Retooling the Cardinals' Defense

Discussion in 'Arizona Cardinals' started by Mitch, Feb 7, 2018.

  1. Mitch

    Mitch Crawled Through 5 FB Fields

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    Steve Wilks has not yet determined whether the 2018 Cardinals will be a base 43 or 34...but the most probable answer is that he and his staff will integrate components of both, depending on the opponent and what emphasis they need to place on stopping the run. Most of the time the Cardinals will be in a hybrid type nickel defense that features a 4 man rush and multiple blitz and cover options.

    Wilks loves to play zones---which in today's game with having to defend all of the RPOs and dual threat QBs---is practically a necessity. The Cardinals' defense struggled in zones last year, thus Wilks and Al Holcomb will be teaching their zones from scratch and will be doing their best to tighten the passing lanes and increasing the communication and help responsibilities between the linebackers and secondary.

    DL:

    The Cardinals have a stalwart veteran DT in Corey Peters and a quintet of up and coming talents in Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche, Rodney Gunter, Josh Mauro and Xavier Williams. Of the 5 younger players, Josh Mauro's contract may be an issue, as Mauro is due a $1.5M roster bonus in March which, if awarded, would put Mauro at $3.3M on the 2018 cap. Mauro is coming off a disappointing season, but his versatility as a 34DE and 43DE is attractive. Olsen Pierre and Robert Nkemdiche can kick out to 43 DE as well, if needed.

    The hope here is that the youth at the position will blossom. With all of the more pressing personnel needs, it wouldn't be a surprise if SWISK do not add any free agents to the mix, unless Wilks makes a push to bring in UFA DT/DE Star Lotulelei (6-2, 315) from Carolina.

    A wild card here is 2nd year DT Pasoni Tasini (6-3, 295), who is a disrupting force in short yardage and goal-line situations. The Cardinals would also like to bring along local product Peli Anau (6-3, 282) in the manner in which they did with Olsen Pierre.

    Edge:

    With the return of Markus Golden, the Cardinals should be able to boast one of the more fearsome edge rushing tandems in the NFL, with Golden and 2018 Edge POY Chandler Jones. If Wilks employs his 43 on 1st downs it might be wise to keep Golden fresh for passing situations. Thus, the Cardinals will try to re-sign UFA Kareem Martin, who fits best as a base 43 DE on 1st and 2nd downs.

    One of the biggest question marks heading into this season is what role SWAH will create for Haasan Reddick. Reddick's speed and quickness off the edge should be significantly more impactful in year 2. Some believe that Reddick will be used inside, but that's not really his strength. The ideal scenario for Reddick is to play the 43 WOLB and be used as an edge rusher and blitzer in passing situations. The great thing about Reddick is that he could shine as equally in coverage as he can in the pass rush.

    Recently signed OLB Praise Martin-Oguike played opposite Reddick on the edge at Temple. Both Reddick and he were TFL (tackle for loss) dynamos in Temple's scheme. Bryson Albright has a chance to stick if he continues to impress on STs and created a niche for himself in the defense.

    Keeping Kareem Martin would be a wise move, but adding to the edge depth in the draft could be a strong consideration later on in the draft, perhaps with a sleeper like Chikwe Obassih (Wisconsin), Ebenezer Ogundeko (Tennessee St.), Lorenzo Carter (Georgia), James Hearns (Louisville), Kemoko Turay (Rutgers), Chad Thomas (Miami), Andrew Brown (Virginia), K.J. Smith (Baylor), Andrew Trumbetti (Notre Dame), Kentavious Street (NC State) or Jayln Holmes (Ohio St.).

    LB:

    One of the most important decisions of the off-season for SWISK is determining whether Deone Bucannon is a good fit in Wilks' defense. His $8.7M 5th year option figure is pricey, especially in light of DB's up and down play the past two seasons. In building his upper body, DB has gotten a little top-heavy and as a result he has lost some of the fluidity that was a trademark of his game a few years ago. Wilks' LBs need to play fast in arriving at the ball quickly versus the run and pinching the seams in zone coverage the way Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis do with such aplomb.

    It's possible that SWAH will believe that DB could be a good fit at SAM or WILL, but it wouldn't seem like DB is suited to play the MIKE. In the 34 DB still seems to be a good fit at $LB, that is, if he can get his feet and instincts right this year.

    It would appear that signing a UFA LB and drafting a LB will be one of the team's top priorities. In FA, the LBs who jump out are Todd Davis (Broncos), Nigel Bradham (Eagles), Zach Brown (Redskins), Preston Brown (Bills), Avery Williams (Titans) and Tarik Whitehead (Lions).

    UFA Josh Bynes (Cardinals), coming off a solid season, would make sense because of his quickness and versatility.

