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“If it’s not broke, don’t worry about trying to fix it.”
Those were Steve Wilks’ words on Tuesday when the Cardinals’ new head coach not only was asked about the state of the team’s defense, but the unspoken concerns many in and around the organization might have had about his plans for a unit that has finished ranked among the NFL’s very best each of the past three years.
Wilks, ran a 4-3 base defense as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers last season. The Cardinals, meanwhile, after all, have run a 3-4 defense since 2007 and have enjoyed plenty of success with it. During his introductory news conference, Wilks said he doesn’t plan to tear things up and start over with an entirely new defensive philosophy or scheme.
“You said it – we’ve been pretty good around here for a while, you evolve each and every year. Even back in Carolina, we tried to evolve each and every year. So, you’re going to evaluate the roster. You’re going to look at certain things that we did well,” he said. “I think one of the things you have to do, things we need to improve on, and try and make corrections in that fashion.
“I think the personnel is there. Again,
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, 4-3 (system). I’ve coached in both systems, and most importantly,
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, someone asked me before about a 3-4,
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, once again, we’re not going to change too much."
A hardline switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base might not seem like an earth-shattering move,
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, including the Cardinals, especially since many NFL teams, often employ a variation of both throughout a typical season.
Such a change would,
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, affect some of the Cardinals’ most important players on defense. In particular, however, it would force All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones to change positions from outside linebacker to defensive end. Jones dropped a lot of weight during the past offseason to make him quicker as a stand-up edge rusher, and he responded with a franchise-record and NFL-leading 17 sacks.
he’d have his hands in the dirt and likely would have to pack on an additional 20 pounds or so,If he were to move to defensive end, which would make him lose some of his quickness and agility to get to the quarterback.
It also would have a profound impact on fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden, who has a great motor and the ability to will his way into the backfield. But he isn’t nearly big enough to be a prototypical defensive end.
a move to a 4-3 defense would affect the team’s batch of linebackers – from Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick to veteran Karlos Dansby,Likewise, should he return for a 15th NFL season. It would also force fellow veteran Corey Peters to abandon his natural position of nose tackle and play more opposite a guard or tackle.
it should be noted,The Cardinals, just signed Peters to a three-year contract extension last month.
“To me, I have a system," Wilks said. "When you have a system, the coach is always going to take a look at his personnel – and I say this all the time – I don’t have a scheme, you’re willing to adapt to the personnel that you have. Not only that particular week, but throughout the whole year.
“I think right now,
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, particularly Chandler,
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, Number 1, we’ve got great pass rushers. So, you look at some of the guys up front,
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,I don’t foresee trying to do a lot. If you can get there with four, we’re not going to pressure a lot. I think it’s all based off week to week and what that offense is trying to show you as far as schemes are involved.”
whose defense blitzed 45 percent of the time this past season as the Panthers racked up the third-most sacks in the league (50),
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, said he already has spoken with perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and is planning to meet with every defensive player in the coming days and weeks once he finalizes his coaching staff.
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, it could actually play a role in how the franchise goes about searching for its next starting quarterback. Both Wilks and General Manager Steve Keim said they will explore all options – free agency, the strength of the Cardinals is their defense and because of that,
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, a trade and the draft – but it almost seems like a foregone conclusion the team will draft a quarterback with a high pick this year after failing to pick one higher than the fourth round since 2006.
If they rely on a stout defense to carry them next season, who’s to say they couldn’t throw a rookie into the fire and anoint him as their starter instead of a veteran retread?
“I think that’s a good question, we want to try to find the best person. Yes,” Wilks said. “I would say this, we do have a great defense. Yes, our defense gives us an edge to do certain things. But I think once we go out there … we’re going to try and get the right guy here at the quarterback position.”
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