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Cardinals’ Defense: Suggestion Box

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Michael Chow-USA TODAY NETWORK

As discouraging as it’s been to watch the Cardinals revert to their 2019 form on defense over the past 9 quarters (amidst the Cardinals’ latest struggles on offense), it’s way too early to give up on them and this team, even though it appears that Gambo is already “getting out his checkbook”—-and perhaps is beginning to concede his bet with Keyshawn Johnson that, according to Johnson, “the Cardinals, despite their 2-0 start, will not win more that 6-7 games.”

GM Steve Keim vowed to “fix” the defense this past off-season—-as he took the blame for last year’s woeful defense led by Vance Joseph. Before we get to the suggestions of how the Cardinals can turn the defense around, let’s assess Keim’s off-season defensive “fix it” decisions thus far:

Questionable Decisions:

  1. Retaining Vance Joseph as DC. Looked good for the 1st 7 quarters—-but the last 9 quarters have been tough to watch in a bad deja vu kind of sense.
  2. Sticking with CB Patrick Peterson and his 2020 $12.3M salary (50.3 PFF grade after 3 weeks which should drop even lower after his consistent struggles versus the Panthers).
  3. Sticking with CB Robert Alford and his 2020 $7.5M salary. (injury prone—-should have cut him and re-signed him to an incentives deal—-and still should have signed—-with the money saved—-another starting caliber CB for insurance).
  4. Drafting All American S/OLB Isaiah Simmons and immediately tabbing him as an ILB.
  5. Signing UFA CB Dre Kirkpatrick to fill in for the injured Alford (41.6 PFF grade through 3 weeks and falling)

Good Decisions:

  1. Signing UFA DT Jordan Phiilips (has 2 sacks and was good versus the run yesterday).
  2. Signing UFA WILB De’Vondre Campbell (pass overage is good, run support has been poor, however, as reflected in his 59.5 PFF grade)
  3. Signing OLB/DE Devon Kennard (73.4 PFF grade—-2 sacks in 3 games)
  4. Moving Hasaan Reddick to OLB (64.9 PFF grade—-2 sacks in 4 games)
  5. Re-signing S Chris Banjo (71.5 PFF grade).
  6. Extending the contract of S Budda Baker (leading tackler, 66.8 PFF grade)
  7. Claiming DT Angelo Blackson off waivers (65.9 PFF grade)
  8. Drafting DTs Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence.

Cardinals Defense: Suggestion Box

Here are my suggestions—-please post yours in the comment section below.

  1. Hire Wade Phillips asap as the team’s defensive advisor. Helping his former assistant and friend Vance Joseph to hone his preparations and the team’s execution could make a significance difference—-and perhaps could help the Cardinals still make the playoffs.
  2. Have Isaiah Simmons share the OLB snaps in the 34 base defense with Hasaan Reddick. Chances are that the Cardinals are not going to be able to afford to re-sign Reddick as a 2021 unrestricted free agent—-Simmons is better suited to play SAM OLB than WILB.
  3. Have Isaiah Simmons be the #1 nickel LB replacing MIKE LB Jordan Hicks (55.4 PFF grade). Simmons should thrive in this role, as a triple threat in coverage and as a spy and blitzer.
  4. From day one of practice this week—-go back a re-teach the importance of “contain”—-and insist on it. One of the techniques to stress to the edge players is keeping their outside arm free. Both Hasaan Reddick and Chandler Jones were getting sucked and hemmed inside yesterday and repeatedly lost contain, giving up big chunk yard plays to Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Davis. The Cardinals’ defense was it’s best at Seattle last year, where Reddick and Jones kept their contain on Russell Wilson. Treat every game like that one.
  5. From day one of practice this week—-go back, teach and rep the critical importance of CB leverage in man coverage. To watch the Panthers’ WRs get free releases across the face of Patrick Peterson was mystifying—-Peterson even backed up on D.J. Moore’s big-play crossing route, which was just one of the “soft” coverage plays that allowed the Panthers to march right down the field and answer the Cardinals’ 2nd quarter TD (that made it 14-7), to put the Panthers back up by 14 points (21-7).
  6. Welcome safeties Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson and Chris Banjo back with open arms. Budda Baker is the alpha male on this defense—-and Jalen Thompson is alpha2. Chris Banjo is no slouch, either. They give opposing WRs, TEs and RBs pause whenever they are running routes up the seams or over the middle. Yesterday, the Panthers’ WRs played stress free all afternoon, as did QB Teddy Bridgewater. Keep developing Deionte Thompson (he’s coming on this year) and keep working in Charles Washington as a depth piece—-he looked pretty aggressive in his limited snaps.
  7. From day one of practice this week—-get all of the man-to-man coverage assignments in all game situations set for the Jets and stick with them the entire game, particularly in the red zone where missed assignments have made the defense and the coaches look foolishly incompetent. In the red zone, practice and master man to man “pick and roll” switches on the Jets’ “rub routes”. No more easy, wide open catches. Contest and jump every route.
  8. From day one of practice this week—-key in on stopping this week’s version of RB Mike Davis, the Jets’ RB Frank Gore—-with more aggressive, attacking ILB fills and building on the success that Jordan Phillips and Leki Fotu had stopping the run versus the Panthers. Plus, this time a around have a “shed and spy” plan for taking down QB Sam Darnold on his scrambles—-Darnold is more of a threat to run than Bridgewater is—-as games against Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson are on the horizon.
  9. From day one of practice this week—-re-teach and rep the fundamentals of tackling over and over and over. Break down—-square up to the numbers—-lead your shoulders into the numbers always with your head up—-wrap up like you have lobster claws—-drive through the ballcarrier—-take down—-keep your legs chugging.
  10. From day one of practice this week—-amp up the volume on the pass rush to get Chandler Jones re-focued/rejuvenated and to get Devon Kennard (if ready to return), Kylie Fitts and Hasaaon Reddick more explosive off the snaps.
  11. Eliminate soft cushions and zones—-make every aspect of the defense’s run support and pass overage aggressive.

I am squarely with Ramblin Ralph—-are you? Thank you, Ralph.

Hey Gambo! We are not sending Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), Rocco and Moose after you yet! Hold on to that checkbook!