The Arizona Cardinals hope to get a better start to their 2017 season than they did in 2016, when they lost to the New England Patriots at home. There are questions about the defense, as five starters left in free agency. However, in limited work in the preseason, they played well.
Against the Detroit Lions, they face one of the best quarterbacks in the game and two dangerous running backs.
What are keys to the Cardinals’ success defensively?
Get pressure on Stafford
The Cardinals led the league in sacks as a team with 48 last season. Their top pass rushers off the edge in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden should be able to win against Detroit’s tackles. Jones in particular should have success against Greg Robinson. Stafford has the arm and the accuracy to the ball in tight windows. Getting pressure on him will make that hard to do.
Eliminate communication breakdowns
In last year’s season opener, the Cardinals allowed a touchdown simply because cornerback Brandon Williams did not catch a signal. That led to a 38-yard touchdown that ultimately was the difference in the game. The addition of veterans Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea should alleviate that, but it will be something to watch with first-round pick Haason Reddick on the field, as he is playing inside linebacker in a real game for the first time.
The Lions have players who will get yards after contact. Receiver Golden Tate is one of the best. Both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick will make players miss. The Cardinals must be sure to tackle well. The Lions will gain yards, but the defense won’t be able to get off the field if they give up cheap yards after contact.