For Steve Wilks, there is a simple way to judge how physical his team -- and more specifically, his defense -- is during a game.
Look at how the cornerbacks tackle.
"I've always had the mindset of the identity of your defense is based off not your front seven but how your secondary tackles, and the physicality with that corner," Wilks said. "A lot of corners in this league don't want to tackle. That's why they crack the safety or the linebacker and put David Johnson one-on-one with that corner. Our corners will tackle here."
There is little doubt there have been cornerbacks in history who are very good but prefer not to get too involved with tackling if they can help it. Deion Sanders famously would pick-and-choose his moments to tackle. Antonio Cromartie, during his lone season in Arizona (a Pro Bowl year, mind you) passed up a couple of chances to tackle. Ultimately, those guys get paid to cover and make plays on the ball. If they can't do that, it doesn't matter how well they tackle.
But Wilks has a very particular way he wants his physical corners, and those guys have heard the message.
"Cornerbacks have to tackle," cornerback Jamar Taylor said. "Most teams are going to crack down on the safeties, make the corners tackle. If your corners don't want to tackle, there are going to be big gains. ... We've got to want to tackle. Dudes are going to make catches, whatever. You've got to get them down."
It's not a huge surprise Wilks feels this way. He's a former physical defensive back himself, prides himself on his toughness, and came up as a coach working with defensive backs. He notices them, and he has a standard he expects them to reach.
He's also not wrong -- if the cornerbacks, usually the one position that potentially could have tackling issues on a defense, tackle well, it gives the other side much less room for error.
"When the offense turns on the film, and they see all 11 guys hitting, trust me, it does something," safety Antoine Bethea said. "It's something Coach always talks about, our DNA. When the offense turns on the film, they know, wherever we go, someone is going to smack us in the face. You don't want a situation where they can say, 'This guy is soft, circle him' or whatever the case may be. They are instilling that within us."