Halfway through the regular season, the Arizona Cardinals (7-1) have the best record in football.
How does that sound?
“Man, it sounds great,” Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It sounds really good. We’ve been working hard. Last season, we went on a great run. We knew this year we could do something special. So we’re just excited to be in this position we’re at halfway through the season.”
The Cardinals, who went 10-6 last year, have endured injuries and suspensions but find themselves atop a stacked NFC West. They lead the Seahawks (5-3) by two games and the 49ers (4-4) by three.
All seven of Arizona’s victories have been by 11 points or fewer.
How are the Cardinals doing it?
“Just accountability, man,” Johnson said. “Everyone is (playing for) one another, and the scheme that (defensive coordinator) Todd Bowles put together for us is terrific each and every week. We got a lot of veterans on the defensive side of the ball as well. We lost some great guys upfront, but we’re still not lacking any leadership. We still got leaders on that unit that’s going to hold guys accountable. Everybody’s trusting one another. It’s bigger than just that one person. Everybody’s buying into that bigger goal. We’re selling out for one another. That’s what’s making us so good on defense.”
The Cardinals rank third in the league in rush defense (79.6 yards per game) and fifth in scoring defense (19.5 points per game). What exactly does Bowles do that’s different?
“We change our schemes pretty much every week,” Johnson said. “He coordinates the defenses according to what the offense does. He changes guys out of position. We may have a safety playing a linebacker one week in our base front . . . or he may play a linebacker in a nickel defense. So he changes guys in and out each and every week based on who we’re playing – based on what they like to do – to give us the best matchup possibility that we can get. If you can’t do something, he’s not going to ask you to do it. He’s going to put someone else in there that he feels more comfortable (with). We rotate a ton of guys on defense.”
Doug Gottlieb asked Johnson if he thinks Bowles, 50, will one day be a head coach.
“I think he’ll be a great head coach for sure,” Johnson said. “I hope he doesn’t leave us. I got another year on my contract, so maybe he’ll stay one more year and then we can talk about him being a head coach.”
Johnson believes it’s better to play for a coach who used to be a player. Bowles played for Washington and San Francisco from 1986 to 1993.
“It’s totally different,” Johnson said. “I mean, you get some coaches that have never played – (coaches) that only coached – and they kind of don’t understand it from the player’s perspective (with) some things that they ask you to do, and they get kind of worried or stressed out about certain things. But Todd is so even keel because he’s played in the league. He understands the ups and the downs and how great the other guys you’re playing against (are); they’re going to make plays. He understands the ups and downs and how to let his player play his way through that bad play and bounce back the next play. He doesn’t really jump on you too much. He’s even keel no matter what. You can give up a touchdown; you come to the sideline and he’ll just say, ‘Hey, let’s get it the next time.’ He understands the position that you’re in and the stress of playing defensive back.”
Arizona plays its next two games at home against St. Louis (3-5) and Detroit (6-2) on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, respectively. Both games kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET.