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Rest, relax, self-scout: Cardinals have laundry list of bye-week plans

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Dan Kubus/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals haven’t had this late of a bye since 1991, when the Phoenix Cardinals limped into a Week 14 break with a 4-9 record.

This year, a 3-7-1 Cardinals team enters a Week 12 bye disappointed by their record but hopeful more success isn’t far from grasping.

“I feel like all our losses have been very close,” safety Budda Baker said Tuesday. “We just haven’t took that extra step to win games. We always find a way to lose.

“For me, I’m excited. I know we have seven losses, but all these losses are close and all of them could’ve went a different way.”

First-year coach Kliff Kingsbury wrapped a brief practice Tuesday and sent players on their way, also canceling a previously-scheduled Wednesday practice.

Recent years have put Arizona in worse positions from an injury standpoint, and that makes the 2019 team feeling good about its chances coming out of the bye, where a three-game homestand begins on Dec. 1 against the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams.

Backup quarterback Brett Hundley, the spontaneous traveler on the team, was deciding whether he might visit the Grand Canyon — the Arizona-grown player has never seen it — or Antelope Canyon.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters imagines getting some rest and some good food over the break. And center A.Q. Shipley said he’s most excited for his parents to visit town — they will take his toddler off his hands.

“It’ll be good just to relax without a 1-and-a-half-year-old telling me ‘no’ all day long,” he said.

For Kingsbury, the break doesn’t sound like it will be much of, well, a break.

“Just trying to get ahead on LA.,” he said. “Like I said, some self-scout stuff; where can we get better? Anything play-wise through the first 11 (games) that I think we can reuse or tweak or adjust. Then really try to steal a week on L.A. as far as preparation goes.”

Searching for answers on defense

Though he’s not the play-caller there, focusing on the defensive side of the ball could consume much of the break for Kingsbury.

“I’m always involved. I’m just not calling it on game day,” he said Monday. “We have discussions daily on defense and defensive personnel and where we want this to be. Everybody understands the expectation, and we’re not there right now.”

Kingsbury said Monday that there had been no internal discussions about changes at defensive coordinator.

Vance Joseph’s group has struggled throughout the year, but personnel limitations and injuries of course put him in challenging positions. Arizona has a starting rookie safety — Jalen Thompson recorded his first pick last week in San Francisco — and rookie corner in Byron Murphy.

Peters and Rodney Gunter have been the only constants on the interior of the defensive line.

Haason Reddick has lost hold of the primary inside linebacker role to Joe Walker alongside defensive QB Jordan Hicks. That position, the safety spots and the nickels have all struggled to cover tight ends.

“You can always get better,” Kingsbury said. “You can always improve as a defense, and we understand that. It’s critical times where we’re not making plays. You’ve seen improvement in the run defense. On third downs we’ve struggled recently, and we’ve got to get better at that.”

IR decisions

Arizona has yet to activate either of two allowed injured reserve players this season.

One option is starting cornerback Robert Alford, a victim of a training camp leg injury.

But bringing back Alford seems unlikely. Kingsbury has not closed the door on the possibility, however.

“I wouldn’t say closed. He has worked really hard in rehab, and he’d love to come back, but we also want to be smart about his safety,” the coach said Monday.

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