The Arizona Cardinals defense has had three defensive coordinators in the past four years — Ray Horton, Todd Bowles and now James Bettcher. And the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Arizona is getting rave reviews for its high-octane offense, specifically the play of Carson Palmer who is a remarkable 15-2 in his last 17 starts with 4,651 yards passing and 34 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions.
Those reviews are deserved, but some of the things that the Cardinals are doing on the defensive side of the ball should not be overlooked.
Arizona has allowed just 12 total points in the second half of games this season, they are 10th against the run and 11th in points allowed. Their overall ranking of 22nd and passing yards allowed ranking of 28th are somewhat misleading because both New Orleans and Chicago had to play from behind, therefore had to throw more passes.
And while Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell get the fanfare, no player has been more vital to the defense’s success than safety/linebacker Deone Bucannon.
Bucannon’s versatility allows Bettcher to put his best players on the field. The former first-round pick out of Washington State is a safety playing linebacker — replacing forever-suspended Daryl Washington. He can play sideline-to-sideline, cover tight ends and play in the box allowing Arizona to play with four safeties. Bucannon’s play allows Tyrann Mathieu to play in the slot, allows Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson to play centerfield and it gives Arizona an aggressive and fast defense.
Bucannon is tough to get off the field. He is a playmaker on the line of scrimmage — a rarity in the NFL. Bucannon was on the field for all 74 snaps against New Orleans and for 59 (82%) against the Bears.
He is a safety. He is a linebacker. He is a physical playmaker. But the easiest way to sum up his play is to simply say that Deone Bucannon is a football player, and a damn good one.
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