DC Vance Joseph riled up by Cardinals allowing explosive plays

Sep 26, 2019, 7:41 PM
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph of the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the NFL game ...
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph of the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the NFL game against the Detroit Lions at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Lions and Cardinals tied 27-27. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Take away, for example, 70 yards from Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s 76-yard touchdown burst, and the Cardinals would have allowed 3.3 yards per carry rather than 5.2 last Sunday.

Obviously, a touchdown would have been off the board as well.

Maybe Arizona wins.

What-ifs are easier when they come in singles and doubles, and that’s why Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is pissed off. He believes Arizona has the bodies and the talent to be a solid defensive team — even without two starting cornerbacks — but the optics of losing 38-20 to an efficient backup quarterback last week don’t look good.

On one hand, the Cardinals can patch up a few explosive plays that hurt them in Week 1 and Week 3. On the other, a solid defensive performance in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens is so far a flash in the pan.

“It’s OK football from time to time. It’s the big plays you can’t give up,” Joseph said as Arizona prepares to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. “The good teams aren’t giving up 76-yard runs and (52-yard) pass completions before half. That’s where we have to improve.

“The two explosives last week, that’s unacceptable from my part and from the players’ part.”

Joseph said the defense took “three steps back” after doing everything but defending a back-breaking dime of a throw by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter of a close Week 2 loss.

Before and after that road game, big plays have hurt the Cardinals in home games against the Lions and Panthers.

Last week, broken coverage on receiver D.J. Moore gave Carolina and backup quarterback Kyle Allen a 14-10 lead with 49 seconds left in the first half. A 76-yard touchdown run by McCaffrey turned a 21-20 Panthers lead into an eight-point advantage with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.

“You could play 55 good plays of football and you give up two and everybody’s pissed,” Joseph said. “I’m pissed because of those two plays.”

Relying on Reddick

While linebacker Haason Reddick led the Cardinals with two passes defensed and added 10 tackles last week, Arizona coaches have been slow to suggest he has completely caught up after missing nearly all of training camp due to a procedure on his knee.

Still, last week was the first in which he played such a large majority of snaps at inside linebacker alongside defensive quarterback Jordan Hicks, a sign Reddick is at least physically able to take on a bigger role.

“It’s a work-in-progress and he understands that,” Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “Still learning our system — when you miss that much time it’s going to take some time to get caught up. His athleticism shows up week in and week up, and he continues to work hard and get better each week.”

Indeed, Reddick’s athleticism has become apparent, especially as the Cardinals have watched Hicks and even its safeties struggle to blanket tight ends in man-to-man coverage.

The 2017 first-round pick’s most intriguing play was a pass bat-down thanks to his closing speed against McCaffrey, who settled down in the flat near the sidelines.

“He’s getting better. He is getting better,” Joseph said of Reddick. “He made some plays last week. It wasn’t all perfect, but he’s obviously productive because he’s talented.

“He has to be out there because, talking about tight ends and running backs, he’s one guy with the physical traits to cover those type of athletes.”

Humphries not worried in contract year

Fifth-year pro D.J. Humphries faces free agency after the 2019 season with much to prove.

He didn’t play in his rookie season after being nicknamed “Knee Deep” by then-coach Bruce Arians. He burst onto the scene the next year, playing 13 games and switching from right to left tackle.

But the last two years, injuries have limited him to 15 total games.

Humphries said Thursday he’s not worried about playing in a contract year and believes he’s taken the steps forward necessary to say he’s playing at his best.

“That’s one of those pills I swallowed a long time ago,” he said. “I figured that thinking about it isn’t going to do anything for you. You can think all day about a paycheck, it’s still not Friday.

“Friday’s going to come when it comes. It’s inevitable — if you’re working all week like you’re supposed to, Friday is inevitable.”

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DC Vance Joseph riled up by Cardinals allowing explosive plays