Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams offense won't be facing "vanilla" when the Arizona Cardinals come to town for Sunday's season opener. Todd Bowles, Arizona's new defensive coordinator, will bring the pressure early and often in an attempt to rattle Bradford and allow his defensive playmakers to make something happen.
While Bowles is new as the defensive coordinator, he inherits a group of talented defenders who are capable of disrupting opposing offensive schemes. Calais Campbell and Karlos Dansby anchor a front seven that can get after the quarterback while Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers, acquired during the off season from Indianapolis, give the Cardinals two of the best cover corners in the league. Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu should also see plenty of snaps in nickel situations.
Bowles history has been one of bringing pressure. As a player, he learned under Joe Gibbs, Larry Peccatiello and Richie Petitbone, and has coached with both Ryan brothers among others.
Under Bowles, the Cardinals will bring pressure from a variety of directions, all out of a base 3-4 defensive set. They'll blitz from the outside with Campbell, from the inside with Dansby, and bring safeties and corners as well. Their defensive goal is to get into the offensive backfield and disrupt the offense's rhythm. This is something Sam Bradford knows the Rams have to be prepared for.
"They do have a tendency to blitz, especially when they stay in their base personnel group. Some of those are only five man pressures, but when they stay base I think, in the preseason, it’s been over 50% blitz. So, that’s something when we’re in ‘12’, ‘21’, ‘13’ (-personnel sets), we’ve got to be prepared to stop those blitzes.”
If the Rams can pick up those blitzes, the Cardinals are susceptible to big plays off of double moves. Last season, as defensive coordinator in Philadelphia, Bowles' defense allowed 11 plays of 40 or more yards, fifth most in the NFL.
The Rams certainly have the personnel in Chris Givens and Tavon Austin to beat the Cardinals with the big play. To do that, the offensive line and running backs will have to give Sam Bradford time to execute those routes.
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