New Cardinals coach Steve Wilks (left) goes over plays alongside Panthers linebackers Luke Kuechly (center) and Thomas Davis (Photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
With Bruce Arians in charge, the Cardinals were one of the most aggressive teams in the NFL the past five years.
The coach known for his "no risk-it, no biscuit" approach will be followed by a man with a similar philosophy. Steve Wilks, who was hired by the Cardinals as Arians’ successor on Monday, made clear his style in his one season as Panthers defensive coordinator in 2017.
Under previous defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, the Panthers rarely blitzed, but Wilks turned that on its head. Carolina blitzed on 45 percent of its defensive pass snaps in 2017, second-most in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. The Panthers were third in the NFL with 50 sacks.
"I think that's just my personality as a whole, to be honest," Wilks told the Charlotte Observer in December. "Being a (former) defensive backs coach, most people think you're going to be just the opposite, (that I'll) really want to play a lot of zone.
"But my thing is really trying to affect the game in a positive way for the defense. And when you look at most of these quarterbacks, if you sit back and give these guys time to really sit back and analyze the defense, they're going to find an open pocket."
When Arians came aboard in 2013, he brought along defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who became known for sending blitzers from all angles. James Bettcher took over when Bowles became coach of the Jets and continued many of the same philosophies.
The Cardinals' defense was one of the most effective units in the NFL over that span and will seemingly keep that aggressive approach under Wilks. The key chess pieces remain, as the defensive side of the ball looks pretty stable heading into the offseason.
The most pertinent question will be scheme. The Panthers ran a 4-3 defense last season while the Cardinals have used a 3-4. Whichever way the defensive players line up, there figure to be many screaming into the backfield from the second level.
"Wilks is aggressive, man," Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn told Sports Illustrated in December. "He's not believing in sitting back and let you dink and dunk us. We're going to come after you."
When General Manager Steve Keim spoke with the media after Arians announced his retirement, he said the one thing that stuck out about the coach's tenure was his "no risk-it, no biscuit" philosophy. Keim liked the idea of keeping that mind-set, whether it be making bold hires or bold play-calls.
"No need to apologize for going for it and that's what we're going to continue to do as an organization," Keim said. "We're going to continue to go for it."
The Wilks hire seems to fit that mold.
Images of new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks at some of his past stops