    In the draft, there are several excellent LB prospects: Rashaan Evans (Alabama), Malik Jefferson (Texas), Leighton Vander Esch (Boise St.), Micah Kiser (Virginia), Azeem Victor (Washington), Dorian O'Daniel (Clemson) and super sleeper Darius Leonard (South Carolina St.) who is made to order for a SWAH defense.

    CB:

    Wilks likes his corners to be physical in all aspects of CB play---forcing the run, busting up screens, playing press man and hawking the passing lanes and lowering the boom in zones. In this regard, Wilks will try to help Patrick Peterson earn his way back to the All Pro team, by emphasizing aggressive plays and CB fundamentals in tackling and coverage.

    On the other side, it is expected that the Cardinals would like to re-sign Tramon Williams and develop Brandon Williams, C.J. Goodwin and Ronald Zamort behind him. It will be fascinating to see if SWAH can develop Brandon Williams and C.J. Goodwin, both of whom have the size and speed SWAH covet. Ronald Zamort should be delighted to play in SWAH's zone heavy defense, as this is his forte.

    The biggest question is---will Patrick Peterson buy into Wilks' aggressive philosophy? if not, something will have to give. Wilks cannot afford to back down and he is not the type who will. Thus, is it possible Wilks will try to trade Peterson in favor of getting high value in return and bringing in his type of physical CB.

    Could Peterson be a valuable trade chip in helping the Cardinals acquire their starting QB?

    For example, could SWISK consider a trade with the Eagles, Peterson for QB Nick Foles (6-6, 243), CB Rasul Douglas (6-2, 209) and DE Vinny Curry (6-3, 279)? Having just gotten torched for over 500 yards in the SB, the Eagles could be very interested in the prospect of acquiring Peterson. The Cardinals could acquire their starting QB in Foles, a young proto-typical Wilks'-style CB in Douglas and a proto-typical Wilks' style DE in Curry. Trading Curry would allow the Eagles to fit Peterson's salary under their cap. Derek Barnett is ready to start in his place.

    In the draft, could the Cardinals offer Peterson and the #15 pick to move up to the top 5 in order to land one of the top three QB prospects?

    Just to be clear---the hope and ideal outcome is that Patrick Peterson takes his game to its highest level under the guidance of Steve Wilks. But, if the chemistry is not right, then a trade is not out of the question.

    The second most pressing question about the CB unit is what the Cardinals are going to do about Tyrann Mathieu's contract. Mathieu had a so-so year as the team's nickel CB/hybrid SS and now the team must decide whether to award TM his $5M roster bonus in March would would kick in cap figures of $14M (2018), $14M (2019) and $10.5M (2020). By sheer necessity, the team will ask TM to rework his deal. Will TM and his agent be amenable to that?

    One may already have the sense that Mathieu is not going to budge on reworking his contract and will make it imperative for the Cardinals to trade or release him. The problem is---the Cardinals would have three days to try to trade him before they would have to make a decision on his roster bonus. Odds are that the teams that are interested in TM would require him to rip up his current contract and work with them on a new one. So, in actuality, TM would be back to square one---only this time, with the prospect of moving on to a new team.

    S:

    When Budda Baker was inserted as the SS, he immediately set a new tone for the defense with his aggressive style of play. He is a Steve Wilks kind of safety.

    At FS, Antoine Bethea showed surprising range and anticipation, which enabled him to lead the team with 5 interceptions.

    It would appear that the Cardinals would like to re-sign Tyvon Branch who is an asset in covering TEs and taller WRs from the perimeter or out of the slot. Plus, he can help out as a nickel safety in the zones.

    The Cardinals want to develop Rudy Ford as nickel FS and possible heir to the FS position down the line. Harlan Miller was a very good zone CB in college---look for him to be in the mix at CB this year.

    But, if Tyrann Mathieu moves on, it would seem very likely that the Cardinals will look to draft a combo CB/S to be an asset in the nickel and dime packages. A quintet of nifty fits for the role in the draft are: Michael Hughes (Central Florida), Jaire Alexander (Louisville), Deatrick Nichols (South Florida), Sean Chandler (Temple) and Levi Wallace (Alabama).
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
  2. JeffGollin

    JeffGollin Registered User

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    Nice write-up, Mitch. One thing though:

    When you have a shutdown dude at a critical position like corner...do not even mention a trade - even in gest - regardless of the sweetness of that deal (Shutdown corners are pure gold and, regardless of the deal, bad things are guaranted to happen).
     
  3. GimmedaBall

    GimmedaBall Registered

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    Thanks Mitch for your research and evaluation.

    I think we'll see plenty of roster turnover as the new staff plug-in the kind of players they want on D.

    When BA came in, he convinced Fitz to accept the 'Hines Ward' WR role for the Cards. To Fitz's credit, he excelled at the role and was a major reason the offense clicked.

