Dealing Cards: Fixing the defense, support for Drew Stanton
TEMPE, Ariz. – Beginning with himself, defensive coordinator James Bettcher, like all the Arizona Cardinals coaches, spent the bye week self-scouting. His defense, especially the last three games, has not been good. And he believes he knows why.
Bettcher on Thursday pointed to two areas: third down and turnovers.
“Third down, the biggest thing is the rush has got to work with the coverage and the coverage has got to compliment the rush,” he said. “Get a couple of guys running free but you’re not holding up in the backend in coverage or you’re making the guy hold the ball and we’re not getting home. Those are core things on third down.”
Bettcher added they’ve spent extra time in practice working on “winning third down one play at a time.”
As far as turnovers, the Cardinals have only forced seven, all interceptions, meaning they do not have a fumble recovery.
“The ball just hasn’t fallen our way as of yet,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
Takeaways aside, Peterson mentioned two other areas where the defense has failed: energy and passion. He believes that has led to too many mistakes, namely busted assignments, through the season’s first seven games.
“That was something that we were missing in the last two games for sure and I think now we are well-rested and should be ready to roll the second half of the season,” he said.
For Peterson, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
“You had the opportunity to look yourself in the mirror and you got to be true to yourself and that is what we were last week. We looked ourselves in the mirror, looked at our scars (and) saw some of the things that was preventing us from being a dominant defense. Hopefully, we should have corrected that, as men, individually,” he said.
“We had a great week of preparation this week, probably one of the better weeks I’ve seen since I’ve been here. That doesn’t mean anything if we can’t put it on tape on Sunday. Guys are dialed in, guys are honed in on their assignments. Can’t wait to see the energy and the passion that we’re going to play with come Sunday.”
Support for Drew Stanton
As it would be expected, Cardinals players are rallying around quarterback Drew Stanton, who will make his first start of the season in place of the injured Carson Palmer this week.
Stanton is in his 11th season and fifth with the Cardinals.
“Drew, he’s proven. He’s won many games for this organization and we have confidence in him,” running back Adrian Peterson said. “He’s had a couple of great days of practice. I remember looking out there today and I seen one ball, like ‘Wow!’ and it was just a beautiful pass.”
Over his career, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has played with a number of different quarterbacks, so a QB switch mid-season is nothing new.
“As a player, you start worrying about who’s playing right guard and who’s playing running back and who’s playing quarterback, you lose focus on what you need to be doing and I need to be getting open, I need to be winning and I need to be getting separation and I need to be catching the ball when it’s thrown my way. You need to let professionals be professionals and do their job and you need to do yours,” he said.
“So I’m not worried about Drew. Nobody is worried about Drew. We all have won with Drew and we’re going to win again with Drew and that’s the mentality that we have.”
Another day in pads
For a second straight day, the Cardinals practiced in pads. They had not held back-to-back padded practices since training camp, though if head coach Bruce Arians had his way, “I wish we could practice in pads every day. It’s a crazy rule, because every time we’re in pads we have great practices.”
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement allows for two padded practices only one during the regular season. The Cardinals chose this week coming off the bye and knowing next week is a short week with a game on Thursday.
“Today’s NFL, college football or high school football, you really don’t do pads a whole lot anymore. It’s just good to have,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “You get some banging in, get some technique work because it’s hard really and truly to work on the run game or work on twists in 1-on-1 pass rush without the pads on, but it’s been great. I think at first the guys were kind of hesitant but at the end of the day, they’re professionals and they rose to the occasion, so it was two good days.”
Wide receiver depth takes a hit
After being limited in practice the day before, neither Brittan Golden (groin) nor Chad Williams (back) practiced on Thursday, which could leave the Cardinals thin at the wide receiver position on Sunday. Also not participating in practice was linebacker Karlos Dansby (finger/hamstring), who missed a second straight day of work, and center Daniel Munyer (toe).
Defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (knee/hip) went from not practicing to being limited, while running back Andre Ellington (quadriceps) was again limited.
The 49ers’ injury report listed eight players as not practicing, including four starters: right guard Brandon Fusco (biceps), wide receiver Pierre Garcon (neck), left tackle Joe Staley (eye) and defensive end Solomon Thomas (knee); all of whom have now missed two straight practices. Also not on the practice field were tackle Garry Gilliam (knee), defensive tackle D.J. Jones (knee), defensive end Aaron Lynch (calf) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (quadriceps).
Running back Matt Breida (knee) and linebacker Reuben Foster (ribs) were both listed as limited.