Arizona Cardinals defense on cusp of championship caliber
The idea makes sense, but it's wrong.
While the QB position is indeed the most important position in sports, the Arizona Cardinals will be successful in 2012 for one very simple reason.
Or, rather, 11 or so simple reasons at a time.
Through just more than a week of camp so far the Cards' defense has a decided advantage over the offense. Everyone from defensive end Calais Campbell to head coach Ken Whisenhunt have said that can be expected early on.
"It's been that case, been that way a lot of times because defense is more reactionary where offense is more learning what you have to do and being in the right spots," Whisenhunt said Thursday. "But it all ends up balancing itself out, hopefully."
Arizona's defense, which finished 18th in the NFL for total yards allowed, 17th in passing yards allowed and 21st in rushing yards -- while giving up 21.8 points per game -- is going to be good. Damn good.
Ray Horton's group has dominated training camp not because the offense is terrible (though that could very well be a possibility), but because it is easily the most talented group on the team.
Think about it: the defense boasts two players who have made the Pro Bowl in Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett as well as three more who will make it at some point in the near future in Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington and Patrick Peterson. Add emerging players Sam Acho, Dan Williams and O'Brien Schofield as well as solid starters in Paris Lenon, William Gay and Kerry Rhodes, and you have a defense with far more depth than holes.
This isn't to say the Cardinals will have a top-10 defense this year. Wait, yes it is.
Talent has not been an issue on the defensive side of the ball for a while, and in Horton the team finally has a coach who can get the most out of his players. We saw the defense evolve from a confused group to a confident one over the final nine games of the 2011 season -- seven of which the Cardinals won -- by giving up an average of 18.3 points per game.
They had allowed an average of 26.14 points per contest over the previous seven.
Improve much? Yes.
Room to improve even further? Absolutely.
For all the good the defense did in 2011, it created fewer turnovers than just five other NFL teams.
That will have to change if the Cardinals are to go from being a solid defense to an elite one. If it does, the Cardinals will not only make the playoffs, but be a threat to go deep into them.
The good news is it will change as the team's pass rush improves (see Acho and Schoefield), leaving the talented and deep secondary (hello, Patrick Peterson) to create more turnovers.
While Peterson would like to pick off more than the two passes he did as a rookie, that's not exactly his goal.
"I want to get to the point where teams don't even want to throw my way," he said.
While offense makes the highlight shows, the cliché "defense wins championships" is around for a reason. After all, if people didn't have old-school beliefs that sound smart but are not accurate to hang onto, what would they have?
Three of the last six Super Bowl winners did so with elite offenses, but the Packers, Saints and Colts would not have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy had their defenses not improved to the point where they could actually stop somebody. The Giants -- who won twice -- earned their rings via excellent defense, and the Steelers, well, we're not going to talk about them.
A football team can win a lot of games with a good defense or offense, but will not win a title unless the other side of the ball is at least decent.
As of right now the Cardinals are halfway to where they need to be.