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The 2011 Arizona Cardinals Defense under Ray Horton

Written by Will McDougle

For those who weren’t paying attention, the Arizona Cardinals had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2010. In an effort to rebound, Ken Whisenhunt hired Ray Horton (previously with the Steelers) as the new defensive coordinator. In this weeks’ installment I’ll focus on what the Seahawks will face defensively from the Cardinals this year.

Scheme: the 3-4 is nothing new to the Cardinals, but the pressure packages will change under Ray Horton. You will also see the Strong Safety play almost like a 5th LB in many occasions. This makes running the ball a huge challenge for our powerful, yet inexperienced line.

Philosophy: Blitz, blitz, and more blitz.  Dick Lebeau’s Zone blitzing schemes and aggressive plays have kept coaches up for days trying to not only attack them, but just survive them. Ray Horton will bring all of the them to the NFC West.  Multiple blitzers from all angles and positions can come, with several DL drops into zones making an offensive lineman’s communication key to any successful play. Stunts, dogs, shifts, twists, you name it, you’ll see it.

Greatest strength of scheme: If properly executed…confusion, hurried throws, sacks, and interceptions caused by constant pressure.  Lighting will strike, and as the saying goes, it rarely strikes in the same place.

Greatest weakness of scheme: Coverage. Simply put, this blitz package is great for pressure but can and will leave cornerbacks 1 on 1 with wide receivers on the outside in some instances. When the Strong Safety plays so close to the LOS, it leaves the Free safety to patrol the deep middle. If the pressure doesn’t get home, the QB will have openings to exploit down field. With the Seahawks size at the receiver position, Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst will not need to be as accurate to get a completion.

As we all know, this defense is deadly with the right personnel. The question is whether or not the Cardinals have just that on the roster in 2011?

Next week I’ll take a look at the St Louis Rams Defense..

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