The Arizona Cardinals defense under Todd Bowles has a reputation of being aggressive and attacking. The numbers show it. They blitz....a lot.
On the season, according to numbers compiled by Pro Football Focus, on 489 opposing quarterback dropbacks, they have sent at least five rushers 239 times, good for 48.9 percent.
However, that is not as much as they were blitzing earlier in the season.
Not coincidentally, the number has gone down as the team has been winning and climbing overall defensive ranks. Over the last five weeks, the Cardinals have seen their overall ranking improve from 16th to seventh.
Part of that is because of the improved play on the defensive front -- Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, John Abraham and company.
Head coach Bruce Arians commented on it after the team's 40-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
"We're not blitzing quite as much -- don't have to," he said. "John and Calais and Dock are all getting there, along with Marcus (Benard) and Matt (Shaughnessy). We're rolling some guys in there and they do a good job.
"We still pressure people, but it's not as a heavy a blitz package."
When I heard him say that, I was intrigued. I wanted to see the numbers. It is true.
Through the first seven games of their season, they had blitzed opposing quarterbacks 55.6 percent f the the time. Some games were surprising. They blitzed Colin Kaepernick on 30 of his 32 dropbacks. The very next week, against Seattle, the team's seventh game), they blitzed Russell Wilson on 21 of 34 dropbacks.
It was after that when things changed. John Abraham started being the dominant player he has been throughout his career. In the four games that have followed, all of which the team has won, they blitzed Atlanta 27 of 66 dropbacks, Houston 20 of 48, Jacksonville 17 of 44 and Indianapolis 15 of 43.
In all, during the winning streak, they have blitzed opposing teams 39.3 percent of the time -- over 15 percent less than the first seven games.
Now, even at the current rate, that is still a very aggressive defense.
Is this going to be the trend moving forward? They will face Wilson and Kaepernick again. They face Nick Foles, Kellen Clemens and Ryan Fitzpatrick before them.
Foles, when blitzed, has been sacked only three times and has completed almost 63 percent of his passes and thrown five scores without an interception.
Clemens has not been as good. He has been sacked eight times when blitzed and completed only 30 percent of his passes.
Fitzpatrick has actually been very good when blitzed -- almost 67 percent completion percentage, two sacks and two scores without a pick.
Wilson has been sacked 14 times when blitzed and has been picked off twice, but has thrown for seven touchdowns and completed almost 61 percent of his passes.
Kaepernick has also been effective. He is completing a lower percentage than the others -- under 58 percent -- but he has thrown 10 TDs and has been intercepted only once. He has been sacked nine times when blitzed.
This means like we will hopefully see the lighter blitz packages and that that pressure from four will create the disruption needed. If that continues to be the case, you have to like the chance that the defense has at keeping up their current level of play.
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