Arizona Cardinals defense has been getting the job done in 2021

(Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) Vance Joseph
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) Vance Joseph /

Coordinator Vance Joseph’s much-maligned defensive unit has been holding up its end of the bargain for the Arizona Cardinals.

Over the course of Vance Joseph’s first two years with the Arizona Cardinals, the defensive coordinator presided over a group that was considered the Achilles’ heel of the team.

A large contingent of Cards followers believed that Joseph should’ve been relieved of his duties following the 2019 campaign, and once again deserved to be dismissed at the conclusion of last season. Arizona’s offense appeared to be more than capable of getting the job done, but the defense wasn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Surely, the club’s front office would find a replacement for Joseph sometime during the 2021 offseason.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. The Cardinals decided to stick with Joseph, and it’s a good thing that they did. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s crew is the only undefeated squad in the NFL at the current time, and Joseph’s unit has been an integral part of the success.

Joseph’s turnaround in the desert has been nothing short of amazing. The veteran assistant finally has the pieces he needs to run his system. Joseph is the proud leader of a stingy, hard-hitting defense that’s been shutting down some of the league’s most potent scoring attacks.

Arizona Cardinals defense has become a formidable unit in 2021

After six weeks, the Redbirds are giving up an average of 342.8 yards per game, a figure that ranks them 10th-overall in the National Football League. Joseph’s contingent is yielding 214.8 yards through the air (6th-best overall) and 128.0 yards on the ground (24th-overall). However, those numbers don’t even begin to tell the true story of the Cards’ defensive unit in ’21.

Arizona is giving up a measly 18.2 points per game, an amount that ties them with the New Orleans Saints for the second-best mark in professional football. Only the Buffalo Bills have given up less through the six contests that have been played.

The addition of five-time Pro Bowler J.J. Watt has been fantastic for the Cardinals. The star defensive end has been credited with 15 tackles (four for a loss), two pass breakups, a forced fumble, a sack, and nine quarterback hits. Chandler Jones (currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list) has racked up nine tackles (five for a loss), two forced fumbles, five sacks, and 14 quarterback hits in five starts for Arizona.

Inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons has blossomed in his second professional campaign, tallying 39 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception, and three pass breakups in six starts. Jordan Hicks has been outstanding as well, totaling 42 tackles, three sacks, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble. Cornerback Byron Murphy has been a terror in the Cards secondary, registering 20 tackles, three picks (one for a touchdown), and seven pass breakups.

The weapons that Joseph has at his disposal are seemingly endless. Defenders like Budda Baker, Markus Golden, Jalen Thompson, and rookie Marco Wilson have also been major contributors.

light. Must Read. Why the Cardinals shouldn't be slept on in 2021

It’s crazy to think that many people, less than one year ago, wanted Joseph to leave town. The Cardinals’ hierarchy kept the faith, and the results have been sensational. It’s been a while, but the organization finally has a defense that’s capable of bringing home a Super Bowl championship.

(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)