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Vance Joseph: Cardinals defense ‘compliant’; Murphy coming along

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hugs Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph prior to an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Over-teaching is a theme for the Arizona Cardinals defense during organized team activities.

Or maybe that carries too negative a connotation. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph believes his players are picking up his terminology well and understanding the playbook even though he’s asking a lot of them.

Sometimes, he’s asking them to do too much.

“We have a very, very compliant group. These guys, if you ask them to chase the ball, they chase the ball. If you ask them to study, they study,” he told Bickley & Marotta Monday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “We’ve put a bunch of defense in on purpose. We’ve had very, very few mistakes because guys study.

“You know, Jordan Hicks is a quarterback on defense,” Joseph added. “Haason Reddick has had a great offseason, and Chandler Jones has been a stud. Corey Peters has been here everyday, so he’s working hard.”

Reddick, who has played alongside Hicks as a dime linebacker, was one player asked to take on a workload perhaps beyond his physical abilities. He’s matched up with receivers as the Cardinals’ new offense often goes four wide.

Joseph won’t ask Reddick to necessarily do the same come the 2019 season, but pushing the third-year pro’s limits can build confidence. That Reddick is picking the defense up quickly during OTAs is the key, and Jones believes the coaching staff’s identity has sped up that learning curve.

“Everyone on our staff are tremendous teachers,” Jones said.

“(Joseph) does a good job of breaking things down and helping other people understand it from whatever position you are, from whatever string you are.”

Take rookie cornerback Byron Murphy as another example.

Arizona has overloaded him with information, beginning OTAs by teaching him cornerback, nickelback and even safety. But recently, the Cardinals — on the advice of cornerbacks coach Greg Williams — shrank Murphy’s responsibilities down to play only corner last week.

“The quickness came back, the play-making ability came back, the confidence came back,” Joseph said.

This week, the Cardinals handed Murphy nickel duties, as he could play there to start the season with Patrick Peterson suspended the first six weeks of the year.

“Just like a young quarterback, a young corner takes time,” Joseph said of Murphy, the rookie second-round pick. “If you don’t raise them right, they’re going to have some hard downs early and you can lose them early.

“We’re being very careful with him, because we know he’s got the goods. He’s got a bright future, but how fast we push him out there in the fire, we got to be careful, you know, make sure he’s ready for it.”

More generally, Joseph believes stretching the limits of his players’ minds and physical abilities will pay off down the line.

It’s then that scheme wrinkles and call-backs to the overloading during these OTAs can put the Cardinals a step ahead of the competition.

“We’ve put in a bunch of defense, and that’s (on) purpose because we want to be in Week 12 reinventing calls to win games,” Joseph said. “We want a bunch of bullets so we can work ’em and learn ’em, so when we get into the Week 14, 15 part of the season, we can pull from our library.

“It helps the players to stretch their brain now. In fall you shrink it down and it feels like first grade again.”

Bickley & Marotta

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