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Arizona Cardinals: A Desert Storm Defense

The Arizona Cardinals quietly have one of the better defenses in the NFL this year. Unfortunately, being in the NFC West doesn’t allow them to get the attention that they deserve because they are overshadowed by the dominant Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers defenses. If you look closely, you will see that this defense is stacked with play makers and is very good.

Their defense has a good mix of young, promising talent and experienced veterans. Most of the attention is heaped on cornerback Patrick Peterson. That is because he is a dynamic player that contributes on offense and special teams as well as defense. Peterson registered three pass defenses including an interception at the Cardinals one yard line. He returned it 43 yards. That is the kind of field flipping play that really helps the offense.

Recently, Peterson proclaimed himself to be the best corner in the NFL. I’m sure another talkative corner back from Seattle would disagree. Peterson’s second-quarter interception against the Carolina Panthers was his 12th since the start of the 2011 season, tied with Tim Jennings of the Chicago Bears for the second-most in the NFL. Richard Sherman is tops with 14.

The Cardinals defense was boosted by the return of Darryl Washington after a four game suspension. Washington had an immediate impact. He had nine tackles, three for a loss. The inside linebacker also had two sacks and an interception. He returned that interception 41 yards. It was obvious that he was anxious to get back onto the field and didn’t miss a beat. Let’s take a look at how he is still a ferocious pass rusher.

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 Here you see Darryl Washington lined up over the the gap on and is ready to rush the quarterback on a delayed blitz.

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Calais Campbell slants inside and beats the right tackle and the right guard did not pick up Washington in time. Cam Newton sees the pressure coming inside and tries to get outside of his right tackle to escape the blitz. Look how Washington got skinny and is about to slice his way past the right guard.

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In just a few steps, Washington gets by the right guard and here you see him get ready to flatten out so that he can close on Newton.

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Washington uses his speed to catch Cam and get him down for the sack.

The fact that he was able to make a play like this in his first game after a four week suspension is a sign that Washington is back in full.

“He was the same old D-Wash,” Patrick Peterson said, “running sideline to sideline.”

Washington was appreciative of the support from his teammates and the chance to get back onto the field. “It feels good, especially with a win at home,” he said. “My teammates and this organization are so supportive of me that it makes it easy for me to go out and do what I do.”

Calais Campbell is a major presence on the defensive line. He had two sacks against the Panthers, one was for a safety, the other forced a game-clinching fumble. After the game, Campbell spoke about the abundance of play makers on their defense.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Campbell said. “When you have so many guys that are as talented as we have, you’ve got to pick your poison. You can try to take one of us out of the game, somebody else is going to eat.”

Karlos Dansby returned to the Cardinals after spending three years with the Miami Dolphins. Dansby has stepped up in the absence of Washington. He also contributed in the Panthers game as he was able to get eight tackles, two sacks and an interception. Dansby has 45 tackles so far this season.

The defense a collection of good players. Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu who has contributed some big time plays as well. Darnell Dockette is still a presence against the run and anchors the middle of the defensive line along with Dan Williams. Yeremiah Bell is a force when he comes up in run support as well.

The Cardinals defense is currently third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (79.0). Their defense is 14th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (264.4). They are giving up yards in the passing game but the Cardinals have seven interceptions which ties them for third in the NFL.

The casual fan will dismiss a game against the Cardinals as an easy win. That is far from the case because they field a defense that can stop many offenses in the NFL and really is quietly a very good unit. Darryl Washington is back in the fold and their defense is only going to get better because of it.





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