Cardinals defense in no panic preparing to face pro-style offenses

Aug 13, 2019, 4:33 PM
Running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers rushes the football against the Arizona ...
Running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers rushes the football against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL preseason game at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 17-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t good that the Arizona Cardinals allowed the Los Angeles Chargers to average 6.4 yards per rush in the preseason opener.

It wasn’t great that the Chargers’ trio of backup quarterbacks accounted for 89 of those yards.

The game did, however, bring up a point about the value of preseason games as the Cardinals defense readies to face more traditional offenses compared to what it faces every day in practice.

“It was our first real time out there facing — I won’t call it an NFL offense, but a more traditional offense versus four-wide all the time, spread all the time,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We had to get our eyes right … guys were moving a lot, gaps were moving a lot. Now we have something to teach off of.

“That was a PhD running game we had to face. We never really saw any slashes, no pulls (in training camp) because we’re practicing against our offense. It was a different look for us, but I think now that we understand our gaps … we’ll be more sound.”

Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said there’s no reason to panic, and the slog of the preseason that has three more games left is proof that there’s plenty of time to shore up run fits and principles in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s 3-4 scheme.

The Cardinals face another NFL traditionalist in Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders this week. While helmet-seeking receiver Antonio Brown isn’t on the menu for Oakland, the Cardinals will be facing Gruden’s mix of 1990s and 2000s offensive philosophies of dual-tight end sets, downhill running and the like. Oakland had two running backs on the field 20% of the time last year and also relatively frequently used 2-2 personnel, with two backs and two tight ends.

But Gruden, who proved last year in Oakland that he evolved while working as an ESPN analyst, will also spread things out and use pre-snap motions that can challenge the Cardinals.

Still, practice is where Arizona’s new coaching staff will be earning its money.

As the regular season nears, Joseph and his assistants will be challenged with providing enough teaching moments to prepare the Cardinals without a whole lot of live reps.

“This league is a lot of walk-through based,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “You got to walk through, you got to be able to learn and focus when you walk-through. When we’re scouting and we’re game-planning for a team, we’re going to have those looks. That’s what’s unique.

“I know people lose sight about (it) in the preseason — we’re getting run on. But we’re not game-planning these guys. Really, we’re not worried about the other teams. We’re worried about ourselves.”

The Cardinals believe that seeing rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and frequent 10-personnel sets in practice will help them improve. But along with doubts about Kingsbury’s offense, how facing that offense every day affects the defense won’t be known until Arizona faces the Detroit Lions in September.

“I think no matter what we go against it’s going to make us better,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “We just have to make sure that although we’re going against this offense in practice, we also get some looks against some more pro-style offenses and some of the things we’ll probably see more week in, week out in the league.”


Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) kneels after the Green Bay Packers intercepted...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals-Bears injury report: Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins game-day decisions

Arizona offensive lineman Justin Pugh missed a second straight day of practice Thursday with a lingering calf injury.
13 hours ago
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals look on during the second h...
Tyler Drake

Kyler Murray, Isaiah Simmons not taking the Kingsbury-to-Oklahoma bait

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray isn't putting too much stock into the report that Oklahoma is targeting Kliff Kingsbury as its next head coach.
3 days ago
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins returns to the practice field Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Temp...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins, QB Kyler Murray easing back in practice

The Cardinals saw one of their biggest pieces offensively in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins make his return to the practice field on Wednesday.
3 days ago
Arizona Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen (94) celebrates his sack against the San Francisco 49ers...
Tyler Drake

Back at it: Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals use bye week to their advantage

While the time away from the football field is needed for any team, there's a fine line between refueling and getting complacent.
4 days ago
Arizona Cardinals RB Jonathan Ward runs through a drill during training camp Thursday, July 29, 202...
Jake Anderson

Arizona Cardinals place RB Jonathan Ward on Reserve/COVID-19 list

The Arizona Cardinals placed RB Jonathan Ward on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. He has not played since Oct. 28 due to a concussion.
4 days ago
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore ...
Tyler Drake

The final countdown: A look at the Cardinals’ remaining matchups in 2021

With the bye done and over with, it's time for the Arizona Cardinals to reengage for a final playoff push to end the season.
4 days ago
Cardinals defense in no panic preparing to face pro-style offenses