Cardinals defense a force to be reckoned with through 7 weeks

Oct 25, 2021, 4:36 PM

Jordan Phillips #97 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts in the first quarter against the Houston Texans...

Jordan Phillips #97 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts in the first quarter against the Houston Texans in the game at State Farm Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals offense gets brought up a lot when talking about the team’s early success this season.

Arizona’s defense should garner just as much credit.

Through seven games, opposing offenses have had little answers for the unit. It’s translated to a 7-0 start and seems to be getting better as the season rolls along.

The defense is filled with playmakers, whether it be in the secondary, in the trenches or patrolling the middle of the field.

A closer look at the unit’s play thus far:

Cardinals or ball hawks?

Arizona has been one of the most successful teams this season when it comes to takeaways, posting the third-most with 14.

Ten of the turnovers have come thanks to a Cardinals pass rush that has been largely effective this season.

Cornerback Byron Murphy is having his best year as a pro and has accounted for three of the team’s six interceptions, with linebacker Isaiah Simmons, cornerback Robert Alford and safety Budda Baker each nabbing a pick.

Of the 11 league-leading fumbles the Cardinals have forced in 2021, they have recovered eight. Linebacker Markus Golden leads not only the team but the NFL in forced fumbles with four.

No fly zone

Aside from the team’s six interceptions, Arizona has deflected 33 passes this season, tied for third among the NFL.

Fourteen players have at least one pass defensed, led by Murphy’s seven.

The Cardinals have also allowed the third-fewest passing yards per game with 201 yards.

No clowns on late downs

One of the defense’s best attributes is getting off the field in late-down situations.

This season, opposing teams have posted a 28.6% third-down conversion rate (23 of 80) and a 25% mark on fourth down (4 of 16), both league highs.

And with the amount of points Arizona’s offense is mustering on a weekly basis, the fourth-down tries will continue to test the defense as the year wears on.

That’s A-OK for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

“I have more calls than (the opposing coordinator) has, in my opinion,” Joseph said earlier this month. “I’m not worried about fourth downs. Fourth downs are a tough play to call from an offensive perspective.

“He doesn’t know what I’m in. He can call whatever he wants, I can call whatever I want. We’ll see who wins the down. I’m not afraid of fourth downs. Certain calls he cannot make on fourth downs, So I can be really aggressive.”

Giving QBs night terrors

Opposing signal callers have been beaten down against the Cardinals this season. Arizona is tied for fifth in sacks with 19 and tied for seventh in QB hits with 43.

Six Cardinals have at least one sack. Golden paces the team with six, followed by linebacker Chandler Jones’ five.

Defensive lineman J.J. Watt is the leader in the Cardinals clubhouse with 11 QB hits. Jones is second with eight.

Tackling machines

Four Cardinals have recorded at least 40 tackles through seven games. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons has a team high 47 tackles. Safety Jalen Thompson (44), linebacker Jordan Hicks (44) and safety Budda Baker (40) round out the four.

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