In two weeks of the 2011 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals defense has been unimpressive. In Week 1, it was gashed by Cam Newton in his debut to the tune of 422 yards passing and a league record. In Week 2, versus the Washington Redskins, the rushing defense failed them, as Tim Hightower and Roy Helu ran for 170 yards between the two. The pass defense was not much better as Rex Grossman almost threw for 300 yards, finishing with 291.
To say that the defense has been a disappointment is an understatement. It has made plays at times, particularly in the red zone, but it hasn't added up to good performances overall.
Said coach Ken Whisnehunt:
"We made a number of good plays defensively. When we're on the same page and guys are understanding what they're doing we're a pretty good defense. But when we make our bad plays, they're really bad. We're dropping coverage. We're not hitting the right gaps. We're not stepping the right way when we're blitzing. All those things are things we've got to work to get cleaned up."
Much of this can be attributed to a couple of things -- a new scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Ray Horton and the NFL lockout that made offseason workouts with the defensive coaches impossible. Plus, the new schemes are known for being difficult to learn -- not that the team is using that as an excuse.
"It's a tough system to learn," said safety Kerry Rhodes. "Coming into a new season with it, it's been a little frustrating but we've got a lot of time to rectify it." At the same time though, Rhodes did not take all the blame away from the players. "You can throw it off on it being complicated all you want, but at the end of the day we've got to run it.," Rhodes continued. "Other teams have had success with the same defense and they got it down so we got to get it too."
So what is the plan now that things have not been ideal, especially with starting cornerbacks whose only starting NFL experience are the two games the team has played this season? Rhodes says that, after talking to Horton, the team is likely going to "try to scale some stuff back" and simplify things so that the players can worry more about execution and less about what the playcall is.
Luckily for the Cardinals, there is another weak opponent coming up. The Seattle Seahawks are next up on the schedule. It would be the perfect game to work on things, as Seattle has put up a total of 17 points in two weeks.
"We're not where we want to be," said Whisenhunt. "We're working to get it corrected and I know our players are committed to doing that."