Training Camp Preview – Arizona Cardinals – Defense Edition
Welcome back everyone to the preview of the Arizona Cardinals training camp roster! Last week we covered the offense, and the potential they have under rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, along with a new system focused on the RPO, timing routes, and speedsters across the roster.
Today we are going to take a final look at the roster before we get into the nitty-gritty of training camp, cuts, and more. The defense is going to be a major part of the success of the Cardinals this season, in terms of how they improve. The coaching staff announced prior to the start of camp that Arizona will be switching to a 4-3 defense instead of the 3-4 they are accustomed to. How will this impact their on-field success? Let’s find out…
Defensive Ends & Pass Rushers (9)
Chandler Jones (82), Brooks Reed (77), Terrell Suggs (83), Robert Nkemdiche (75), Darius Philon (70), Rodney Gunter (69), Vincent Valentine (69), Zach Allen (69), Michael Dogbe (66)
**EDIT** – After the completion of this article, Robert Nkemdiche was released from the active roster.
The switch to the 4-3 will bring some position changes for Chandler Jones, Brooks Reed, and Terrell Suggs – all of whom were slotted to play 3-4 OLB, but will transition to 4-3 edge rushers. The depth at this position is actually impressive for how poor the Cardinals defense looks on paper
Chandler Jones is the star of the defense, with his burst off the line (86 ACC) and impressive ability to push back high-powered linemen (84 PMV), along with his pure run-stopping abilities, he is everything you need from a rusher. The Cardinals will use him all over the defensive line.
Brooks Reed comes from Atlanta, who has natural athleticism for the position, along with a very balanced skillset at rushing the passer (81 PMV, 81 BSH), and is another great run stopper. Along with the great Terrell Suggs coming from Baltimore (84 PMV, 82 BSH) this figures to be a rotation that can assist Arizona in stopping the outside run, and containing mobile quarterbacks.
Robert Nkemdiche is worth mentioning, as the 24 year old will likely start alongside Chandler Jones – with his 82 STR, 85 ACC, and 76 FMV, he is a developing speed rusher. He will need the reps this year to keep his starting job.
Look for the rotation the Cardinals use to be the foursome of Jones, Reed, Suggs, and Nkemdiche. The training camp battles between the remaining rushers, and any rushers the Cardinals add in free agency, will be for minimal snaps.
Jordan Hicks (80), Haason Reddick (74), Tanner Vallejo (66), Joe Walker (63), Dennis Gardeck (53), Pita Taumoepenu (64), Cameron Malveaux (62), Peter Robertson (58), Vontarrius Dora (56)
The pass rushers may have some potential, but this line backing group needs some serious work. Jordan Hicks was signed in the offseason to provide some stability to the defense, which he should – he is easily the most talented of the group here, and the most proven on the field.
Haason Reddick will likely be starting at an outside linebacker spot next to Hicks, very athletic (88 SPD, 89 ACC) along with his youth (24 years old) should provide him with plenty of opportunity to shine on this defense. If Reddick and Hicks can stabilize the front seven, the Cardinals defense has a chance at being an above-average run defense.
The rest of the group is unproven, and will battle in camp for roles. Expect the Cardinals front office to be aggressive in free agency adding competition at this position.
Patrick Peterson (92), Robert Alford (77), Byron Murphy Jr. (75), Tramaine Brock Sr. (71), David Amerson (71), Brandon Williams (68), Deadrick Nichols (60), Chris Jones (56)
It has already been confirmed that more cornerback help will come via free agency, as going into camp with only 8 corners is not typical of this coaching staff. Pen in Peterson, Alford, and Murphy ( a rookie with great upside). The battle for the 4th, 5th, and potentially 6th spot will be one to watch.
Murphy is a very interesting prospect, for what he lacks in straight line speed (88 SPD), he makes up for in his press abilities and run defending, something that is rare for rookie cornerbacks. Expect him to battle Alford for the second spot, and get the reps he needs as a rookie.
Peterson is the star of the secondary, a top five cornerback still at 29 years old, and will also handle punt returning duties. Alford was signed from the Falcons in free agency, who brings a stable veteran presence.
Budda Baker (80), Deionte Thompson (69), Josh Shaw (65), D.J. Swearinger (83), Rudy Ford (67), Ezekiel Turner (57)
Likely only four spots available here, and Budda Baker and Swearinger will take two of those. Rudy Ford is a very intriguing piece as a special teamer with his 92 SPD and 93 ACC, he could be a fantastic gunner, or even a sub linebacker. I like him and Deionte Thompson to make the team, as Josh Shaw and Ezekiel Turner may struggle to separate themselves from the pack.
Expect this to be another group where the front office brings in additional competition.
The defense will have its fair share of growing pains this season, with youth across the board, and plenty of stop-gap veterans brought in to try and teach the youngsters how it is done. I expect this group to look extremely different next September, but know that some pieces are in place in Arizona.