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Arizona Cardinals need their big names to step up on defense

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that often happens during the offseason is you get excited about the free agent and offseason moves made. You also get excited about the growth of the younger players.

The Arizona Cardinals fans had four players specifically they were excited about heading into the season, especially with the change back to a 34 defense with new DC Vance Joseph.

Yet, when you look at the first three weeks three of the four players have not lived up to expectations and it has lead to the defense being staggeringly bad.

When you look at the talent on the defense, post Darius Philon release, we knew there would be issues. Corey Peters is the only true NFL starter. Rodney Gunter has shown he is best used as a rotational piece and Zach Allen is a third round rookie who needed some time to marinate.

We assumed that the edges would be solid to above.

The linebackers would be improved.

The safeties would be good to great.

The corners would be bad to abysmal.

Let’s focus on the linebackers and safeties, one player in that group of four is playing well, that is Budda Baker. The rest are struggling pretty badly.

Jordan Hicks and Haason Reddick have struggled to make plays consistently. (Read consistently, I don’t need the two plays from the Panthers game)

Hicks is getting a ton of tackles, on pace for a staggering 187 tackles on the season, yet he has been bad in coverage and is making plays more down the field than at the line of scrimmage. His Pro Football Focus grade is a 56.

Reddick is starting slow after missing training camp and now trying to find his way in his third defense in three years. So, his slow start makes sense, yet he has out paced Hicks with a 56.6 PFF grade.

Maybe the worst of the group has been the play of D.J. Swearinger. After a Pro Bowl like season in 2018, he has bottomed out, having the worst start to his career, since his early days in Houston, he’s earned a PFF grade of 44.9.

The thing is, these slow starts are more of an issue than what we knew would be a problem early.

The secondary is performing as well as expected.

The defensive line is performing as well as expected.

Meanwhile, three players that needed to be good or better are playing at a level that was not expected, and in the negative way.

If the Cardinals are going to overcome their issues they need the players that are good to be good, or things are going to continue to get sideways.