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Cardinals Try To Find Solutions For Defensive Problems

Cornerback Patrick Peterson jams Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds at the line of scrimmage during Sunday's loss.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson jams Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds at the line of scrimmage during Sunday's loss.

The focus, Kliff Kingsbury said Monday, was having the Cardinals “get better in all three phases” as they tried to move past Sunday’s blowout loss to the Rams.

A fair point when it came to that particular performance, given how poor the team did overall. But the Cardinals’ offense and special teams have had multiple high points this season. The defense is still searching.

The Cardinals gave up 549 yards Sunday. They have fallen into the bottom two in the NFL in yards allowed per game, points allowed per game, yards per play, passing yards allowed, third downs and third-down percentage.

The team did make a roster move, releasing veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock, but roster holes remain. Kingsbury was asked why he remains confident in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

“I see every day at practice,” Kingsbury said. “I watch the tape and see what’s going on and how it’s supposed to be played.”

Linebacker Jordan Hicks, after the game, lamented the lack of communication between players on that side of the ball. Rookie cornerback Byron Murphy also brought up communication issues – which shouldn’t be such a problem 12 games into the season.

“Jordan is doing a good job of getting guys lined up, and at times, you can tell he’s getting himself in trouble trying to line everyone up,” Kingsbury said. “We have to do a better job defensively of taking some of that off him.”

Those problems are allowing pass catchers to run wide open, or create so much space after the catch receivers are running for significant yardage. The coverage has struggled. Top cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has now played six games after his six-game suspension, has not played consistently well in his return. Kingsbury called him “still a work-in-progress.”

“Some flashes here that you like, and then some things we have to get better at,” Kingsbury said of Peterson.

But the Cardinals also aren’t getting nearly enough of a pass rush. Chandler Jones has 13 sacks, but beyond that, the pressure has been disappointing.

Veteran Terrell Suggs, whose impact has declined as the season wears on, actually played fewer snaps than backup Cassius Marsh (45 to 42) for the first time Sunday. The Cardinals also have discussed moving Haason Reddick to edge rusher from inside linebacker, Kingsbury said, after Reddick lost his job to Joe Walker.

Walker played all 79 defensive snaps Sunday. Reddick, who has struggled in his inside linebacker role all season, played just one defensive snap Sunday. He was in coverage when Rams tight end Tyler Higbee caught his touchdown pass.

Reddick was a college star as a pass-rushing defensive end. He did play outside linebacker of good chunk of his rookie season in 2017 after Markus Golden suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year.

“(Haason) was great in college at that, and that’s and area we are going to look at and see if he can help us,” Kingsbury said.

BULLARD OUT, JALEN THOMPSON “BANGED UP”

Kingsbury said defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, who hurt his hamstring Sunday, will miss “a couple weeks,” dinging the depth of the unit. Rookie Michael Dogbe, who was inactive Sunday with Bullard returning from a foot injury, figures to get another chance to be up against the Steelers and Browns at least.

Safety Jalen Thompson, who hurt his head in a collision at the end of the 48-yard Robert Woods screen-and-escape pass, is “day-to-day,” Kingsbury said.

A chronological look at the Cardinals' 12th regular season game against the Rams.

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