Arizona Cardinals front seven should improve greatly in 2021

(Photo by Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports) J.J. Watt
(Photo by Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports) J.J. Watt /

A dramatic improvement from the front seven could be on tap for the Arizona Cardinals defense as the 2021 NFL season approaches.

Three seasons into his stint as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, Vance Joseph may finally be running out of excuses.

Far too often during the past two campaigns, Joseph’s defense failed to get off of the field on third down, and they routinely displayed some embarrassing tackling techniques as well.

Things could be on the upswing for the Cardinals‘ defense in 2021, however, thanks to a front seven that could potentially show dramatic improvement over the group that took to the field last fall.

What will be different for the Arizona Cardinals front seven in 2021?

Perhaps the most obvious change that was made to Joseph’s crew was the addition of the sensational J.J. Watt back in March. The five-time Pro Bowler will bring a superstar presence to an Arizona defensive line that has lacked that quality since Calais Campbell left the team back in 2017.

Another huge factor for the Cardinals will be the return of the great Chandler Jones, the squad’s fabulous pass-rusher who suffered a season-ending bicep injury last October. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder played in just five games last year, after a 2019 campaign in which he recorded 19 quarterback sacks for the Redbirds.

Situated in the middle of the Arizona defensive contingent will sit what appears to be the youngest inside linebacker duo in the NFL. Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, the franchise’s top selections from the past two drafts, could be ready to show off their skills on each and every offense they face this coming season.

Joining Watt on the Cardinals’ defensive line are players like Jordan Phillips, Leki Fotu, Zach Allen, and Rashard Lawrence. Phillips disappointed as a free-agent pickup last season after registering 9.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits for the Buffalo Bills in 2019. Allen made significant improvement last year in his second campaign with Arizona, while Fotu and Lawrence showed promise as rookie nose tackles.

Outside linebacker Markus Golden returned to the desert last October and he displayed the same high motor Cardinals fans fell in love with during his first term with the club.

Dennis Gardeck contributed seven sacks in extremely limited action before an injured knee sidelined the special teams ace in December. As for Jordan Hicks and Devon Kennard, they are two high-priced backups who may not make it through final cuts in September.

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Arizona’s front office is expecting positive results next season out of what looks like a much-improved band of defenders. A front seven led by star performers like Watt and Jones is preparing to lead the way.