ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals DE Zach Allen: ‘It’s like an arms race in our division’

Mar 16, 2021, 7:17 AM | Updated: 9:21 am

(Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)...

(Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NFC West is arguably one of the best divisions in the NFL.

If the Cardinals had beaten the Los Angeles Rams in last year’s regular season finale, Arizona could have been the third team in the division to make the playoffs.

That didn’t happen. The Cardinals lost to finish 8-8, the Rams made the postseason and both teams wasted little time making noise this offseason.

With the likes of quarterback Matthew Stafford joining the Rams and defensive lineman J.J. Watt signing with Arizona in the last several months, there’s no telling what could be ahead as free agency officially begins Wednesday.

“It’s like an arms race in our division. It just seems like the rich get richer. Everyone is trying to compete,” Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen told SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio’s Sports Sunday.

“You would think any year that you get a guy like DeAndre Hopkins and then you have the eighth overall pick and pick a player of the caliber like Isaiah Simmons, you’d think, ‘Oh these guys are going to be favorites and Kyler (Murray) makes that jump.’ … But that’s what makes it fun. You want to play against the best as a competitor. … It’ll be interesting to see what the final roster looks like.”

Allen said the Cardinals learned a valuable lesson following the 20-12 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.

The 23-year-old defensive end added how important each day is and how doing all the little things in practice will add up on gameday.

“In the NFL, you can’t have a bad day. You can only practice so much and meet so much, you can’t afford to have a bad practice or have a bad period in practice. You really have to take advantage of every rep,” Allen said. “I think for us down the stretch, especially after that San Francisco game, we realized the importance of that because you could definitely see how when we practiced well and we focused, we would be playing really well in games.

“And then if we had a bad day at practice, it would show in the games. I think last year — due to injuries and how the roster was — we were pretty young on defense, especially up front. I think once we learned that lesson, I think you’re able to see the younger players take that jump. Now that it seems like we’re just so deep on defense that if everybody has that mindset of doing your job and doing it on every play and every period and every day, I’m really excited to see what we can do.”

A key ingredient for young players such as Allen to make that jump and maintain that mindset is the addition of Watt.

The former Walton Payton NFL Man of the Year is known for his leadership qualities and already has good relationships with the likes of Hopkins and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph from their time together in Houston.

“I don’t think people realize how important [chemistry] is, but it definitely plays a big part in holding people accountable whether on and off the field,” Allen said.

“So I think once you have that rapport and you realize you guys are kind of in the same boat together and you don’t want to let anyone down, I think it’s definitely going to help us out and keep everybody focused and definitely I think everybody is excited about it this year.”

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