Amidst Offensive Revolution, Vance Joseph Confident Defense Still Matters

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph makes an appearance on the Big Red Rage radio show
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph makes an appearance on the Big Red Rage radio show

There were plenty of groans on Sunday night when the expected Super Bowl shootout between the Patriots and Rams never materialized.

Vance Joseph, meanwhile, grinned like a Cheshire cat.

“(It was fun) to watch an old school football game where defense does matter,” the Cardinals new defensive coordinator said Thursday on the "Big Red Rage" radio show. “Defense is always going to matter. It doesn’t matter how many points you score -- eventually, you’re going to have to play dominant defense to win the championship, and that proved it last Sunday. To watch a 13-3 game, I was in hog heaven.”

The Cardinals have hired an innovative offensive mind to lead their team, and Kliff Kingsbury’s ability to breathe life into last year’s dormant offense will help tell the story of 2019.

But Joseph -- who was fired as head coach of the Broncos in late December – will also play a critical role as he accepts the tough task of slowing down all the potent offenses that have popped up in the NFL.

“To watch a record number of points being scored all year, offenses can’t be stopped – I think that’s not football,” Joseph said. “I think the best teams do win, and the best teams have offense, defense and special teams. I’m all in to that. I’m all about team football.”

The Cardinals are switching back to a 3-4 defense, which will feature press coverage and regular blitzes, Joseph said. It’s the type of style in which the Cardinals found success prior to 2018, and one in which cornerback Patrick Peterson and outside linebacker Chandler Jones have been vocal proponents.

Joseph wants the Cardinals’ defense to dictate the action, not the other way around.

“Make the offense make a decision: hand it off into a heavy box or throw versus press corners,” Joseph said. “That’s our style.”

Joseph said having high-level players at cornerback and edge-rusher is a prerequisite for his defense. It likely played into the decision to sign veteran cornerback Robert Alford to a three-year contract on Thursday after he was released by the Falcons.

Alford will pair with Peterson on the outside, while Jones nails down one of the premium edge-rusher spots. The Cardinals could re-sign outside linebacker Markus Golden, draft a pass-rusher with the No. 1 overall pick or do both to give Joseph ideal tools with which to work.

“To have two corners and two rushers in this defense, that’s where it starts,” Joseph said. “You can fix the rest with scheme. But you can’t fix the coverage and you can’t fix the pass rush with scheme. That’s man-made.”

While there are myriad questions about Kingsbury’s ability to transition from college to the NFL, Joseph, too, feels like he has something to show this year.

“When you’re fired and it’s said, ‘You’re not good enough,’ that hurts,” Joseph said. “I wanted a job where I could go in and put my scheme in, the 3-4 attack scheme, and have a chance to re-prove myself. That’s the bottom line.”

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