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No Star Gazing For Cardinals Defense, Just Shutdown Play

Many of opponents' top players have been held in check 

Linebackers Zaven Collins and Devon Kennard take down Panthers running back Christian McCaffery in a game earlier this month.
Linebackers Zaven Collins and Devon Kennard take down Panthers running back Christian McCaffery in a game earlier this month.

The first words out of the mouth of Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph are about the need to slow "No. 14 and No. 16" – Seahawks wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

"Keeping '14' and '16' from beating you, it's the plan," Joseph said.

The Cardinals have yet to find a way to consistently win this season, but defensively, they have done a good job zeroing in on the opposing star. Joseph still isn't happy with how the Cardinals handled the Chiefs' Travis Kelce in Week 1, but otherwise?

"That's your game plan in this league," Joseph said. "You have to stop their best players first."

  • In Week 2, Davante Adams had two catches for 12 yards;
  • In Week 3, Cooper Kupp had four catches for 44 yards (although he did have a 20-yard TD run);
  • In Week 4, running back Christian McCaffery had 8 rushes for 27 yards, and much of his damage catching the ball (9-81) came after the game was basically decided;
  • In Week 5, A.J. Brown had three catches for 32 yards.

"Who (opponents) use the most, you have to scheme those type of things, their best options," cornerback Byron Murphy said. "But us as a team, I always stand with my group. I think we have really good players to show we can stop their top guys every single Sunday."

The Cardinals come across a Seahawks offense that, understandably, was supposed to take a step back this season after the trade of Russell Wilson. But with new QB Geno Smith, the Seahawks have instead been effective with big plays (four scoring plays of at least 35 yards last week alone.)

Metcalf and Lockett, who were thought to be mitigated with the uncertainty at quarterback, remain serious threats.

"Every single Sunday you are playing someone with multiple guys," Murphy said. "DK and Tyler are both great, but I've got to ride with my guys. That's my mentality."

Linebacker Zaven Collins goes through the list of high-profile offensive players the Cardinals have handled. Mention Kelce, and the wound is still there. Adams, Kupp and Brown are noteworthy, but McCaffery is the one that sticks with Collins, because he was the one responsible for McCaffery's late touchdown (a score that ultimately didn't matter in the Cardinals' win.)

"We've got to win those games when they are throwing it to other guys," Collins said.

The only fourth-quarter touchdown the Cardinals have allowed since the Chiefs game was McCaffery's score.

"Vance always has a good gameplan up his sleeve," Collins said. "He says, 'This is what we're going to do and we're going to live and die by it.' And I'm not going to argue because it friggin' works all the time.

"But he'll ask us during the week, 'What do you think about this' or 'What do you like about this.' He lets us as players kind of fill it our ourselves."

There are other elements that remain important, obviously. Slowing Brown (and not letting any big plays downfield to DeVonta Smith) was important, but Joseph lamented getting off the field against the Eagles on their final field-goal drive, noting the Cardinals allowed a third-and-12 conversion when linebacker Dennis Gardeck slid off a tackle that would have stopped the play after eight yards.

Lockett has 32 receptions for 406 yards and two touchdowns; Metcalf has 28-372-2. If the Cardinals can find ways to slow one or maybe both – Lockett has had some big games against the Cardinals – Joseph will have one box he can check.

"We have to do our jobs," Murphy said, "and do it with detail."

Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 6 regular season matchup against the Seattle Seahawks

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