Cardinals DC Vance Joseph plans to play aggressive 3-4 defense

Feb 8, 2019, 6:04 AM | Updated: 4:23 pm
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph looks on before an...
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph looks on before an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos, in Denver. Former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph has been hired as the defensive coordinator on new Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury's staff. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

If any Arizona Cardinals fans have negative feelings toward the 4-3 defensive scheme because of the 2018 season, they’re not alone.

Newly-hired defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has similar reservations.

He appeared on the Big Red Rage on Thursday and said the 3-4 scheme makes it tougher for offenses to game plan against rushers and will allow the Cardinals defense to play on their own terms.

Joseph joins the show at the 30:00 mark.

“When you’re a 4-3 scheme, your four rushers are obvious,” he said. “Offensively, it makes it a little easy, right? They find your best rusher, they scheme it … and it’s done.”

But the 3-4 creates confusion for the offense, Joseph said. They don’t know who will be rushing, and it will often be as many as five to six Cardinals in the upcoming season.

“They have to guess — who’s the fourth rusher?” Joseph said. “Schematically, you can get Chandler Jones on tight ends and backs.”

Jones, the Cardinals’ best defensive lineman, had 13 sacks and tackles for loss apiece last season in the 4-3 defense. Both numbers were far below his 2017 production of 17 sacks and 28 tackles for loss.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson will be playing man-to-man coverage and shadow the best receiver each game, Joseph said. He expects the presence of the Pro Bowl athlete to make it easier for the team to choose who will rush and who will fall back.

Additionally, the team signed Robert Alford on Thursday, giving the Cardinals a boost at the second cornerback position that has eluded them for the last few years.

“To find someone opposite of Pat to [play man-to-man], and then rush five or six guys, now you’re playing defense on your terms,” Joseph said. “That’s the way you beat the explosive offenses.”

Handling explosive offenses is particularly important in the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams were one of the best offenses in the league last season, and the San Francisco 49ers looked promising with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. And Arizona knows all about the Seattle Seahawks.

Joseph wants to load the box on first and second downs while pressing receivers in coverage. In doing so, he hopes to put offenses in difficult third-down positions.

“Third down is important, but you have to win first down on defense to have success in a series,” Joseph said. “Make the offense make a decision.”

Could Nick Bosa be Joseph’s new Bradley Chubb?

Vance Joseph said that in his first year as the Denver Broncos head coach, offenses could gameplan around star linebacker Von Miller. He was the only great rusher from the linebacker spot on the team.

“Von had an OK year,” Joseph said.

But, in drafting linebacker Bradley Chubb No. 5 in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Broncos had a second weapon. Teams could no longer focus solely on Miller and both linebackers played well as a result.

The name most commonly associated with the 2019 No. 1 pick is Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. Joseph thinks selecting him could open up more holes for Jones as well as help the incoming rookie.

“In this system, when you’ve got two rushers and you can play press coverage outside, it makes it hard on offenses,” Joseph said. “If we have two rushers like that, it makes my job easy. It makes the DBs’ job easy and again, now we can dictate how we play defense.”

The Cardinals’ options are wide open with the pick. They could go Bosa, select another player or trade out of the spot.

But Joseph certainly isn’t against drafting Bosa.

“I wouldn’t say no to it,” he said. “But obviously that’s (general manager) Steve’s (Keim) job, and his job’s to do what’s best for the Cardinals.”

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