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Cardinals’ Run Defense Struggles Against Bears

Posted Aug 20, 2017

Bad tackling, missing inside linebackers among the issues on Saturday

Bears running back Tarik Cohen reeled off several big gains against the Cardinals' starting defense on Saturday night.

Bruce Arians doesn’t like to make snap judgments about what goes on near the line of scrimmage right after a game.

The Cardinals’ coach has a poor view into that muddled mess from the sidelines, and will often defer until he sees the tape.

So it was a bad thing when he had a strong postgame reaction to the first unit’s run defense in Saturday night’s 24-23 preseason loss to the Bears. Chicago running back Tarik Cohen regularly popped to the second level, finishing with 11 carries for 77 yards, including gains of 9, 16, 16, and 25 yards.

“Hell, yeah,” Arians said when asked if he was concerned about Cohen’s success. “You don’t want to see anyone run 10-, 15-yard runs against any of our defenses, especially against our number ones.”

The Cardinals have been consistently strong against the run in Bruce Arians’ four seasons, finishing in the top-three in yards per attempt allowed in both 2013 and 2016.

However, there is some worry after the departure of defensive tackle Calais Campbell and linebacker Kevin Minter, two of the team’s best run defenders a season ago, and Saturday’s performance won’t assuage those fears. Nose tackle Corey Peters was frustrated with the results, but believes it is just a blip, not a sign of things to come.

“We’ve been working hard throughout camp, which has been three or four weeks at this point, and I think we’ve been consistently doing well,” Peters said. “I’m anxious to get to the film and kind of pinpoint where we struggled. I’m sure we’ll get it fixed. This is a strong group and everybody’s honest. We’ll take a good look at ourselves and refocus and come back at it.”

Some of the issues can be attributed to the youth at inside linebacker during the game. Scooby Wright and Haason Reddick started with veterans Karlos Dansby (leg) and Deone Bucannon (ankle) still on the shelf with injuries.

“When ‘Los gets back there everything will be good,” outside linebacker Markus Golden said. “We’ll be set up right and be able to fly around together. We’ll be all right, but no excuses. We need to do better.”

Golden said there were a few instances when the defensive linemen weren’t aligned correctly, which made it easier for Cohen to find running lanes. However, there were also times when the Cardinals simply missed the tackles.

“We let (the starters) play a little longer than I wanted to just because we weren’t tackling well enough,” Arians said. “Those inside ‘backers struggled setting the front a few times and miscommunication with the two guys that were in there. But still, no excuse for not tackling.”

Peters said next week’s opponent, the Falcons, have a similar running game and will present another challenge. That will be the final game of preseason action for the starters, and the defense would like to iron out these issues before the regular season begins.

It will also help to get Dansby and Bucannon back. Dansby has dealt with a leg issue for several weeks but the concern level is still low. Bucannon is hoping to return from offseason ankle surgery by the regular season opener against the Lions on Sept. 10.

“I hope to hell they get healthy,” Arians said. “I’ll be concerned if we’re playing with that group that we had (Saturday night).”

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