Arizona Cardinals Smother the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-17: Defensive Breakdown

The Arizona Cardinals defense had an up and down game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On one hand they allowed 372 yards and 18 first downs to team without much of a passing attack, but on the other hand they allowed just 17 points, posted four sacks and forced three turnovers. In the game where ultimately the scoreboard does the final talking, you'd have to figure that the defense did it's job but there is certainly some room for improvement.

  • Bend but Don't Break: A week after forcing eight three-and-outs against the Niners the Cardinals defense forced just one against the Jags and in all the Jaguars were able to put together five drives of at least 50 yards. Luckily for the Cards their defense was able to stiffen up once the Jags crossed mid-field where they forced two field goal attempts (one of which was blocked), a fumble and a fourth drive ended on downs. The yardage total is a bit concerning but 17 points is an vast improvement over last year's average and in this case I think we'll defer to the phrase, "the ends justify the means."
  • Pressuring Garrard: One of the things we talked about leading up to the game was a need to pressure David Garrard and considering that they notched four sacks and forced a fumble, I'd have to think that they accomplished that goal. There were several instances where Garrard was able to escape the pressure but for all his faults he does have some escapability and it showed on Sunday. Billy Davis continues to be dial up exotic blitzes, especially with his safeties Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle, and with eight sacks in the first two games (second in the league) it's hard to argue with the results.
  • Run Defense: After completely shutting down Frank Gore in week one the Cardinals took a different path to slow down Maurice Jones-Drew. Instead of just stuffing him every time he got the ball the Cards jumped out to an early lead on the scoreboard and effectively took him out of the game. After reeling off an impressive 36 yard run on the Jags second play from scrimmage, MJD was limited to just 30 yards on 12 carries. The front seven remains stout against the run and a big reason for their success this season has been the ability to rotate in fresh bodies along the defensive line. Alan Branch, Gabe Watson and Keilen Dykes all played roles for the Cards on Sunday and their presence will be needed as the season wears on and guys get dinged up.
  • Much Improved Secondary?: One of the things we spent the entire off season raving about was how much the secondary would be improved with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie having a year under his belt, Rolle acclimating to the free safety spot and the additions of Bryant McFadden and Rashad Johnson but so far that hasn't been the case. Now the Cards are middle of the road in passing yards per game (15th), yards per pass attempt (17th) and QB rating (18th) but the concerning thing is the number of big plays allowed so far against two offenses who don't really have a big play threat. They've allowed four passes of 20 yards or more and one pass of 40 yards or more and while neither of those are among the league worst, I think we'd have all expected the secondary numbers to look quite a bit better after the first two games, especially considering the amount of pass rush that the front seven has been able to generate. It's hard to make any concrete decisions after two games but I think it's safe to say that the best passing offense that we'll see this season will be coming into Arizona this Sunday night and the secondary needs to have their best performance to date.
  • Bertrand Who?: After wondering where Bertrand Berry was for most of the off season and then seeing very little from him during the preseason yours truly predicted that he'd be on the chopping block on the final roster cut down day. After two weeks though I'm gladly eating crow as Berry has notched sacks in each of the first two games and was pushed into the starting lineup because Chike Okeafor was nursing a sore shoulder. Berry is still basically a one trick pony considering that his only two tackles have been sacks thus far but he's the team leader in that department and he's also recovered two fumbles. Not bad for a guy who none of us were praising two and half weeks ago.

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All in all the defensive effort was good for a second consecutive week and believe it or not they enter week three as the 13th ranked scoring defense and sixth ranked defense in terms of yards per game. Both of those are dramatic improvements over 2008 but there are still some areas that can be improved upon because there are much better offenses coming down the road.

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