Cardinals general manager Steve Keim not only acted in improving the one glaring flaw of his 2015 defense by adding Chandler Jones and rookie Robert Nkemdiche to the pass-rush. He couldn’t have done much better.
But the expectation that the Cardinals should be better than a season ago seems to overlook the fact that the defense also must fill holes.
Gone was the grandfather of the defensive back crew, safety Rashad Johnson. On top of it, Jerraud Powers wasn’t retained at cornerback and midseason defensive end signee Dwight Freeney was also allowed to walk in free agency.
“We know there’s going to be changes year in, year out,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo show. “Those guys were older and I guess the organization wanted to go in the different direction. Steve and Coach Arians has been doing a great job of stacking this roster the way it needs to be.”
The expectations, as high as they might be, aren’t unrealistic to the leader of the Cardinals’ defense.
Peterson, as openly confident as he might be, is aware Arizona can’t assume last season’s success will carry over, especially not with all the changes on the roster.
“It’s going to be tough to trump (2015),” he told Burns and Gambo. “When you at the top of the mountain where we were last year and have to start all over again, it’s tough. We have guys who understand how to get back to that pinnacle. It’s going to be tough but I think we can do it.
“You got new faces, having the year you had last year, guys are paying attention to you now,” he said of opponents. “They understand what you want to do in certain situations.”
Among the new faces are rookie corner Brandon Williams, who from the first day of practice made sure to follow Peterson’s every move. He’s warming up with, working on technique with and “three inches” from Peterson in the film room, the veteran said.
“He’s definitely a guy, he wants to be great and he’s not shying away from it as well. If he is named a starter, I have all the confidence in the world,” Peterson said, before adding the asterisk of the reality. “Those guys are still trying to iron out those rookie pains. That’s just the nature of the game.”
The good news: Safety Tony Jefferson is back and has gotten better every season and Tyrann Mathieu is healthy.
Those things, and Peterson himself, should make chasing the success from a year ago all the easier.
“To have 32 back on the field is truly a blessing,” Peterson said. “The guy, he plays with so much passion and energy and passion, it trickles down to the rest of the team.”