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Pass-Rush Additions Won't Curb Blitzing

Posted Jun 14, 2016

Even with Jones, Nkemdiche in fold, Cardinals will still send extra defenders often

Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, here celebrating a sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco last season, will continue to blitz regularly in 2016

The Cardinals beefed up their pass rush this offseason by trading for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Chandler Jones and drafting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche in the first round.

With that duo in the fold, the expectation in 2016 is more consistent pressure and, conversely, less need to manufacture it through blitzes. If he so desired, coach Bruce Arians could dial back the defensive play-calling which has blitzed more often than anyone the past three years.

But the man known for his ‘No risk-it, no biscuit’ offensive style doesn’t lay up on defense, either. To Arians, ‘blitz-happy’ doesn’t just stand for the frequency he sends extra defenders.

“I’m not happy unless we’re blitzing,” Arians said. “If we’ve got four good ones, why not send five or six?”

So while players like Jones, Nkemdiche and defensive tackle Calais Campbell will regularly be attacking the quarterback, they’ll often be joined by safety Deone Bucannon up the middle or safety Tyrann Mathieu screaming in from the slot.

“That’s our defense,” Bucannon said. “Our defense brings pressure. We’re not going to change our scheme. We’re just going to have them create more pressure. That’s going to open gaps for us, or they’re going to block us and have trouble with Nkemdiche, Chandler, Oak (Alex Okafor), Calais – all of those guys up front.”

Nkemdiche salivates at the type of atmosphere the defense creates. There were some points in college when he had two-gap responsibilities, where he would have to read and react instead of firing off the ball.

The Cardinals’ scheme is attack-based and the defense attempts to wreak havoc in the backfield at every turn.

“You’re almost rushing, like, who can get (to the quarterback) first?” Nkemdiche said. “It’s fun. I love competition, and ain’t nobody going to beat me. I’m getting to him.”

Jones has accumulated 36 sacks in the first four years of his career, including 12½ last season. As his reputation for getting after the passer grew in his time with the Patriots, double-teams became more frequent.

Jones can do damage off the edge no matter what type of scheme he’s in, but more one-on-one matchups could lead to an increase in productivity.

“In the past, I started to get a lot of double teams,” Jones said. “I know Calais is getting double teams, and hopefully Nkemdiche, with his potential, he’ll be getting double teams, too. You can’t double team everyone. And then when you’ve also got to go against blitzing? That’s a gift-wrap.”

When the pass-rush was clicking last season, the Cardinals were unstoppable, and it was never more clear than the 38-8 blowout of the Packers in Week 16. But too many times there was inconsistency, and the inability to pressure Cam Newton contributed to the 49-15 NFC Championship game loss to the Panthers.

The Cardinals believe they have the remedy -- an import of two talented pass-rushers who will get after the quarterback alongside any number of blitzers from the second and third levels of the defense.

“If you have guys that can run and get after the quarterback, why not send them all?” Nkemdiche said.

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