SARASOTA, Fla. – The past week has been unchartered waters for the Arizona Cardinals’ coaching staff. And it’s not because their hotel in Sarasota is on a waterway.
After losing two starting outside linebackers and one backup Sunday in New Orleans, Arizona has spent the week restocking its roster, reshuffling its defensive game plan and simplifying its playbook. But an overhaul wasn’t needed.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the Cardinals will stay in a 3-4 as their primary defense, despite the lack of experienced linebackers to properly execute his scheme. But throughout the game, the Cardinals will continue to go to a 4-3, Bowles added.
“It’s just a matter of having the right people outside doing the right things at the right time,” Bowles said. “Some of the guys are inside guys. They can’t play outside. It’s a good mix.”
This week, Bowles will mix up the defenses more often than in the first three games, while Arizona coach Bruce Arians just hopes his playbook can accommodate the new styles at outside linebacker.
But for this week at least, Arizona won’t try to move their inside linebackers – Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley – outside. The Cards added Vic So’oto and promoted Dontay Moch and Kenny Demens from the practice squad to fill in at outside linebacker.
John Abraham entered the league as a 3-4 linebacker with the New York Jets, Bowles said, so he’s expected to see more time on the edge this game. Matt Shaughnessy has been an outside rusher before, most recently with the Oakland Raiders, so he’ll also provide some relief for Arizona.
Next week, however, may be a different story when Daryl Washington returns from a four-game suspension. He gives the Cardinals another option, with the possibility of Brinkley or Dansby moving outside.
It’s a challenge Dansby welcomes.
“The future’s bright,” Dansby joked. “I know I’m up for the challenge. I had done it before, so if that’s my role that’s what I’ll have to play. I’m able to do it. It ain’t like it’s new to me, so I’d be cool.”
But Dansby, who was wondering who’ll move over, hasn’t been asked yet.
“It’s such a different transition to play outside backer versus inside backer,” Arians said. “I like the four guys we have right now. It’s not the end of the world.”
Arians would know. Last year, as the interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Arians watched two running backs go down on the same play. Not just in the same game, but on the same play. So three linebackers in one game? No problem for Arians.
But he didn’t try to rally the troops with the story of last season. No one wants to hear that, he said.
“You’ve got to be able to adjust in this league,” Arians said. “It’s going to throw you curveballs all the time. You got to be able to hit the curveball.”