On Sunday the New England Patriots are slated to host the Arizona Cardinals. Much of the pre-game discussion has focused on the Cardinals offense, especially the electric Kyler Murray and his favorite target DeAndre Hopkins, but do not forget about the intriguing matchups on the other side of the ball.
In last year’s draft the Cardinals selected Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons in the first round. While the rookie did not make an immediate impact, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has found a way to get him on the field: As perhaps the cornerstone of the Arizona 0-6-5 defense.
This refers to the defensive personnel on the field: six linebackers, five defensive backs and zero defensive lineman. The Cardinals started using this sparingly at the beginning of the year but have used it more and more in recent weeks. This is not just something that Joseph will call on third and long, but they’ll use it on third and short as well.
At the heart of this is Simmons, who is used as one of the linebackers in that defensive package but can also play as a defensive back depending on the coverage that Joseph wants to call.
In this first video breakdown, we’ll see how Joseph began to roll that out over the season, and the role that Simmons played:
Then in an overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, the 0-6-5 sub package played a huge role, confusing Russell Wilson and leading to the critical interception by Simmons in overtime. In this breakdown, we’ll see how the defense worked to speed up Wilson’s clock and confuse him in the pocket:
Revisiting Arizona's 0-6-5 which I wrote about last week:— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) October 28, 2020
*Disguising the pressure
*Attacking from the edges with athletes
*Forcing quick throws
*Getting Isaiah Simmons involved pic.twitter.com/vBwYR8wqJQ
Now, teams have been figuring out how to scheme against this defense. The Buffalo Bills had success with some quick throws, as you’ll see at the end of this video:
'Scheming with Scho' Episode 7 with @MarkSchofield!— The Scouting Academy (@TheScoutAcademy) November 19, 2020
This week, Mark takes a look at the Cardinals usage of 065 sub package on defense (6 LBs and 5 DBs) and how they use it on different down and distance to affect the offense pic.twitter.com/OkCcWCWlbM
That is where Simmons comes in again. In the rematch between Seattle and Arizona last Thursday night, the Seahawks were ready with some rub concepts to create quick reads and throws for Wilson against this defense. On this 3rd-and-7, the Cardinals have their 0-6-5 defense on the field and play Cover 1, with Simmons spying Wilson:
The Seahawks design a rub concept to get Tyler Lockett free against this coverage scheme:
It almost worked, as Lockett evades the initial tackle attempt. But then you see the athleticism from Simmons as he covers ground to make the tackle, preventing the first down:
Very impressive athleticism from the rookie.
Putting this all together, you can see causes for concern. Between the multiple looks that Joseph can implement out of this package, to the athleticism of Simmons, then to the ability to get pressure off the edges - something that hamstrung the Patriots last week - the New England offense needs to be ready for this package on Sunday.