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Vance Joseph Focused On Performance, Not Undue Criticism

Cardinals have undergone impressive defensive turnaround behind second-year coordinator

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has done a nice job with upgraded personnel in 2020.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has done a nice job with upgraded personnel in 2020.

Sometimes it is a tidal wave of feedback and other times it is less pronounced, but after almost every post about the Cardinals' defense on social media, there are breathless demands for a change at defensive coordinator.

Now imagine what it would look like if Vance Joseph was actually doing a bad job.

There's no denying a talent-bereft defense struggled under Joseph in his first season as defensive coordinator in 2019, but the 2020 campaign is more than halfway done and the group has made considerable strides.

The Cardinals are No. 9 in the league in scoring defense, allowing 23.3 points per game, and are No. 9 in Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency – three spots higher than the more-ballyhooed offense.

Joseph has a naturally jovial disposition, so when asked if such unjust criticism bothers him, he laughs it off.

"That's not my job (to worry about negativity)," Joseph said. "It's our job to go out there and play good defense and keep the points to a minimum. In my opinion, we've had probably one game I didn't like, and that was the Panthers game. Other than that, we've had good outings. The Dolphins game, we had a couple plays I didn't like. But overall, we've improved a lot, and when healthy, I feel like we can be a top-10 unit, and we've played that way this year, in my opinion.

"That's part of (the gig, to take criticism). It's about winning football games, and doing our part to help our team win. The outside noise doesn't affect me, never affected me. It's our job to win football games. And when our defense is playing good, it helps us win football games."

Joseph has received more credit of late, as his second-half adjustments have helped contribute to recent comeback wins against the Seahawks and Bills.

He's done it despite two starters being out for the year – All-Pro outside linebacker Chandler Jones and cornerback Robert Alford – with the possibility of Corey Peters joining them because of a knee injury.

The Cardinals have been able to weather myriad personnel losses to remain competitive on defense, and outside linebacker Haason Reddick said more familiarity with Joseph's system in Year 2 has been key.

"You've developed some type of bond with coaches and players, and not only that, it's pretty much a repeat of the playbook, so you know the plays," Reddick said.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury was asked pointed questions about retaining Joseph at the end of last season, and always showed confidence in his defensive playcaller.

That trust has paid off with major improvement in 2020, even though it might not be readily apparent while browsing social media.

"He hasn't been bothered," Kingsbury said. "I think when you go through getting fired as a head coach (by the Broncos after the 2018 season), you develop some thick skin. He knows who he is. He's confident in himself and he's confident in what he does. That's what I appreciate about him. He doesn't waver. He's consistent every day he shows up to the office and does a tremendous job for us. Those guys believe in him and love playing for him."


Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (hamstring) practiced in a limited capacity on Tuesday, although it was a light day without pads or helmets because the Cardinals play on Thursday night against the Seahawks.

Phillips missed Sunday's contest against the Bills, and his return would be important because Peters, defensive end Zach Allen, defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence and defensive tackle Leki Fotu all seem likely to miss the game due to injuries.

Safety Jalen Thompson (shoulder), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring), Reddick (neck), safety Budda Baker (groin/ankle) and running back Kenyan Drake (ankle) were also limited. Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (calf), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), guard Justin Murray (hand), safety Charles Washington (groin), tight end Darrell Daniels (ankle) and Peters did not practice.

For the Seahawks, wide receiver Tyler Lockett (knee), tackle Duane Brown (knee/not injury-related), cornerback Quinton Dunbar (knee), guard Kyle Fuller (ankle), cornerback Shaquill Griffin (concussion/hamstring), center Ethan Pocic (concussion), guard Jordan Simmons (calf), and cornerback Neiko Thorpe (core) did not practice.

Those limited were running back Chris Carson (foot), running back Travis Homer (wrist/knee/thumb), defensive end Benson Mayowa (ankle) and linebacker K.J. Wright (ankle). Safety Jamal Adams (shoulder) was a full participant.

Images from Sunday's last-second victory over Buffalo at State Farm Stadium.