defense can focus on its coverage’s.
Getting pressure with only four certainly can help a defense close any gaps in coverage. But if history serves us well, the Cardinals will still look to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The art of the blitz
The Arizona Cardinals blitzed 40.9 percent of the time in 2016. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher loves to bring pressure. Adding in new, versatile players should only bring a smile to his face, as he now has new toys at his disposal. “The thing as a coordinator you’ve got to balance is how much do you do, where things all of the sudden weigh on their mind and they’re playing slow,” he said. “That will be the balance we find.”
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Even with a fierce pass-rush combo in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden on the outside, I don’t expect those blitzing numbers to drop significantly. The Cardinals led the NFL in sacks in 2016. To repeat that, they’ll count on those two to get home first and let the linebackers and secondary handle their assignments in coverage.
In a perfect world, getting to the QB with only four would be ideal. But this isn’t Utopia, and the Cardinals love to confuse opposing offenses with their exotic blitz packages. The additions of safety Budda Baker and Haason Reddick only add to the intrigue.
“We’re going to have a lot of speed on the field for sure,” Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think we have a lot of guys that can move around and play the same part as each other. Hopefully we can play well off each other and complement each other.”
The Chicago Bears are next in the exhibition season. Look for the starters and “bubble” players to play a bit longer.