Rethinking role, strengths for Adrian Wilson

The conventional book on Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson might need some revision.


Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. explains why in an Insider piece resetting expectations for one of 11 players since 1982 with at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions.

Williamson sees Wilson as better than advertised in coverage and not as strong against the run as one might expect given Wilson's strong physical presence. He expects Wilson's role to change under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, hired from the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

Wilson will not suddenly become another Troy Polamalu, but in looking through that 20-20 list and sizing up Polamalu's career stats, Wilson's strength as a pass-rusher stood out. He has 22.5 sacks in 150 career regular-season games. Polamalu, though more dynamic as a sideline-to-sideline force, has eight sacks in 107 games. Wilson is one of seven defensive backs since 1982 with at least 20 sacks. The other six have played between 181 and 234 games. Five have between 20.5 and 26 sacks, with Rodney Harrison collecting 30.5 sacks during his 186-game career.

Wilson's presence as a blitzer and someone quarterbacks must fear around the line of scrimmage sets him apart from other defensive backs. Wilson does more than simply get to the quarterback, though. He arrives with bad intentions and he embraces the role. His profile picture on Twitter shows Wilson standing over Trent Edwards following the type of hit Jack Tatum or Dick "Night Train" Lane would have relished.

Horton has promised to open the 2011 regular season with a blitz call to symbolize the aggressive tactics he wants the Cardinals to employ. Finding more ways to showcase Wilson in blitz packages sounds like a logical priority. Wilson had 13 sacks over the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He has only 6.5 sacks over the past four.

The addition f cornerback Patrick Peterson will also affect the options for Horton. As Nolan Nawrocki's scouting report for Pro Football Weekly put it, Peterson "can man and zone cover, roam, blitz and play near the line of scrimmage."