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For Vance Joseph, Run Defense Isn't As Important As Points Defense

Notes: Pugh hoping offensive line clears some rust; Marco Wilson practicing

Safety Jalen Thompson (34) and defensive end Zach Allen (94) shut down a Dallas running play during last weekend's win over the Cowboys.
Safety Jalen Thompson (34) and defensive end Zach Allen (94) shut down a Dallas running play during last weekend's win over the Cowboys.

It's rare to hear the Cardinals mentioned without their run defense making headlines.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph knows it's been a popular topic all season long. But as much as Joseph has been pleased with that part of his unit lately, it isn't as big of a deal to him as on the outside.

"I'm more worried about keeping the points to a minimum," Joseph said. "Sometimes the plan is to stop the run, and sometimes it's not. Sunday (against the Cowboys) it was, and we got it done. The Colts game was, after the first play, and we got it done. So, every game it's a different plan. We'll see how it works on Sunday, and then we'll move on into the playoffs."

Through 17 games, the Cardinals' defense is allowing 20.5 points per game, ranked fifth in the league. The Cardinals' defense held Seattle's offense to just 13 points in Week 11, but Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson was still finding his rhythm after returning from a several-week finger injury.

But against a Seahawks team where the run comes first ,as noted by Wilson and coach Pete Carroll, the Cardinals will have to deal with developing workhorse Rashaad Penny. Penny missed eight games this season due to injury, but the running back has 305 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries the past two games.

He'll go against a Cardinals' defense that held Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott last week to just 16 yards on nine carries. Two weeks ago on Christmas, they held Colts' running back and MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor to just 2.5 per carry after a 43-yard run to start the game.

"Definitely week-to-week we talk about what other teams do well, and we put a plan together to kinda limit the things they do the best," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "Unless we're playing a team we determine the running game is the strongest thing they do; some of the calls may be less suited to stop the run. From my perspective as a defensive lineman, I hate to see the rushing yards, and it's something we talk about in our room as an entire defense.

"I like to always see that number be as low as possible, but we keep in mind that the No.1 rule for the game is to try and get the win. I'll take a win no matter what that looks like."

CLEANING UP ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE

Guard Justin Pugh has blocked for one of the high-powered offenses in the NFL this season. Through 16 games, the offense is on pace to finish in the top 10 in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense for just the second time in the last 36 seasons.

Pugh likes the potential accomplishment, but said he is focused on regaining chemistry with fellow offensive linemen in a season they have been banged up. The Cardinals have had to use nine offensive line combinations this season because of injuries.

"Me and (center) Rodney (Hudson) haven't played together in seven weeks (before Dallas) with him being out for a few and me being out for a few," Pugh said.. "Just working on those combination blocks where we're it's a bit cleaner and crisper -- giving the backs a cleaner read, not operating in that grey area where it's a dirty read for the back -- and knowing how they're going to hit (the hole).

"Little things like that, turning those two-yard gains into four-yard gains, which doesn't seem like a lot to most people, but that wears on a defense."

MARCO WILSON BACK ON THE PRACTICE FIELD

Cornerback Marco Wilson (shoulder) returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday that Wilson is day-to-day. Also limited were tight end Demetrius Harris (shoulder), running back James Conner (heel), linebacker Dennis Gardeck (thumb) and wide receiver Rondale Moore (ankle).

Not practicing were defensive lineman Zach Allen (ankle), defensive lineman Jordan Phillips (knee) and running back Chase Edmonds (ribs/toe).

For the Seahawks, tight end Will Dissly (heel), linebacker Carlos Dunlap (ankle), guard Gabe Jackson (knee), cornerback John Reid (concussion), tackle Brandon Shell (shoulder) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (knee) didn't practice.

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