The Cardinals’ defense looked different on Sunday, as three linebackers – Josh Bynes, Haason Reddick and Deone Bucannon – were used 59 percent of the time against the 49ers, according to Pro Football Focus.
That was in stark contrast to the first seven games of the season, when the defense deployed two or fewer linebackers 95 percent of the time, per PFF. The defense played well against the 49ers, but coach Steve Wilks cautioned that the new look wasn’t the magic cure.
“I don’t want to say that was the difference, because I know that’s what you guys are trying to pigeonhole me to say,” Wilks said. “‘OK, all of a sudden now he went back to base and that was the difference in the game.’ We did a good job. We wanted to show them something different based off the first game because we knew they were going to be practicing nickel.”
Bucannon was the odd man out in previous weeks, but played well against San Francisco. He finished with five tackles and was given the second-highest grade on the defense by Pro Football Focus, behind safety Budda Baker.
“I thought Bucannon did a tremendous job,” Wilks said. “He played physical. He played downhill. Haason did a good job as well. It was a good look for us, a good changeup. Hopefully we can continue to try to mix in that package.”
Wilks said safety Tre Boston is expected to return from injury next week. Even as the third safety, Boston has played the vast majority of the time, but Wilks said his return won’t make the personnel decisions tougher because the formations are often dictated by the offense.
The next opponent, for instance, is the high-flying Chiefs. It might make more sense to have a fifth defensive back over a third linebacker in most situations even with Sunday’s success.
“We’ve just got to make sure we give these guys the right looks based off the personnel we’re getting that particular week,” Wilks said.