With all the attention focused on newly hired Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury‘s offense, the defense will quietly try to bounce back as one of the league’s most dominant groups.
After the failed experiment of Steve Wilks’ 4-3 defense, the Arizona Cardinals lost credibility when it came to playing defense. A once fierce, aggressive and dominating group, the Redbirds found themselves near the bottom of the barrel on the defensive side of the ball.
In 2018, the Cardinals ranked 20th in the NFL in overall defense — 4th in passing; 32nd (last) in rushing. A far cry from the days of former defensive coordinators Todd Bowles and James Bettcher.
During the off-season, General Manager Steve Keim made it a point of emphasis to get back to the glory days of “aggressive, attacking” defense. He put his money where his mouth was in hiring former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph.
Joseph brings an attacking, aggressive system back to the desert. His only issue so far is that he’ll be down his top-2 cornerbacks to start the season. All-Pro Patrick Peterson will be serving a six-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs and free agent signee Robert Alford (leg) was placed on IR and will not be eligible to return to play until Week 9.
The onus will fall on rookie Byron Murphy and 10-year veteran Tramaine Brock. “I’m not sure where we are as a defense,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said on Thursday to reporters.
With questions marks on the outside at corner, Joseph will most certainly have to rely on more zone coverages on the back end and heavy pressure up front. The good news is that he still has great ball players on the edge that can get to the quarterback.
OLB Chandler Jones has led the NFL in sacks since 2016 and he has help with the acquisition of valley native and 17-year veteran Terrell Suggs playing opposite of him. Their first test comes this Sunday at State Farm Field when the Detroit Lions bring with them their new offense after the hiring of former Seattle Seahawks offense coordinator Derrell Bevell.
Will the short-handed defense hold up, or will the Cards have to depend on their offense to over compensate for a sub-par unit? There are a myriad of questions that need answers for the 2019 Cardinals — and we’ll start to get answers come Sunday afternoon.