The Cardinals will try not to feel sorry for themselves or for injured defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who will sit out the remainder of the year with a torn ACL.
But moving on also involves determining how losing the productive nickel corner changes defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s attack.
“He is arguably their best defensive player,” ESPN’s Ron Jaworski said of Mathieu while speaking on the Burns and Gambo show Wednesday. “Tyrann was having that kind of year. And when you’re a team that likes to blitz as much as the Cardinals like to blitz with James Bettcher, you better be deep in the secondary. But all of a sudden, you lose quality starters, quality players, there’s a trickle-down effect and you’re not as good.”
Arizona has turned to a nickel and dime defense often because it had a deep stable of defensive backs. While Jerraud Powers will slide into Mathieu’s nickel spot and Justin Bethel will become a starting cornerback, the change also affects the defensive line.
Jaworski points out that the Cardinals could be less apt to blitz without Mathieu. With another injury, especially in the secondary, Arizona certainly would be more wary about leaving less experienced defensive backs on islands.
If that’s the case, the defensive line must take the onus in pressuring opposing quarterbacks themselves.
And that’s a question-mark considering Calais Campbell and crew have been hit and miss in pass rush effectiveness this season. While sacks don’t tell the entire tale, the Cardinals are tied for 27th in the NFL with just 26 sacks on the year.
“At times, it’s been good but for most part it’s been very average,” Jaworski said. “So all of a sudden you’re going to have to limit your blitzes if you don’t have people in the secondary. That’s your trickle-down effect.”