GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is considered to be among the best at forcing fumbles by stripping or “punching” the football out of the hands of a receiver or running back.
The Cardinals may not have that single Tillman-type player, but what they hope to have this season is a collection of players who are adept at causing turnovers.
“You drill it,” answered head coach Bruce Arians when asked how he instills a takeaway mentality. “You drill it every day. I mean our DBs, our linebackers are doing strip drills—they start every practice doing strip drills and tackling drills, taking the ball away. We’re blessed with defensive backs who have really good ball skills and some linebackers who have excellent ball skills.”
Through the first two preseason games, the Cardinals have forced eight turnovers (four interceptions, four fumble recoveries), tied with Chicago for the most in the NFL.
So, is there an art to taking the ball away?
“An attitude. A willingness to do it,” cornerback Antoine Cason, the former UA Wildcat, answered. “That’s all it really takes is the awareness and the frame of mind to get that ball out. That’s what the coaches have been stressing, and that’s what we go out and try to do.”
Even if it’s at the end of a play, as was the case when Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was separated from the ball by cornerback Jerraud Powers, who had been beaten moments before for a 27-yard gain.
“It’s just instincts that you just keep going to make a play,” said Cason, who is credited with four forced fumbles in his five-year career. “Of course, you’re not going to be happy with getting beat, but always finish. You never know what can happen at the end of a play. It’s continuing to fight through the whole rep.”
Arians, since day one, has stressed he wants his defense to be number one in points allowed (3.5 points per game is the fewest allowed this preseason) and turnovers forced (again, tied for first).
“They’ve taken the message to heart,” he said. “(Defensive coordinator) Todd (Bowles) has done a great job of preaching it. The next goal is eliminate explosive plays.”