Cardinals won’t rush Sam Bradford, Steve Wilks makes 4-3 argument
TEMPE, Ariz. – Throw everything at them and see what sticks. That’s how new Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks is handling the offseason, at least in the early stages.
The Cardinals are into their second week of a voluntary offseason strength and conditioning program, which also includes the first meetings between players, Wilks and his coaching staff.
“We’re trying to give them as much as we can and really trying to see how much they’re going to be able to absorb and retain,” he said Tuesday, “then at some point in time, when we really start trying to shape the system, we’re going to be able to do what those guys do best.”
And that’s offense, defense and special teams.
When it comes to the offense, yes, running back David Johnson is going to be the focal part, but Wilks mentioned leaning on quarterback Sam Bradford.
It’s Bradford who is ultimately going to be running the offense. Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy want to make sure Bradford is comfortable with the playbook.
“With a veteran guy like Sam, he’s going to have a lot of input in the things that we’re trying to do,” Wilks said. “The guys is smart, he understands the game, he’s played for awhile and we want his input, most importantly, to be able to give him some accountability within this offense.”
When it comes to Bradford’s health, the Cardinals will be cautious with him in the offseason.
Wilks talked about having a plan in consultation with the Cardinals’ training staff, medical team and Bradford’s physical therapist. However, he was noncommittal when asked if that plan included Bradford participating in OTAs or mini-camp.
Bradford played just two games last season due to a knee injury.
“The biggest thing that we’re going to do with Sam is to make sure that he’s ready to play 16-plus games,” Wilks said. “I’ve seen what he can do over the years. I’m not concerned about trying to get him out there as quick as possible to be able to throw the ball. We’re going to make sure that we’re giving Sam everything that he needs to be successful.”
Moving from 3-4 to 4-3
Though very little is still known about how the Cardinals offense will look under Wilks, the same can’t be said about the defense. That side of the ball will be different.
The Cardinals are transitioning from a 3-4, the defense used under then-head coach Bruce Arians, to a 4-3, an alignment much more familiar to Wilks and new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb. It’s the defense Wilks ran in Carolina, where Holcomb was the linebackers coach.
In looking back at last season, Wilks noticed the Cardinals spent nearly 75 percent of the time in an “over-front, which is a 4-3”. Plus, he added, the current personnel, specifically linebackers Markus Golden and Chandler Jones, is better suited to play a 4-3 defense.
“Those guys right now, to me, are most effective when they’re going forward, when they’re going towards the quarterback,” Wilks said. “In a 3-4 scheme a lot of times one of those guys is going to be dropping (into coverage). To me, you want that athleticism, that kind of skillset, attacking and getting after the quarterback.”
Wilks addressed several other topics over the course of Tuesday’s 21-minute media availability, including his adjustment as a first-year head coach.
– Wilks hopes to get outside “as much as possible” during training camp — weather permitting of course.
– The Cardinals won’t hold joint practices with another team in the preseason.
– Wilks kept coming back to the players. He’s been pleased with their focus, not only with the work in the weight room but in the classroom as well — and also their attendance. He used the word “great” and “outstanding” to describe the turnout.
– The offseason program is voluntary, yes, but many players know that the best way to impress a new head coach is to be seen.
“It’s about really winning the day. Our long-term goal — and I said it in my press conference — it’s about winning the world championship and before you can do that, you have to make it to the playoffs and most importantly, before you can do that, everything is focused on winning our division,” Wilks said.
“We want to win our division and position ourselves in position to be able to get into the playoffs and then ultimately get to our long-term goal. But before we can do all of that, alright, let’s worry about the details; the everyday aspect of really coming in here and trying to get better as a player.”