The Cardinals' defense will lean on defensive end Calais Campbell this season.
Calais Campbell sat at his locker, dripping sweat. It was Tuesday – the players' official off day, if they want it – and many veterans take the opportunity for rest.
The veteran defensive end had made it a point to "evolve" his game this season, however, and that meant extra work on the off day. That plan was already in the works before training camp, a natural progression, as Campbell saw it. Then fellow defensive end Darnell Dockett went down with a season-ending knee injury, leaving the defense with a void which had already peeked out after the Daryl Washington suspension.
The Cardinals needed extra from their new defensive captain.
He's heard such things before. Coaches have told Campbell he needs to dominate more often. So too have front-office execs. In
a year when Campbell may be more crucial than ever before, the requests have hit home.
"I think in my career I've been satisfied before sometimes," Campbell said. "That's hard for a man to admit."
This isn't about statistics, although Campbell had a bunch of them last week against the Giants: 10 tackles, three for loss, a sack and general mayhem in the middle of the line. Campbell said he didn't feel like he had a much different game in New York than he did in the opener against San Diego, when he was credited with a couple of quarterback pressures but only one tackle.
With Dockett out – and now the team's best pass rusher, John Abraham, who is now done too after being placed on injured reserve Friday with concussion issues – Campbell will continue to draw a lot of attention from opposing offensive lines. But defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said one of the talents of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is his ability to free up Campbell sometimes to cause havoc.
When that happens, Buckner said, Campbell must be ready.
"Someone blessed with as much talent as he has, it's not good to be good some of the time. He needs to be
great all of the time," Buckner said. "I tell him all the time, 'You can like what you do, you can admire it, but you can never be satisfied.' If you get four sacks in a game, you should find a way to get six. As well as he played this past Sunday that can be a regular day for him.
"He'll get his chance to make his plays and be dominant. That's why we stress there are no plays off. You're doubled, doubled, doubled, boom, we switch, that light has to already be on."
Campbell was ready against the Giants. He even lost a sack and forced fumble – the Cardinals recovered – on one of the many illegal contact flags thrown in the game. ("That's a terrible feeling," Campbell lamented.) He'll play a huge role Sunday against San Francisco, which has always liked to set the tone with a power running game. Campbell said the Giants ran at him more than most teams, which helped his tackle numbers.
Off the field, wearing the 'C' has not changed him. He still makes an effort to mentor young players – Kareem Martin, a player from the Campbell mold, in particular – as he has in recent years as he has turned into one of the older players in the room.
That notion makes Campbell smile. It was just yesterday when he was coming into the league, a rookie on a Super Bowl team. Expectations were few in those days. Now, the Cardinals need him to be a star on the field and off, need him to take such steps like extra workouts on a Tuesday.
They need him to be dominant, which is good, because Campbell wants that too.
"If I get three or four sacks all season I'll be perfectly happy as long as we went to the playoffs and play for a Super Bowl," Campbell said. "I know in the grand scheme of things, if I get 15 sacks, I'll give my team a better chance to make it to the playoffs so my goal is to pressure the quarterback and the rest will come.
"The satisfaction now is about the wins and losses. I am very satisfied with wins. I am not satisfied with losses."
Images of the top 10 individual performances against the Giants