The change will be rather noticeable.
When the Arizona Cardinals take on the Tampa Buccaneers Sunday afternoon, their linebacking corps — especially on the outside — will look significantly different from the unit that played in the team’s 31-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.
Gone are Sam Acho (broken fibula), Lorenzo Alexander (Lisfranc fracture) and Alex Okafor (torn biceps tendon), who all suffered season-ending injuries.
In their place on the active roster are Dontay Moch and Kenny Demens, who have combined to play in one NFL regular season game.
With the absence of three experienced outside linebackers, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was asked Thursday if he’s contemplating a switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base.
“It’s not that difficult,” Bowles said of switching between the two schemes. “We have 4-3 guys, and we do play 4-3 during the course of a ballgame. We don’t just stay in 3-4. It’s just a matter of having the right people outside doing the right thing at the right time.
“Some of those guys are inside guys and can’t play outside. It’s a good mix. We have guys who we can play with and still have outside backers in a 4-3 some. It’ll be mixed up some [Sunday].”
With Acho, Alexander and Okafor all done for the 2013 campaign, the onus will largely fall on veterans John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy to play exclusively at outside linebacker. Both, however, have spent most of their respective careers at defensive end.
Bowles, though, isn’t all that worried about the positional adjustment.
“John came in as a 3-4 backer in New York, so he’s done it before,” said Bowles. “He hasn’t done it in a while, but he’s done it before. And Matt played more of an undersized end in Oakland, so he’s done it before.”
“A 3-4 defense is really just an under 4-3, depending on the guys you have and who can rush and who can’t rush. “We’re confident in those guys and the things they can do.”