When most people hear about the Arizona Cardinals, their first thought is of Kurt Warner and the prolific duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, but Adrian Wilson and the defense should get some love too. At the start of the season it was pretty obvious that the offense was going to be able to light up a score board, but many wondered if the defense would be able to pull it's own weight. Before Whiz came to town the Cardinals were utterly pathetic on defense ranking 29th in yards per game. They improved in 2007 moving to 17th in yards per game, but they would have been even better had the defense not been ravaged by injuries last year. This season though the defense has been healthy and productive ranking 11th in yards per game. One of the biggest differences for this defense in 2008 has been the ability to create turnovers. In 2007 they had 29 turnovers (18 Ints & 11 fumbles recovered), or 1.8 per game and so far this year they've already got 22 turnovers (10 Ints & 12 fumbles recovered), or 2.2 per game. One of the biggest catalysts of the defense's emergence has been Adrian Wilson, who's looking more and more like the Pro Bowl player that he was a couple of seasons ago.
Wilson enjoyed a breakout season in 2005, his fifth season, when he led the Cardinals in tackles and his 8 sacks were a NFL record for defensive backs. He followed that season up with another good year in 2006 when he was third on the team in tackles and tied for the lead league in sacks among defensive backs. The highlight of his 2006 would be him returning an interception and a fumble recovery 99 yards for a touchdown (NFL record for multiple TDs of that length) and he'd be voted to his first Pro Bowl. As we know the defense took a serious nose dive last year after Wilson missed the final seven games (21.6 points per game with him and 29.1 ppg without) but he's come back with a vengeance this season. He's back to playing around the line of scrimmage and causing havoc for opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers. Wilson's also improving his play as the season progresses and he was outstanding the past three games. The last three games, Wilson's terrorized the rest of the NFC West with 15 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception (and other pick negated by a penalty). The rest of the defense also fed off of Wilson and they held the Rams, Niners and Seahawks to just 19 points and 254 yards per game (both below the season averages for the defense).
It took a while but Whiz and the new coaching staff seem to have finally figured out the best way to use A-dub and he's responding with some great games. He'll have to be a big part of the defense this week to slow down the best rushing attack in the league though. Wilson's a linebacker in a strong safety's body and they'll need to keep him in the box to slow down the hard charging Giants.