Back in August I wrote a small article about what I expected to see the Cardinals do on Defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton:
“Philosophy: Blitz, blitz, and more blitz. Dick Lebeau’s Zone blitzing schemes and aggressive plays have kept coaches up for days, trying to not only attack them, but just survive them. Ray Horton will bring all of the them to the NFC West. Multiple blitzers from all angles and positions can come, with several DL drops into zones, making an offensive lineman’s communication key to any successful play. Stunts, dogs, shifts, twists, you name it, you’ll see it.”
As easy as that was to predict, what I didn’t see coming was how difficult it was going to be for the Cardinals defense to learn the scheme. In the first two games of the season, they have given up a whopping 932 yards. And they’ve made rookie QB Cam Newton and journeyman QB Rex Grossman look like pro bowlers. But it’s not just the yardage that should concern Ray Horton and Ken Whisenhunt, it’s the busted coverages, and confusion. They currently rank 29th in defense, 23rd in run defense and 29th in pass defense.
Here is just one example of some of that confusion:
Pre Snap: The Cardinals have called blitz, and are discussing the coverage behind. Safety Rashad Johnson appears to be confused about where his responsibilities are on this play.The LB has walked up on the TE and takes an outside technique. With the way the Cardinals leave their rushers in a two point stance, its hard to read if it’s going to be a blitz.
Post Snap: The LB allows the TE a free release and comes off the edge to blitz., Safety Rashad Johnson, fresh off his false step to the routes developing in front of him, realizes he was responsible for the TE’s route. He begins to sprint, but it is too late. Easy catch and big first down for Rex Grossman and the Redskin offense.
These types of plays have become so common place that it has forced Ken Whisenhunt, and Ray Horton to reevaluate the defense approach. According to Aubin/Arizona Sports, Ray Horton said that the Cardinals plan to scale back the defensive game plan against Seattle to help clear up some of the communication issues, and hopefully make some progress. Obviously the Cardinals took a long look their defensive scheme at work against the Seahawks. One has to wonder if Ray Horton’s statement to reporters was based on the Cardinals poor play, or the success the Steelers had against us with simply rushing four and dropping seven into coverage. One thing is clear however, the Cardinals are not the Pittsburgh Steelers, they just want to be.
Paging Darell Bevell…..
If this isn’t the week to get the passing game going, when will it be? If the Cardinals are really going to get more “vanilla” in coverage and scheme as reported, It will make Tarvaris Jackson’s pre snap reads that much easier. We must try to utilize some 7 man protection schemes (5 OL, 1 Back, QB) to free up Zach Miller to play the game we paid him to play. Also, giving Tarvaris Jackson responsibility for 1 rusher in the 7 man scheme will allow him to read the hot, burn the blitz, and make some plays in the passing game. I anticipate the use of triangle flood reads to take advantage of the confusion in the Arizona secondary as well as give Tarvaris Jackson some nice single sided reads to help with the speed in his decision-making. (One of the best football websites in existence, SmartFootball.com, goes deep into the triangle read. You can get that here)
Bottom line: We don’t know what the Cardinal defense will look like this weekend. Will they Blitz and collapse again in coverage, or will they attempt to rush 4 and drop 7 into coverage like the Steelers did? Either way it’s time to attack. With Cardinals starting running back Beanie Wells doubtful, I really think our defense will give our offense every opportunity to put points on the board. With the full complement of skill players on the field for us, it’s time to welcome the Seahawk offense to the 2011 season.