    Let's hope the D players go all in on new schemes. We've gone through some of the PP debate to the point that two threads were shut down because the issue over his toughness was taking on a 'troll' flavor. We're close to opening up that discussion again.

    PP has the athletic ability to play any secondary scheme. The question is does he have the mindset to change his game and go from a cover corner to a complete corner? PP's willingness to participate will be a major factor if the new coaching regime is to be successful.

    Let's trust that PP will follow the lead of the definite HOF player on offense and adapt his game according to the new coach's requirements.
     
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  4. Mitch

    Mitch Crawled Through 5 FB Fields

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    I think that if PP responds enthusiastically to Wilks' coaching and philosophy it will bring the entire team to a new level of confidence and standard of achievement and accountability.
     
  5. wa52lz

    wa52lz Registered

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    Not sure about the trade. Vinny Curry's cap hits the next three seasons seem awful high for his production, $11, $11.25 and then $12.25. There is a decent savings over PP this yr $11.25 vs $15, but 2019-2020 are basically a wash, $11.25 vs $11.8 and $12.25 vs $13.1. Douglas' PFF grade was 87th overall CB in 2017. We get younger at CB, but most likely worse, pick up another bad contract on a 30yr old player (by the start of 2018), who most likely will be a cap casualty in Phily. They save $5 million by cutting him this year and like you said they Barnett is ready to replace him. Wouldn't part of trading PP be getting cap relief for a QB?
     
  6. BigRedRage

    BigRedRage badass Contributor

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    lol @ trading Peterson. wth.
     
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  7. Mitch

    Mitch Crawled Through 5 FB Fields

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    Good points, wa52lz. In retrospect, I agree with you on Curry. I knew the cap figures, but I think Curry could have a CC-type impact on our defense. His production has been down in terms of sacks, but not in terms of run stuffing and QB pressures.

    Douglas had a solid rookie season. He's a great fit in Wilks' defense.

    But the key to me was finding a way to acquire QB Nick Foles. I am convinced he's the best QB for the Cardinals.
     
  8. GimmedaBall

    GimmedaBall Registered

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    The trade with PP going to the Eagles is DOA.

    The Eagles would not have a healthy vet QB on the roster if they trade Foles. They need Foles to start next year and to be the backup if and when Wentz returns next year. Foles may end up being the starter for the full season given Wentz suffered his ACL/PCL late this season.

    Might try the trade without Foles . . . but Eagles would want more than a cover CB in their defense.
     
  9. GimmedaBall

    GimmedaBall Registered

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    Hope you are right//.

    PP has made repeated statements that he wants to go down as one of the greatest of all time to play his position.

    2017: https://www.azcentral.com/story/spo...terson-bruce-arians-tyrann-mathieu/605387001/

    https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/...bout-all-pro-snub-says-he-needs-more-targets/

    He'd rather have the gold jacket over winning a SB:

    https://www.revengeofthebirds.com/2...pick-hall-of-fame-over-a-championship-and-its

    We'll see what happens when the play call requires him to blow up a pulling guard or blitz off the edge and bang a TE and/or FB.
     
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  10. cheesebeef

    cheesebeef Registered User Contributor

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    Jesus... even as one of the People who criticizes PP, the idea that Wilks is going to trade him is flat out wishful non-thinking.

    Get a grip Mitch.
     
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  11. Solar7

    Solar7 Optimist

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    Seriously be careful what you wish for with PP21. For a guy who has been consistently one of the best players on the field, says mostly all of the right things, and keeps out of trouble, we could be in a much worse position at CB. Maybe if we had some young up and comers at the position, but we simply don't. We have a hot mess of garbage.
     
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  12. Arz101

    Arz101 Registered

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    Peterson and pick traded for Carson Wentz? Get it.

    For Foles? :mulli::barf:
     
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  13. Ohcrap75

    Ohcrap75 Registered

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    Mitch, I know you alluded to signing a #2 CB yesterday. Which would be your top targets? Bashad Breelend depending on price would be solid addition. I don't think the price to pay for Logan is necessary, since we already have a #1.
     
  14. cardncubfan

    cardncubfan H

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    No way we trade one of our best defensive players.
     
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  15. GimmedaBall

    GimmedaBall Registered

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    Every player has a price. I don't think the Eagles would trade Foles given their current situation . . . but if another team throws them an offer they can't refuse. . . say Cleveland tossing two 1st and a couple 2nd . . .

    New HC is going to have to establish himself as the guy in charge. Players will have to abide by his agenda or they will be gone. Happens everywhere when there is a change of management and an 'old timer' wants to keep doing it the way it was done under the old system.

    Plenty of guys have been traded who appeared to be core players, HOF to be, etc.
     
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