For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2013 – 11:08 am

It’s that time of the offseason, when players scatter for some time away from the facility and so too does the author of a certain blog. Before that, however, I try and put on my analysis cap and attempt to project – sans injuries – who will be in the starting lineup come Sept. 8 when the Cardinals open the regular season in St. Louis trying to win their first game for a fourth straight season. This one is a little more difficult to sort out. By last year it was easier to get a sense of what Ken Whisenhunt wanted to do and who he wanted to do it with. No real way to know that with Bruce Arians yet.

For starters, he has said time and again judging players in shorts wasn’t enough to make any solid decisions – he said he knew how they could play soccer, for goodness sake – and so I’d expect training camp to be much more important than the past. The Whiz coaching staff, which generally stayed stable, knew very well what they were getting with holdovers. This staff is new and don’t know many of these players. Being unquestioned at your position is rare right now.

That doesn’t even take into account Arians’ desire to play young players. He clearly is much more willing to go with youth. He has also talked often about how the “starters” are more than just 11, especially on defense, thanks to the many packages a team has.

I suppose that’s all a roundabout way of saying this is my best guesstimate, and that’s all. We have defense today, offense tomorrow. There has been lots of speculation out there that the Cards may end up as a 4-3 team, and we’ll see how things are spread around, but they have been working in a 3-4 base the entire offseason.

Remember, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, please, no wagering.

DE – Darnell Dockett. He will get more chances to get on the stat sheet. He will, probably, be used inside in certain packages and not just as a 3-4 end. He definitely is happier than he has been in regards to how he is being used. The Cards are counting on that showing on the field.

NT – Dan Williams. The team poked around potential free agents earlier in the offseason, and Williams came in to workouts needing to shed pounds. But he has, and Arians praised his condition last week. Like the ends, there is talk of Williams getting upfield and attacking more often. It’s so easy to forget he was a No. 1 pick, but the Cards need him to play that way.

DE – Calais Campbell. Had another very good year last season. He too sounds excited about his opportunities in Todd Bowles’ system, although he tends to be a little more muted than Dockett (who isn’t?) Has become one of the best in the league, period. At some point, it’d be nice to see him get a Pro Bowl nod.

ROLB – Lorenzo Alexander. This has been the spot for O’Brien Schofield, who recently told me camp was the place where jobs are won and lost. Could OB still make a starting run? Sure. But Alexander, wooed as a free agent partially on the strength of starting potential, is going to get his shot. I think, given his ability as a leader, he’ll end up there at least at first.

SILB – Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley was an early free-agent sign, but then the Cards drafted Kevin Minter. Minter is the kind of player who needs camp to show what he’s got. Arians thought he was getting too physical in the offseason. But I think Brinkley still holds him off at first, even if Minter pushes for playing time later this season.

WILB – Karlos Dansby. This is kind of cheating, because I don’t even have to factor Daryl Washington into this – Washington is suspended the first four games. When Washington returns, however, it will be very interesting to see how it plays out with him, Dansby, Brinkley and Minter. It’s been suggested Washington could end up outside in some scenario, but at no point in the offseason did Washington do any work there.

LOLB – Sam Acho. A very smart player and great in the locker room. He should start at the outset, but he needs to up his sacks to stay there. Otherwise they are going to start looking to upgrade.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Easiest position to peg.

CB – Jerraud Powers. The Cardinals did a good job building up depth at cornerback. Antoine Cason is slightly more established given Powers’ injury history, but Powers has an Arians connection from Indy and I think that will make a difference. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cason start, though. Another thing to chew on: With so many corners, is one traded before the season starts? You still have Javier Arenas, Justin Bethel, Jamell Fleming, Bryan McCann.

FS – Rashad Johnson. Tyrann Mathieu is going to play in some way, shape or form, including nickel corner sometimes. You just don’t see it any other way. But I don’t see Mathieu starting. Johnson is helped because he played strong safety last season. I can see Johnson moving to strong safety if Mathieu bullies his way into the lineup.

SS – Yeremiah Bell. Bell brings experience and he knows Bowles well from their days in Miami. He is a short-term solution, though.


