The NFL is sleeping on the Cardinals’ new defense, especially now that shut down CB Patrick Peterson will be on the shelf for the first 6 games. The Cardinals’ first six opponents are likely feeling very happy and even elated to be gifted with having to face a Peterson-less defense.
Thus, if all goes according to plan, the Cardinals are going to wheel their defense in as a Trojan Horse, and when the time is right, they will break out and overwhelm their opponents with might and skillful precision.
Leading the charge from inside the horse is safety D.J. Swearinger---he is the Odysseus and intrepid captain of the unit. He is the tone-setter, the heavy hitter who expects his crew mates to follow suit. If Swearinger wasn’t quite perceived as the bell cow before Peterson’s suspension, now is his time to remove all doubt.
Unlike Cardinals’ defenses in the past, every soldier on this line of defense is expected to swarm to the ball and to hit with supreme effort and force. Adding key recruits and draft picks such as OLB/DE Terrell Suggs, OLB/DE Brooks Reed, DT Darius Philon, DE/DT Zach Allen, DT Michael Dogbe, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Robert Alford, CB Tramaine Brock, CB Byron Murphy, CB/S Josh Shaw and S Deionte Thompson, aids and abets the cause.
This is going to be a much more physical, faster, attack-style defense.
On offense the Cardinals drafted their new QB from the University of Oklahoma, the highest scoring offense in college football. With Oklahoma’s past two QBs winning the Heisman Trophy, we could call Oklahoma QBU.
All the same, in recent years the Cardinals have been drafting DBs from the University of Washington, the most prolific secondary in college football. Washington is DBU, baby!
Now having three Huskies (Budda Baker, Byron Murphy, Zeke Turner) in the secondary, this is a golden opportunity for defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, to tap into the Huskies’ pass coverage schemes, not only from Joseph’s 34 base, but from the nickel, where the Huskies play their vaunted 2-4-5 scheme. If you are not all that aware of the Huskies’ innovative nickel defense, here is a good article to read on the subject.
What the Huskies do so well is they disguise their coverages by showing man and then switching into zones, and vice versa. What they also are famous for---and this is a Jimmy Lake (Huskies’ DB coach, and co-DC) staple---is running combo coverages where they zone most of the field with the FS playing what they call the “robber” in giving him the freedom to read the QB’s eyes and float to the ball---but then they take one defender out of the zone and play him man to man on the other team’s go-to WR or TE. This is akin to playing a box-in-one defense in basketball. And it does a very good job of confusing QBs.
Just as Kliff Kingsbury is catering the terminology and core plays of his offense to Kyler Murray’s at Oklahoma, Vance Jospeh can expedite Byron Murphy’s assimilation into the defense by incorporating aspects of the Huskies’ schemes that are similar to Jospeh’s own. The sooner that Byron Murphy becomes comfortable, and having Budda Baker by his side is huge advantage, the better the defense is going to be.
Chances are that without Patrick Peterson shadowing the opponents’ top WR, Vance Joseph will keep his CBs on the same opposite sides with Robert Alford at RCB and Byron Murphy at LCB. Chances are pretty good as well, that the FS will tilt toward the top WRs side in order to offer immediate help or double teams.
Plus the Cardinals can employ a tactic that Bill Belichick prefers---something the Cardinals have been doing the opposite of all of these years while putting Patrick Peterson one-on-one with the top WR. What Belichick often prefers is to put his #1 CB on the #2 WR and then his #2 CB on the #1 WR and double team the #1 WR with one of the safeties. What this tends to eliminate is the constant picking on the #2 CB opposite the #1 CB---as we Cardinals’ fans have seen over and over for years. Plus, #1 WRs would tell you they would rather have to try to beat the top CBs one-on-one, than get double teamed.
Vance Joseph and defensive backs coaches Greg Williams and Marcus Robertson bring excellent experience, not just as NFL defensive back coaches, but as former pro DBs. They have coached a number of Pro Bowlers, most recently Aquib Talib and Chris Harris. The fact is, the Cardinals’ defensive backs are in very capable hands.
Best of all, the Cardinals’ secondary should be able to feast off the Cardinals’ pass rush which now features Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones on the edges with Zach Allen and Darius Philon rushing the middle. Plus, the plan is to send WLB Hasaan Reddick after the QB from a variety of different angles.
By virtue of the talent and greater focus on playing a tough, physical and and precise brand of ball, this Cardinals’ defense, under the leadership of Vance Jospeh and D.J. Swearinger (as alpha dog), has all of the makings of a Trojan Horse that will get wheeled in and then take their opponents by surprise.