Calais Campbell always accepts the blame.
The Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowler responded well to Bruce Arians’ criticism mid-way through the 2015 regular season. Following Arians’ public plea for his defensive end to play with more consistency following a game against the Cleveland Browns, Campbell turned in 3.5 sacks through the final eight games.
And so after watching Super Bowl 50 from afar and digesting his Cardinals’ NFL Championship game loss to the Carolina Panthers, Campbell revealed one individual goal he hopes can help Arizona make another deep playoff run.
“I want to get my vertical back up to where it used to be, back up to 36-and-a-half (inches),” Campbell told Bertrand Berry on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Off The Edge show. “It’ll help me explosion-wise, getting off the ball quicker, being able to change direction quicker. I let it drop a little bit when I put some weight on. I’m going to try to get my vert back where it used to be and hope that’ll help me get off the line of scrimmage.”
Double teams skew Campbell’s statistics. He finished with five sacks and 61 total tackles last season for an Arizona pass rush that general manager Steve Keim hopes to upgrade.
How that happens depends on a number of factors.
Midseason pickup Dwight Freeney is again a free agent after compiling eight of the team’s 36 total sacks during the regular season. The development of youngsters like linebacker Markus Golden, who had a standout rookie season with four sacks, will help whether free agency provides or not.
In 2015, the Cardinals’ sack total was tied for 20th over 16 regular season games and they recorded just two more in two playoff performances.
As the leader, Campbell finds himself challenged to improve those numbers by progressing as an individual. He told Berry that he’d also like to mix up rushing quarterbacks from the left and right sides of the line to keep opponents off-balance.
Campbell hears the criticism about his game — from fans and from his coach. Neither provides as much motivation as does the basic desire to reach next year’s Super Bowl, he said.
Yet, he agrees with it.
“I feel like I should be a double-digit sack guy, I should get 100 tackles when I’m playing my best,” Campbell said.