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28 Responses to “For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition”

  1. By hummer53 on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Nice job again Darren. The thing about not finding about who can play FOOTBALL until camp is not really true to some extent either. Half of camp practices are in shorts. When in pads, tacking to the ground is very rare anymore. Only time before regular season you can really find out is the hated pre-season games. That’s what perturbed me about Whiz. I always thought he fluffed his team through the 4 PS games. Know there’s a fine line. Don’t want to hurt anyone. Would really like to see BA play the vets a little longer in PS games to see who can play football and not soccer before the real bullets fly.

  2. By aaron on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    This always drove me nuts with Whiz as well, especially with the QB spot. Playing your starting QB one quarter in a preseason game is fine when you’re trying to get him reps and is an established starter. It’s stupid to do so when you’re trying to figure out what you have at the position. This past season was painful, watching the mismanagement of the “Quarterback Competition”.

  3. By david on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply


  4. By cdubbb on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Not trying to undermine you Darren, but Washington lined up outside a few times at fan fest. From my best recollection Minter and Dansby were inside and Washington and Lorenzo were outside. I distinctly remember this because I was very excited by seeing Dwash move around to exploit certain matchups.

  5. By D on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    I only see OB making the team due to special teams or an injury. His injury past is not fair to him, but the NFL ia all about producing and since BA didn’t draft him, it’s easier to let him go with Alexander onboard. ACHO better have a good year or he could be like OB next year at this time. DCord can only scheme and blitz only so much, a player has to win the one on one battles.

    Have a good Vacation break…I know the cool weather of SD is calling me….

  6. By Mike G on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope all is well! Nice write-up on the defense. This is my main concern with the team this year. I think the offense can only go up given their struggles the last couple years. The defense has played well under Horton and it will be interesting to see how they play under Bowles. There are plenty of new faces and it may take some time to build cohesion. Plus with Washington’s issues off the field and his suspension it will hurt the team. Am looking forward to the new guys playing and improving as the year unfolds. Darren–given the departure of Adrian Wilson and all his leadership qualities—Do you think the Cards will miss him in the locker room????–he has been the face of the organization for a long time!!! Am Concerned on who the new leader will be on defense!!!

  7. By Darren Urban on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Mike –

    RE: leadership

    Someone will step up.

  8. By Itsallinthecards on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    I’m surprised by the switch with Bell at SS and Rashad Johnson at FS. I assumed with Rashad playing SS last year he’d stay there with Bell at FS until Tyrann is ready.

    Darren, is that how they have been practicing in OTA’s, with Bell at SS?

    Go Cards!

  9. By Darren Urban on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    Itsall —

    RE: Bell

    Yes, he has been working at SS.

  10. By Chris B on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Ugh… how much longer til training camp?

    Dear NFL Season,
    Hurry up.

  11. By Mike Hadzinski C.M. PUNK on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    CB jarraud powers lol weak i hope he doesn’t start just because he played for him in indy powers is imo is a poor man’s version of lets say DAVID MACKLIN NUFF SAID.

  12. By aaron on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Defensive depth is what excites me most. I’m sure the starting core will platoon amd different packaged will give others playing time. The LB and secondary depth is a welcomed addition, gicen the underperforming and injury issues in the past.

  13. By John The Draft Guy on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    Seems logical.

    But what happens when DWash returns?

    Arenas and Mathieu have a very similar skill set. Can the cards keep Arenas as a slot CB and keep Mathieu at safety? I like Arenas but can’t see the cards keeping two special team/slot CBs.

    Minter seems like a younger, faster version of Brinkley. Not sure why he won’t be able to force his way in to the starting LB spot.

    In most 3-4’s , dline control blockers and LB’s are the stars. Looking forward to how Arians plans on cutting the dline loose while still protecting the LBs, especially the smaller DWash.

    Dockett has not been seen making plays since 2010. Now, it seems, he is hyped to have a huge year. With a paycheck at 7.7 million, does Dockett in his new defense need to at least be considered for the probowl to be here next year and get his 8.75 mil ?

  14. By DontTakeLosses on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply

    – well done feeding the beast which is this Cardinal Nation. OLBs the Big Qs. Thank God we have the PGA to carry us to August;)


  15. By Credit Card on Jun 18, 2013 | Reply


    Could you provide your opinion of the depth of the Cardinals in relationship to other years you covered with the Cards. In the same light, comment on how the depth can better match-up or make mis-match opportunities. My opinion, the last couple of years the back-ups were too similar to some of the starters at some of the positions — easy for another team to prepare against the Cards.

