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'Jet' Pass-Rushing Package Flying High For Cardinals

Cardinals using deception to put stress on quarterbacks

From left: ILB De'Vondre Campell, ILB Isaiah Simmons, ILB Jordan Hicks, OLB Kylie Fitts and OLB Haason Reddick threaten to pass-rush near the line of scrimmage against the Bills.
From left: ILB De'Vondre Campell, ILB Isaiah Simmons, ILB Jordan Hicks, OLB Kylie Fitts and OLB Haason Reddick threaten to pass-rush near the line of scrimmage against the Bills.

Jalen Hurts can run fast.

On Sunday, the Eagles' rookie quarterback may need to prove he can process information at a similar speed.

The Cardinals' defense has found success this season using a unique pass-rushing package called 'Jet' – where six or seven linebackers/defensive backs stand near the line of scrimmage, leaving the offense to guess who is rushing and who is dropping into coverage.

The formation, which consists of zero defensive linemen, tricked Russell Wilson in Week 7, when linebacker Isaiah Simmons nabbed an easy interception because the Seattle quarterback thought an all-out blitz was coming.

Now Hurts, heading into just his second career start, must prepare for it.

"When you have five or six 'backers standing up on the line of scrimmage, it's a challenge," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "It's truly a challenge. You've got to be precise. We trust our center (Jason Kelce) to make accurate calls, and we just have to trust that and go execute.

"For a young quarterback, it can be confusing. Bodies are flashing in front of your eyes. It makes you drop your eyes and look at the rush a little bit more. We'll work on it this week. We'll try to have the best plan we can, and hopefully we can stay out of too many of those situations."

With players like Simmons, outside linebacker Haason Reddick, safety Budda Baker and cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., the Cardinals have several versatile pieces that can both rush and drop into coverage.

While quarterbacks must always be wary of them, on most plays, at least, they can count on two or three defensive linemen moving forward at the snap.

That's not the case on third-and-long, when linebackers like Markus Golden, De'Vondre Campbell, Jordan Hicks, Dennis Gardeck and Kylie Fitts mug the line of scrimmage alongside that quartet.

"It's almost impossible to count because there are so many like bodies," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "You can't name who the big four are, or even the big three (who will definitely rush). That makes it effective."

It's no coincidence the 'Jet' package rose to prominence following the season-ending injury to edge rusher Chandler Jones. The Cardinals needed to replace 19 sacks of production but didn't have another All-Pro waiting in his wake.

"Losing Chan was huge for us," Joseph said. "It was our job as coaches to find a way to apply pressure without having a bellcow rusher. And our thought was to put more rushers on the field and have more smoke and mirrors, and hopefully beat more protections. It's worked for us so far."

The Cardinals haven't relied on 'Jet' as much in recent games for a couple of reasons.

The first is that offenses began countering with quick screens, which takes away the protection headache. The second is that -- in the Giants game especially -- the pass-rush has been effective at times without blitzing.

The 'Jet' package is susceptible to the run, which is why it is used sparingly, but there is no questioning the high-reward element to it.

The Seahawks had two overtime possessions in Week 7, the second of which ended on the aforementioned Simmons pick. The first series was dashed on a third-down sack by Murphy – who made it to Wilson untouched because three linemen blocked Reddick.

"If you don't have a plan or you don't have set rules that you're going to do when that presents itself, it can definitely be hectic," Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "You have six guys that are all viable pass-rushers walking around at the same time. If you're not on the same page, it can get ugly quick."