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Cardinals’ defense and special teams are developing a swarm of dawgs identity

Have a listen to what defensive standout Dennis Gardeck has to say about his “dawgs”

Arizona Cardinals v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

What was so exciting and uplifting for Cardinals’ fans to watch last Sunday in Landover, Maryland, was the ultra-aggressive style of play from the team’s defense and special teams.

Even though he only played in 38% of the defensive snaps, Dennis Gardeck set the tone for the defense and special teams right from the get-go. His two sack performance earned him this “Angry Bird of the Week” accolade from Paul Calvisi:

This morning it feels great to see the Barbarian’s name on the NFL Sack leaders list:

Further distinctions:

Yet, as superbly as he was playing, why did Dennis Gardeck get only 28 snaps in the Week 1 game?

The reason is that the Cardinals new defensive coordinator, Nick Rallis, likes to get as many of his dawgs involved in the game as possible. This serves a dual purpose:

  • To ensure the highest level of player engagement
  • To keep the “dawgs’ fresh so that they can reach back for something extra in the 4th quarter and have plenty in the tank for the duration of a 17 game schedule.

Distribution of Snap Counts:


  • Jonathan Ledbetter 41 (58%)
  • LJ Collier 37 (52%)
  • Carlos Watkins 33 (46%)
  • Kevin Strong 31 (44%)
  • Leki Fotu 17 (24%)


  • Zaven Collins 42 (59%)
  • Dennis Gardeck 28 (39%)
  • Cameron Thomas 26 (37%)
  • Victor Dimukeje 25 (35%)
  • Jesse Luketa 18 (25%)
  • BJ Ojulari 12 (17%)

When you think about how the defense maintained its high level of focus and intensity, look at each of the players listed here and ask yourself, how many of them came up with some sort of a big play?

I can make a case for every one of them. And, man, that's saying something about how well prepared and eager they were.

Total Production:

  • Interior: 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss
  • Edge: 14 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception

Look at how evenly impressive the production distribution is. When was the last time we Cardinals’ fans saw this type of even production from the interior and the edge?

“We’ve got dawgs in our room”

Listen to how Dennis Gardeck describes the Cardinals’ new defense and the philosophy of the rotations:

Did watching Dennis Gardeck’s answer to the rotation question fire you up as much as it fired Gardecky up?

Improvement Areas:

  • Busting up screens and short passes —- the team needs more aggressive tackling efforts from its CBs in those situations, particularly from the RCB.
  • Containing the QB —- if the Cardinals allow Daniel Jones easy escapes from the pocket, by not maintaining disciplined pass rush lanes, then he is apt to have a big game. In pre-season and in Game 1 versus the Commander the Cardinals’ defensive gave up scrambling QB TDs to the side of the RCB when the edge rush was too wide and the the DT didn’t keep his outside shoulder free to be able to maintain his passing lane and be able to disengage from the blocker to stop the QB from bolting through the hole between the edge rush and that RDT rush.

Bringing the Heat and Pop on Special Teams:

Same type of ultra-aggressive mentality. There were a few occasions from the Cardinals’ over teams that you could actually hear the pop of their tackles.

Will the Cardinals create a much stronger identity this week on offense?

Hopefully the excitement and fun that the defense and special teams are relishing will rub off on the offense this week.

ROTB Question:

What do you expect from all three phases of the team this week at home versus the Giants?