  16. By Darren Urban on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    Credit —

    RE: Depth

    It’s so hard to say right now. No one has even hit yet. As far as similar talent, hats kind of what you want. That way you collect guys who can play in your system. They have another playmaker-type on defense in Mathieu, but we’ll see how it goes. I do think, especially offensively, they have done a good job upgrading. The bar was pretty low.

  17. By D4 on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    I still think that the greatest asset to the ‘D’ will be if the offense can generate some first downs. The ‘O’ had to lead the league in ‘ 3 and outs’ last year. This looks like an improved defense, I love the depth at LB, but if the offense doesn’t give them rest and/or field position it will be difficult to preform.

  18. By DontTakeLosses on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    Lol: ““third down, goal line, QB sneak. Boom! I got all this, baby. Like the back of my hand. Just put me in there. Who scares me? Nobody. We all bleed the same.”
    The grin doesn’t fade. Somewhere in there, the quarterback still lives, even if he is playing tight end on Sundays. ” Good stuff.

  19. By Mike Hadzinski C.M. PUNK on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply


  20. By Annette Richters on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    Offense in the top 15, Defense in the top 10. NFC Champs. No reason for not winning. BA has called a lot of plays. Between BA and Moore there are some pretty impressive QBs BEHIND THEIR YEARS. SOME OF THE BEST. Teaching those who are teachable is what those two do best.

    We will win our division, and we will win over half our games outside the division. Our own DC last year said we will blow some teams away 30 >10. Horton said that himself. He worked with BA in Pittsburg.

    12-4 and the top team in the NFC. Super Bowl Champs, that might end up being decided by a zebra again. We actually won our first one.

  21. By Eazy E on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    Daryl getting his spot when he comes back no matter how well Brinkley or even dansby plays. Dude went crazy last year and had a marvelous year. Most guys on our defense especially the starters last year had great seasons. Daryl arguably was the best of the group for goodness sakes no question. The CB opposite Pat will be interesting to say the least. Safeties also even though it shouldn’t be cough Kerry Rhodes cough Adrian Wilson… Lorenzo Alexander is very intriguing. Pro Bowl Special Teamer and will play outside LB/DE. I must say I’m intrigued about what he can do.

  22. By Dave Chaney on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    Good write up and good info Darren. It sure does seem like a breath of fresh air this off season. A whole new look for the team and hopefully we will be able to take it to the field when it counts. It feels exciting already.

  23. By Cards Season Ticket Holder on Jun 22, 2013 | Reply

    I have always seen good NFL teams that are winners seem to have common denominators…PLAY-MAKERS…Cornerstones…

    on OFFENSE; a real good QB (Palmer), real good WR (Fitz), real good RB (Mendenhal), a serviceable OLine (still unproven), and the rest play hard.

    on DEFENSE; a real good Middle LB ( Washington), a real good CB (Peterson), and PassRusher (Campbel), and the rest play hard.

    I think we are very close. I am looking forward to see what this coaching staff can do to get more out of our team through better play calling and adjustments.

  24. By sbrown on Jun 22, 2013 | Reply

    very excited to watch this Cardinal defense play this season, they have a ton of talent it could be something special. One comment about D. QWash, don’t forget that there could be other games missed by the NFL after his legal issues come to court in July. Rodger Godell could drop the hammer on D.Wash and he could miss another 2 – 6 games on top of the first four… Great move to bring back Dansby to fill in and help teach the younger players the way to play in the NFL.

  25. By georgiebird on Jun 23, 2013 | Reply

    BA has done a great job with turning this team around. It seems he has pushed most of the right buttons. Problem I see with the defense- all three guys are no better than average and most importantly none of the front three requires a double team. Of course, DD would be more productive in a 4-3 set.

  26. By bradc11 on Jul 2, 2013 | Reply

    Bell as SS and Johnson at FS. That’s interesting as I had T.M. competing with Bell for the FS spot. I’ve posted a link to my article on T.M. as a hybrid defender capable of playing a host of positions for Bowles. Interested to hear your thoughts, Darren.

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