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Versatility Helps Front Seven Prosper

Posted Aug 3, 2013

Notebook: Colledge streak in jeopardy; Shaughnessy gets more work inside

The Cardinals have a lot of versatility in their defensive front seven.

The Cardinals’ new 3-4 defense is anything but rudimentary, but a few key offseason acquisitions have made Todd Bowles’ scheme even more flexible than it had been.

John Abraham has given the defensive coordinator the option to line him up as an outside linebacker or a down lineman off the edge and Matt Shaughnessy has worked with both the linebackers and the defensive line.

“It gives you the allowance to toy with some things and make the other guys better because you have guys who can do a bunch of jobs,” Bowles said.

The same can be done by Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho. Different packages will show off the versatility of the front seven, which will feature Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and Calais Campbell as the primary down linemen, along with David Carter, Ronald Talley, Frostee Rucker and Everette Thompson. The linebackers include Abraham, Shaughnessy, Acho, Jasper Brinkley, Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby.

“We all came from different backgrounds,” Shaughnessy said. “Zo’s (Lorenzo Alexander) played D-line, he’s played linebacker, he’s played Will and Sam (linebacker), and I’ve had my hand in the dirt and I can play the Will linebacker. So there’s a lot of guys that are interchangeable.”

But Brinkley, who signed with the Cardinals this offseason, said there’s one trait the front seven shares, which helps with their flexibility.

“This group of guys is probably the most athletic group of guys I’ve been around in my past four years playing football,” he said. “It’s just exciting just to know you got a front seven that’s really athletic like we are.”

COLLEDGE’S STREAK IN JEOPARDY

Daryn Colledge is in unchartered waters. A nerve injury to his right leg has sidelined the right guard for almost a week.

Colledge has never missed a game during his first seven years in the NFL, and that includes preseason and scrimmages. That streak is in jeopardy next week if Colledge is unable to play at Green Bay.

“I don’t think I’ve ever missed more than three days of work in my entire life,” Colledge said. “It’s one of those things where I’m in an uncomfortable situation right now.”

But Colledge isn’t going to return from an injury early just to keep the streak alive.

“The realization is that there are 16 more important games than this that are coming up in a month,” he said. “We want to make the playoffs. If I come back at 75 percent and I go out there and hurt myself in one of those preseason games then I’m not available to help this team when it counts. So, I need to make sure I’m 100 percent.”

SHAUGHNESSY SHUFFLED

To help fill the void left by Dan Williams, who suffered an MCL injury, coach Bruce Arians said Shaughnessy will be used inside more than he already has.

Shaughnessy has spent most of his time with the Cardinals playing linebacker, but will move back to a down lineman for the time being, sharing time with David Carter.

“I’m not playing Dan’s position but I’m playing the end,” Shaughnessy said. “It’s no different than playing the three-technique or five-technique. It’s no big deal. With Buck’s (defensive line coach Brentson Buckner) help they’re going to get me right.”

FANAIKA CONTINUES TO IMPRESS

The more Arians sees Paul Fanaika, the more he likes the right guard.

With Colledge out indefinitely with a nerve injury in his right leg, Fanaika has filled in on the first-team.

“You talk about a guy who’s taken the opportunity,” Arians said. “I keep telling them when you get an opportunity, you’re either going to get exposed or you’re going to get exposure. He’s done a great job with his exposure. He’s played extremely solid. I can’t say enough about what he’s done with his chance.”

Arians said with his training camp, Fanaika is challenging Colledge for his starting job.

“I think anytime you get the exposure he’s gotten and do that well with it, the guy behind you that’s hurt he needs to get back out there,” Arians said.

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