Al Holcomb, the Cardinals' new defensive coordinator, speaks to the media Tuesday.
Al Holcomb was one of the first coaches Steve Wilks wanted to bring with him to Arizona once it became clear Wilks was going to be hired as the Cardinals' head coach, a natural fit after the two had worked together for five years in Carolina.
That chemistry also impacts how much – or rather, how little – Wilks will have to make defense his personal focus now that Holcomb is his defensive coordinator.
"I know pretty much exactly what he's thinking," Wilks said Tuesday, as Holcomb had his first press conference in his new post. "He understands the expectations of the defense, what it should look like, and the philosophy. I don't feel like I need to spend a lot of time in that room."
Holcomb will call the defensive plays – "Again, I believe in hiring coaches and allowing those guys to do their job," Wilks added – but beyond that, what the Cards' defense may look like remains vague.
"We're going to try and create negative plays, we're going to be aggressive, we're going to do things based on what we need to do to win the game," Holcomb said. "If it is pressuring, we will pressure. If it is by playing front coverage, we'll play front coverage. It'll come down to who the opponent is."
Unlike offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Holcomb knows many of the pieces he will be getting in a unit that has ranked fifth, second and sixth in total defense each of the past three seasons.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the best in the league. Safety Tyrann Mathieu led the league in total snaps. Linebacker Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks, safety Antoine Bethea is coming off one of his best seasons and safety Budda Baker is trending toward star status.
Holcomb said there will be "subtle differences" in the defense – most notably, terminology – and he brushed aside the concept of what the Cardinals might play in base, bringing up again the point most of the time teams are in nickel packages (with four down linemen, it should be noted.)
"When you look at the NFL today, really no one is set in a 4-3 or a 3-4," Holcomb said.
Holcomb did talk a little about certain personnel:
-- On a pass rush duo of Jones and Markus Golden, who is coming back from a torn ACL: "It's a great starting point for us."
-- On working with defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche: "The little film I've watched, he obviously at times jumps off the tape. He's got some ability. That's something as we get into (things) … find out exactly what makes him tick. We have to do the best thing we can to get the most out of him."
-- On having a shutdown cornerback like Peterson: "To know you have a cornerback on the edge of the defense that can cover and take away some of the better receivers in the league is pretty special. You feel good about that, but at the same time, there are 10 other guys out there on the field and everybody has to do their part."
Images of the Cardinals cheerleader leading up to the game and during the halftime performance