Cardinals more than just high-flying offense: ‘They have some great players’ on defense

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

When you think about this recent version of the Arizona Cardinals — the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 opponent — your first reaction is to salivate over the offense. 

Embracing league-wide trends, the Cardinals began their re-branding a year ago, plucking coach Kliff Kingsbury from the college ranks and pairing him with Kyler Murray, a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback. In the months since, the team has masterfully bolstered Murray’s arsenal, swinging a deadline deal for running back Kenyan Drake, followed by an offseason blockbuster that landed All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins

But even with Drake off to a slow start, the Cardinals offense certainly isn’t. They’ve racked up 842 yards and 54 points as part of their 2-0 start. 

But potentially lost on outside observers has been the equally impressive start for the team’s defense. The unit is top 10 in yards allowed, second in scoring and atop the league’s leader board on third down. 

 “They have some great players on their side of the ball, certainly, and those guys make plays,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Chandler Jones and the problems that he brings is a major issue for offenses to defend against, and his ability to turn the ball over in the pocket is phenomenal. Obviously he’s at the top of the league every year. Budda Baker is playing at a high level. I think one of the additions is an outstanding gift for them is Jordan Phillips. He’s a guy that I really like and think that he’s big and long and can get separation and come off the ball and you have to deal with him when he’s on the field. I think that’s an outstanding addition to their front too, that makes them difficult. (Jordan) Hicks is a really good player. He’s going to fly around and make a lot of tackles. He’s another guy that turns the ball over.”

Patricia also highlighted defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who like Kingsbury, is in his second season with the team. Prior to joining the Cardinals, Joseph had a two-year stint as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. 

One player who hasn’t had much of an impact for the Cardinals, at least not yet, is linebacker Isaiah Simmons. A player the Lions strongly considered with the No. 3 pick in the draft, he fell to the Cardinals at No. 8.

Through two games, Simmons has played just 25 snaps, recording four tackles. He’s been targeted in coverage three times, giving up receptions on each for 86 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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