The Cardinals' run defense, here working against the Texans last weekend, want to improve despite a top ranking in 2013.
In his first year as defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles helped the Cardinals shave almost 53 yards a game from the run defense, an impressive change that shot the Cards to No. 1 in the NFL ranking in 2013.
With the addition of a linebacker like Kevin Minter, a physical safety like Deone Bucannon and more depth on the
defensive line, the Cardinals believe they can be even better against the run in 2014.
"We obviously played very well last year but there was a lot of stuff we left on the field," Minter said. "Look at (the game in) San Fran. They kind of ran over us in the fourth quarter. It definitely can get better. I feel like the guys this year, we could be better all around, to be honest. We'll be pretty stout."
The Cardinals surrendered an average of 84.4 yards on the ground last season but the game in San Francisco was a good example of the need to improve. The Cardinals were within two points when they turned the ball over at the 49ers' 11-yard line. Eighteen plays later – 12 of them runs, including the last eight – the Niners scored the game-clinching touchdown.
"We can improve all over," Bowles said. "They really didn't have a grasp of the scheme and being in the right place and doing the right things. Now that they have an understanding of each other better, hopefully we can improve. It's not about being number one. It's about being better than what you were."
Defensive end Calais Campbell said the system knowledge will mean a great deal, especially since the Cardinals will be in a position to play better from the start of the regular season.
"We can't be satisfied with last year," Minter said. "If you are, I mean, you weren't a playoff team last year. That's really what it is about. Because last year, it wasn't good enough."
SPECIAL TEAMER WILLIAMS WORKS AS CORNERBACK
Teddy Williams joined the Cardinals last year and played wide receiver mainly because the team was so desperate for speed at the position. Once the Cards added multiple fast players, Williams was able to return to cornerback, where he had previously played in the league.
"It's more of his natural position," Coach Bruce Arians said. "He'll make the team on special teams and continue to improve as a press corner. He has the length and speed to be a good man-to-man corner."
Williams' size (he is 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds) is ideal to get physical with wideouts, although he is still learning just how physical he is allowed to be given the crackdown on illegal use of hands by defensive backs.
But he is a special teams ace, which could very well make him one of the few main special teamers Arians is willing to put on the roster. And he has put the Achilles tear that ended his 2013 season in the rear-view mirror.
"My whole mentality is just to work every day, whether it is special teams or defense," Williams said. "You can't be out there thinking about injuries. You have to be on the field thinking about football. That was the first thing I wanted to do when I got back out there."
AVAILABILITY UP IN THE AIR FOR VIKINGS
Arians admitted about half of the injured players this week for the Cardinals might not be able to play Saturday in Minnesota. Center Lyle Sendlein (calf) has been out, and wide receivers Michael Floyd (groin) and Ted Ginn (knee), Minter (pectoral) and offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper (toe), Nate Potter (back) and Max Starks (ankle) all sat out again Tuesday. Cooper had shed the walking boot he had been wearing Monday.