Cardinals S Budda Baker ranked among NFL’s top off-ball blitzers

Jul 25, 2023, 7:41 AM

Julio Jones #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals af...

Julio Jones #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals after making a catch in overtime during the game at State Farm Stadium on December 25, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals fan-favorite Budda Baker has made his mark in the league for his downhill, aggressive style of play and was recognized again for his prowess as a situational blitzer.

Andy Benoit of the 33rd Team ranked Baker No. 9 on a list of top off-ball blitzers in the NFL. The list includes just one other safety in Brandon Jones of the Miami Dolphins.

The skill allowed Baker to thrive in the Cardinals’ defense last season for a team that had the second-highest blitz rate in the NFL.

Transitioning away from Vance Joseph’s aggressive scheme to a Jonathan Gannon-led defense could be an adjustment for Baker and his new coach.

Gannon’s Eagles were heavily criticized for the lack of a blitz package in the Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Eagles ranked in the middle of the pack with a 22.1% blitz rate last season, per Pro Football Reference.

Whether Gannon decides to adjust his coaching style to better fit Baker’s skill set remains to be seen.

It will be interesting to see if this missile gets deployed often under the new Arizona Cardinals regime. Much was made about head coach Jonathan Gannon rarely blitzing as defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. But any coach with one of the greatest pass-rushing defensive lines of their era would elect not to blitz – especially if they also had the subtle, sound and creative twists in their split-safety coverages that Gannon did.

That said, only about three Cardinals defenders (give or take) would be starters in that Eagles lineup. With less veteran talent, the Cardinals could feel compelled to take more chances through scheme.

It’s also hard to determine how much the head coach’s influence will impact a defense with defensive coordinator Nick Rallis set to call plays. While Rallis spent the last few seasons with Gannon on the Eagles, he also has an extensive background with the Minnesota Vikings under former defensive guru Mike Zimmer.

Regardless of what direction the defense takes, the Cardinals and Baker still need to come to an agreement on extension terms or decide if trading Baker is the best option for both parties going forward.

Baker is under contract for this season with a non-guaranteed option paying out $14.2 million next year.

The safety, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, had 111 combined tackles last season on top of two interceptions.

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