He doesn’t have a scheme people across the NFL are wondering about, and he doesn’t have the first pick in the draft playing on his side of the ball.
Vance Joseph knows why the spotlight has been on the offense of the Cardinals, but the defensive coordinator has some unknowns himself that will finally be answered Sunday in the opener against the Lions.
“I’m not sure totally where we are as a defense,” Joseph acknowledged.
His unit has had up-and-down moments in preseason. More importantly, the personnel has been ripped up from the group that was expected to be out there at the outset of training camp. Joseph had long known about cornerback Patrick Peterson’s suspension, but the broken leg of fellow starting cornerback Robert Alford, the setback of the knee surgery for inside linebacker Haason Reddick and the untimely release of defensive lineman Darius Philon for off the field issues made Joseph’s job more difficult.
“You have who you have as a coach, and you can’t worry about it,” Joseph said. “Every team has injuries, every team has issues. … We have good enough players to be good.”
The Cardinals ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in most defensive categories last season, including last in run defense. The Lions, with Kerryon Johnson as their top back, are expected to lean more into the rushing game this season.
“I have all the confidence in the world first and foremost in the men (on defense), and we have been preparing well,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “But I feel like until you get out there and test yourself against somebody else, and that everyone in the league, it’s hard to say for sure. You have to prove it every week in this league.
“Obviously the setbacks we have had with the personnel, losing people, that affects everybody. We have no excuses. We’ve got what we need to be successful.”
Peters said he doesn’t see any correlation between last year’s struggles and what the defense might do this year. There are new coaches, a new scheme, and major player change – as he spoke, Peters looked around to the rest of the defensive line, noting that only he and Rodney Gunter remain from last year’s group.
Joseph also wasn’t buying into 2018 having any carryover.
“I hope they come out Sunday with a sense of pride and to prove everyone wrong,” Joseph said. “But last year’s Cardinals are done. We have nothing to prove from last year to this year. That’s a different team.”
REDDICK WILL “HAVE A ROLE”
While Haason Reddick was limited again Thursday, Joseph said he will “have a role on Sunday,” which is good news for the linebacker who was forced to undergo a knee procedure after just a few plays in training camp.
Veteran Joe Walker also figures to get some playing time, but Joseph said Reddick at full speed is the “perfect ’backer” in this defense because of Reddick’s ability to cover pass catchers. Reddick’s missed practice time, however, will make a difference.
“He was having a great spring and to miss most of camp, it does affect your eyes, it affects your run reads,” Joseph said. “He won’t be where he would’ve been had he been in camp, but he’s come back, he looks healthy, he looks explosive.”
GILBERT ADDED TO INJURY REPORT
The Cardinals added tackle Marcus Gilbert to the injury report Thursday after he was limited with a knee issue, but that was the only change for either team.
Offensive lineman Lamont Gaillard sat out a second straight practice with a bad knee, while linebackers Reddick (knee) and Ezekiel Turner (hand) remained limited.
For the Lions, linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), defensive end Trey Flowers (shoulder), defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (knee) and offensive lineman Frank Ragnow (ankle) were all limited.
Past images between the Cardinals and Sunday's opponent in the regular season opener, the Detroit Lions