Coach Steve Wilks still wants his team to form an identity, but he’s not letting overarching goals keep him from nitpicking other things in the meantime.
He wants the team to be more physical as a whole. He’s reiterating technique when it comes to tackling. He’s looking for players to stay in their gaps on the defensive line. And he addressed all of that at Monday’s outdoor practice in Tempe.
“Good practice today. I thought the guys were focused,” Wilks said afterward. “Critical error of the game, third down, was the emphasis today. I thought those guys did a good job, particularly on the offensive side of the ball converting. And once again, up-tempo kind of day. I thought the guys performed well.”
Along with that, Wilks also emphasized the Cardinals’ run defense. After allowing 183 rushing yards to the Saints last week, Wilks wasn’t thrilled. Neither were the players.
“If you give up 180 yards, I don’t care what the score is,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We took a loss in my mind because that is not what we play for.”
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Those adjustments will take on added emphasis with Dallas up next.
“Those guys do a great job with (Ezekiel) Elliot running the ball, massive offensive line, so going to be a major challenge on that side of the ball,” Wilks said.
But against the run isn’t the only place Wilks is hoping his defense will improve.
“I think we’re still missing too many tackles, so being aggressive is one thing, but making sure we’re under control,” he said. “Physicality is there, particularly in the trenches. You see it with the receivers, coming in and blocking, support. You see with our corners, chasing the hit-making tackles.
“I’ve always had the mindset of your identity of your defense is based on not your front seven, but how your secondary tackles, and the physicality with that corner.”
While Wilks routinely brings up physicality internally, he hopes it will one day define the team to outsiders as well. He’s been using the past few weeks to build that team identity. Quarterback Sam Bradford has seen the development, but thinks there is still a ways to go.
“I think we took a good step the first couple of games,” Bradford said. “Especially with the first game, the way we came out and established the run. We’ll look to do that again this week. But I think that personality kind of takes time to develop. So we’ll see.”
Boston lasers in on different goal
Safety Tre Boston has fully integrated into the Cardinals’ locker room. He’s glad to be back with Wilks and has shared his knowledge of the coach from his years in Charlotte. He took on a leadership role right away. He’s made an impact on a revamped defense.
There’s one thing missing though: Instagram evidence.
Boston hasn’t posted since joining the team. It’s not that he’s not happy with the team name on his jersey. He’s just not happy with the number.
Boston has worn No. 33 since entering the league with the Panthers in 2014. He wore No. 10 at North Carolina, which fit nicely with his Instagram handle, @trebos10. Once he made that jump to the pros, he stuck with 33 during stints in Charlotte and in Los Angeles.
But in Arizona, Chris Campbell, the rookie cornerback out of Penn State, is currently sporting 33. For now, at least.
“I want 33. Some way, somehow I gotta end up with it. I’ve got a petition right now,” Boston said. “I got people signing, signing off. I’m walking around local malls: ‘Sign off – can I get 33 back?’ Get me out of 38.
“That’s why I haven’t posted any pictures. I haven’t done anything social media related, because I don’t want that to go down as my image. So, 33, we’re trying to get that back.”
Boston is wearing No. 38 right now. During training camp, he kept athletic tape with “TBD” written on it over the spot in his locker that normally lists a player’s number. That tape followed him back to the practice facility in Tempe.
Visually speaking, 38 is close to his target number, and with the particular font the Cardinals use, a quick Photoshop could be a temporary fix. Boston has thought about it, but it’s not enough.
“I can, I can, but it’s just not the same,” he said. “I don’t have the same feel. But we’re going to get to it.”