The Arizona Cardinals did not have a good defense last year. They did not have a good offense either and so they went out and got a new quarterback and altogether are expected to have seven new guys starting on that side of the ball. The defense is another story. They have four new starters and made a few other personnel changes, but the difference this year will be the boss, defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Horton was hired in from his job as the defensive backs coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers and he's promising a new approach. It all starts in Week 1 with Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback, Cam Newton.
"He's a talented kid we're going to respect but we're going to respect him with pressure," Horton said.
In other words, the Arizona Cardinals defense is bringing the house according to Horton, "We're going to pressure. That's what we do. I don't care if they know it, we're coming after 'em."
The players are happy about that. They want the opportunity to get after it on defense and they love having the support of their coaching staff.
"We know coach is going to be aggressive and that's the way we like it and that's the way we want to be. Just go out there and win or lose on our own terms," veteran safety Kerry Rhodes said.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt says the key for Newton, or any other QB, isn't so much about the pressure, it's about doing something the team struggled with in 2010.
"You don't have to get after a young quarterback or any quarterback to make it difficult," Whisenhunt said. "If you play your defense the right way and you play it together as a group you can make it difficult on a quarterback. We didn't play it together enough last year to make it difficult on very many guys."
The Cardinals didn't blitz much in the preseason and they certainly didn't show all of their defensive game plan. With the new defensive coordinator and the lockout-shortened offseason, Horton still hasn't put in all his tricks but he promises that there will be enough ready for Week 1 to get numbers moving towards the QB.
And one guy to keep an eye on, Horton says, is veteran linebacker Joey Porter who is three sacks short of 100 for his career, "I expect him to be a crazy man out there."
Aggressive blitzing will put extra pressure on the young starting cornerback tandem of Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson. Fortunately, the first three games of the season won't pit them against quality passers. Rookie Newton in Week 1 will be followed by Rex Grossman in Washington and then Tavaris Jackson in Seattle.
It will be a good test for Horton's new defense and the young corners. If they pass, the defense will have a lot of confidence rolling into a meeting with Eli Manning in Week 4 and then veteran Donovan McNabb in Week 5.