Too many times last season, the Cardinals' defense went into a matchup against an inexperienced quarterback and couldn't impose its will.
It was a different vibe in Sunday's 30-15 win over Washington, as Dwayne Haskins did not fare well against the revamped 2020 unit.
The Cardinals shut out Washington in the first half, compiling four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as the team built a 20-0 lead.
Haskins' final numbers – 19-of-33 passing for 223 yards and a touchdown – looked fine but Washington didn't move the ball effectively until the Cardinals softened their coverage late.
"It's night and day," Kingsbury said of this year's defense compared to last. "It really is. Just the understanding of the system. (General Manager) Steve (Keim) brought in some very talented players to fill some voids we had. … I'm excited to see where it goes."
The Cardinals were sparked by two of their high-profile free agent additions.
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had the biggest defensive play of the game, strip-sacking Haskins to force a turnover after an early Kyler Murray interception set Washington up deep in Arizona territory.
De'Vondre Campbell added 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and two passes defensed.
"You saw (Campbell) and (Phillips) all over that field," Kingsbury said.
Campbell's emergence has been huge for a Cardinals inside linebacker group that had a revolving door next to Jordan Hicks last season. On Sunday, Campbell showed an impressive ability to hold stout against the run while keeping up with skill players in coverage.
"I think he's one of the most under-the-radar players in the entire league," Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals' pass-rushing threats were also more varied than in 2019. Phillips, defensive tackle Corey Peters, outside linebacker Haason Reddick and outside linebacker Devon Kennard each registered sacks.
On Kennard's takedown of Haskins, it was Angelo Blackson's penetration that caused the sack.
The pressure from multiple angles was a departure from last year, when outside linebacker Chandler Jones was sometimes the only player consistently harassing the quarterback.
"Chandler is a premier pass-rusher in this league, and he's going to get extra attention," Kennard said. "We had some other guys get sacks today, and that's what we're going to have to do."
Washington's two late touchdowns left a sour taste in the mouth of the defense, but Campbell was still satisfied with the end result.
"They weren't going to give up," Campbell said. "They were going to keep fighting no matter what. I think we handled business for the most part."
ANOTHER SPECIAL PLAY FROM SPECIAL TEAMS
For the second week in a row, the Cardinals' special teams unit came up with a difference-making play.
In the opener against the 49ers, it was linebacker Ezekiel Turner blocking a punt. On Sunday, tight end Darrell Daniels forced a fumble in punt coverage and long-snapper Aaron Brewer recovered.
The Cardinals scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession for a 14-0 lead and never looked back. It was the second straight game in which the offense, defense and special teams each played a role in the win.
"That's what we've been shooting for," Kingsbury said. "I felt like last year, it was a bit disjointed. One side would rise up and the other one wouldn't. We've had all three phases rise up together, and that's how you really get this thing rolling."
KIRK FIGHTS THROUGH INJURY
Wide receiver Christian Kirk was injured on the opening series and had his thigh wrapped on the sideline intermittently throughout the game.
He still played most of the contest, finishing with a pair of catches for 57 yards and a three-yard end-around conversion on 4th-and-1, but sat out the final series. Kingsbury said he is fine.
"He had a little tightness there throughout the game, but as always continued to push through," Kingsbury said. "He's a tough young man and a heck of a player."
Running back D.J. Foster left the game early with a quadriceps injury.
Images from the Week 2 contest at State Farm Stadium