X's and O's of The Arizona Cardinals Defense:

   on September 28 2012 6:10 PM

Darnell Dockett is doubtful for Sunday’s game versus the Miami Dolphins. The potential loss of Darnell Dockett on the inside of the defensive line is huge, there's no way to sugar coat it. His pressure from the inside, along with Calais Campbell and Darly Washington, have been disturbing quarterbacks all year. In Ray Horton’s favorite nickel defense, we see Dockett and Campbell as the only defensive lineman, Sam Acho, Daryl Washington, Paris Lenon, and O’brien Schofield round out the front six. We saw this 2-4-5 nickel package dominate the Patriots game, and in a similar way, in the Eagles game as well.

With pressure up front on the guards and center from Docket and Campbell, the Cardinals occupy three linemen for two people, and successfully win that match up. That creates one on one for the outside linebackers Schofield and Acho. Add the wrinkles of Daryl Washington, whom Ray Horton has blitzing from all over the line, and a zone blitz scheme that could have any defensive back coming at any time, and you have a Cardinals defense that creates immediate pressure at will. In the Patriots game, the pressure came up the middle at the same time as on the outsides, taking advantage of Tom Brady’s lack of mobility. The Cardinal’s pressure was fast, and consistent with only four rushers. Tom Brady never looked comfortable, and was sacked four times. In the Eagles game we saw similar nickel pressure, strong pressure up the middle with 2 lineman, Dockett and Campbell, but a lot of the time the outside rushers were actually in spy, trying to keep containment, and anticipating Mike Vick’s scrambling. This resulted in sacks for those spying outside linebackers and for Washington. The five sacks the Cardinals Defense put on Vick were impressive, but the 13 hits they put on him were scary. Sacks are good, but pressure is the real killer, resulting in a completion percentage of 45.9.

Losing Dockett will take a bit of the bite out of that inside rush. With Miami able to double-team Campbell and get through to block our linebackers, we may see another good game on the ground against the Cardinals. With Reggie Bush up and practicing after a knee injury scare, the Dolphins seem ready to let Reggie go this Sunday. Superstar Patrick Peterson will be 1 on 1 with Brian Hartline, so this will be a big game for William Gay, who was the most targeted defensive back last week, as he tries to cover Davon Bess. The Cardinals face their second rookie quarterback this season, and it is anticipated that Ryan Tannehill will have similar problems against Ray Horton’s violent zone blitzing schemes. Keep in mind, the sack-fumble on Mike Vick, that started the 96 yard fumble return to end the half, was on a free safety zone blitz that allowed Kerry Rhodes to come untouched. Therefore, we may not see 4-5 sacks from a Cardinals defense that will sorely miss Darnell Dockett. What we will see is a Dolphins passing game struggling with pressure, and a Cardinals secondary looking for the turnover.