The Cardinals' defense, struck with massive injuries, might get a tweak from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
SARASOTA, FLA. – Losing three outside linebackers on a team that runs a 3-4 base defense doesn't make life easy for Todd Bowles, but the defensive coordinator sees options.
One of those options is using more 4-3 looks than the Cardinals do already, in a shift that Bowles said is "not that difficult" from what the Cards have already installed.
"We have 4-3 guys and we do play 4-3 during the ballgame," Bowles said. "We don't stay in just 3-4. It's a matter of having the right people outside doing the right things at the right times. Some of those (linebackers) are inside guys that can't play outside.
"(The scheme) will be mixed up a little bit more."
Bowles said he isn't worried about now-starters Matt Shaughnessy at Sam outside linebacker and Will outside linebacker John
Abraham. Abraham came into the league as a 3-4 outside linebacker once upon a time with the Jets and has been playing linebacker since coming to the Cardinals (albeit mostly in pass-rush situations). Shaughnessy's defensive end role in Oakland had some linebacker components.
"I'm very confident in those guys," Bowles said.
Bowles does want to simplify the defense for the influx of new players because of the injuries. He might consider using an inside linebacker outside – Karlos Dansby, once Daryl Washington returns from suspension next week, seems like the most logical choice – but Bowles didn't sound enamored with the idea.
"You can toy with it some, but you don't want to go outside your scheme," Bowles said. "They are inside for a reason."
Dansby said he'd embrace any role the Cardinals might ask of him, noting he has played outside before in his career.
"I'm a giver," Dansby said. "It's all about give now. I took a lot. It's time to give."
Coach Bruce Arians noted the tackling problems for the Cardinals in New Orleans, and the site profootballfocus.com gave the Cards 14 missed tackles in that gave after video review.
It's impossible for NFL teams to truly work on tackling because no team does it in practice anymore for fear of injuries. So, Bowles said, the Cards will continue to form-tackle in practice – lining up the offensive player without really bringing him down – and keep it a focus.
"Part of it is want-to, part of it is being in the right position to tackle," Bowles said. "We've made some strides last week but we still missed a couple. We have to get better at it."
JOHNSON SITS AGAIN, AS DOES MINTER
Safety Rashad Johnson (finger) remained sidelined from practice Thursday as he tries to come back from his ugly injury last weekend. It is a pain tolerance issue, Bowles reiterated Thursday, and Johnson said the pain is about a "6.5" on a 10 scale right now.
As for what Johnson's limitations might be if he were able to play, Bowles said he did not know.
"I have not had a finger cut off so you'll have to ask Rashad," Bowles deadpanned. "Either Rashad or Ronnie Lott."
Linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) also missed practice again. Running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe) was upgraded to full practice.
For the Buccaneers, defensive tackle Gary Gibson (back) was upgraded to limited practice, joining tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) at that status. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (ribs), offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (illness), wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) and defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee) did not practice for a second straight day.