Cardinals using pass-rushing differences to their advantage
Sep 11, 2023, 5:48 PM
TEMPE — No pass rusher is created equal.
In a defense that has coordinator Nick Rallis’ and head coach Jonathan Gannon’s fingerprints all over it, that’s quite alright.
Rotating in 11 different defenders up front throughout the 20-16 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday, the Cardinals utilized each of their specific skillsets in the season opener.
“You want your guys fresh and you want to rotate them,” Gannon said, adding he learned the trend from current Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus from their time in Indianapolis together.
“If they have a jersey on game day, they have to serve a role and purpose. … Anyone whose up on game day, especially that front, they’ll have a role and they’ll play. I thought they all did a pretty good job.”
Instead of putting pass rushers in a box on how things should be done — potentially limiting their output in the process — Gannon remains locked in on his over-arching philosophy of letting his players paint as long as they stay within the means of the defense.
For linebacker Dennis Gardeck, who will be the first to say he doesn’t look anything like a tradition pass rusher, that can go a long way from a production standpoint, much like we saw Sunday.
“Everybody’s got a different style because everyone’s built differently,” Gardeck, who finished with two sacks, three QB hits and a forced fumble, said Monday. “Everybody’s got their own style and flavor and things that are their go-to fastball. I think that’s what makes the outside backers so dangerous.”
“Being able to Rolodex that and everybody’s got their own playstyle, got their own unique twist on what that pass rush looks like, how are you ever getting settled in your sets or whatever as an offensive lineman?” the linebacker added. “You got to be able to flip back and forth. … It just adds to their mental stress.”
That mental stress Gardeck speaks of was among the many factors in the front seven racking up a combined six sacks, six QB hits, six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
But above all else, it comes down to the “dawgs” and overall trust currently fostered within the DL and OLBs rooms.
“Nobody’s worried about anything dropping off with X, Y and Z in the game,” Gardeck said. “We’re all hunting, we’re all in this together and we’re all confident with whoever’s out there.”
Gardeck on his multiple sack celebrations throughout Week 1:
“I was not prepared for that much dancing but we’re always happy for it.”