The Arizona Cardinals “D” last year gave up 27 or more points a total of seven times and allowed less than 20 only twice. In switching to a 3-4 Defense under new coach, former Pittsburgh Steelers’ Offensive “whiz” Ken Whisenhut, the Cards wants to mix it up a bit and utilize their speed on the outside. Arizona will move defensive ends Chike Okeafor (16 sacks past two seasons) and Bertrand Berry (26 ½ sacks past three seasons) to OLB. Former Auburn great Karlos Dansby, the team leader on defense, will move from outside to inside linebacker.
Dansby is the heart and soul of this young defense and he is their best player, producing totals of 82 tackles, two forced fumbles, and eight sacks in ’06. He is who we thought he was (Denny Green)! Former Seminole Darnell Dockett will move from inside to outside, now as the DE, leaving his regular DT position. Expect Dockett to take full advantage of this new opportunity, getting to the QB for 10-12 sacks this season. The team will also move little-used Antonio Smith to DE, to pair up with Dockett for a stronger, bigger defensive line (280-290 pound linemen.)
The decision to go to a 3-4 is a good choice. Okeafor and Berry will still rack up the sacks, while Dockett will be able to play end and freer to rush the QB more. Dockett will become one of the best DE’s this year because of his unquestioned athletic ability, allowing him to use his quickness over opposing offensive tackles. The Cardinals will have the solid, attacking ILB’s and aggressive, edge rushers at OLB to be a successful 3-4 defense. Arizona will now have to find a good nose tackle, the competition will be between two Wolverines – second-year pro Gabe Watson (340 pounds) and rookie Alan Branch (335 pounds). If one of these two will step to the starting role, this defense will make some noise. Arizona has all the talent they need to perform well. They have to get the job done on the field to make believers out of the other 31 teams in the NFL.
Their secondary is very young and is led by promising six-foot three inch, 230 pound, playmaking safety Adrian Wilson, who has a really impressive career resume: 501 tackles, 16 sacks, 14 picks, 4 defensive touchdowns, ten forced fumbles, and 51 passes defended in six years. I would accept that on my best Safety list . He will make the Pro-Bowl this year along with LB Dansby and DT Dockett. Antrel Rolle is another young defensive back; he heads the CB group and is developing into a reliable, physical corner against other teams’ best WR’s. Inconsistent CB Roderick Hood and FS Terrence Holt were added this off-season to improve this secondary. Arizona’s offense is already loaded with weapons, now they will have to transfer their ammunition and firepower to the defensive side of the ball.
I see the Cards improving on defense to a Top 15 ranking, and making the NFC West a tougher, closer, and more competitive division than anticipated. Eight wins might not be out of reach as they are working under a better, new coaching staff. This 3-4 defense has the potential to work out and be in the Top 5 in sacks this season, they will be let loose like the “Running of the Bulls” in â€˜07, as long as their secondary holds up on its end of the bargain.