What to expect from the Cardinals defense moving forward
By: Brock Wells
The Arizona Cardinals defense mightily struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs Week One in Glendale. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense had anything they wanted against the Cards defense. Mahomes threw for five touchdowns on the team’s way to a comfortable 44-21 win. But the bigger story than Mahomes’s success is how bad the Cardinals defense looked. After all, the Cardinals were a playoff team last year, though they skidded across the regular season finish line.
It’s worth pointing out that the Cardinals were without a couple of key pieces on their defense due to injury. J.J. Watt, who misses games far more often than he plays these days, was out once again, this time with a calf injury. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready for Week Two. Trayvon Mullen also didn’t play, nor did Antonio Hamilton, who suffered a freak burn accident just before the start of the season. That’s just the kind of offseason, training camp, and preseason the team had.
That said, the Cardinals’ defensive leaders, Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, and Budda Baker are going to need to step up in Week Two if the team is going to be able to avoid starting 0-2. Particularly Simmons, who is expected to become a next-level player this season, and has taken over as defensive play-caller. In addition, the defensive front struggled to get any meaningful pressure on Mahomes, who was hit or hurried on very few occasions throughout the game.
Cardinals Defensive Stat Highlights:
- Zaven Collins: 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss
- Marco Wilson: 5 tackles, 2 pass breakups, forced fumble
- Byron Murphy: 4 tackles, fumble recovery
- Dennis Gardeck: 2 tackles, QB hit, forced fumble
Cardinals defense coordinator Vance Joseph blitzed Mahomes and the Chiefs more often than any team has ever done. This is a strategy that didn’t pay off. It’s also worth noting that the Cardinals were one of several teams throughout preseason who chose to play very few starters. Certainly, a great deal of rust was present throughout the game. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Mahomes exposed several holes inherent in this defense.
It all comes down to the simple fact that everything that could possibly have gone wrong for the Cardinals defense did. They were unprepared, sloppy, outmatched, and confused. It’s unlikely that the defense is as bad as they were in Week One and again in Week Two against the Las Vegas Raiders. Some of the rust of having not played much in the preseason should be starting to wear off for this team. But this defense has glaring issues, and they’re all over.
Watt’s return (if and when that is) will add a bit of depth to the defensive line for the Cardinals. But that alone isn’t going to be enough. If the team is serious about making another run to the playoffs this season, which they have enough talent to do certainly, the defensive players who are expected to step into star roles for the team are going to have to find a way to do so. They could find themselves in dangerous waters if the offense is expected to pick up all the defense’s slack.