Cards ready to throw open defensive play book

Arizona's defense could look different in the second half of the season, in terms of scheme and players.

The Cardinals' defense could look different in the second half of the season, both in terms of scheme and players.

After simplifying game plans for the past month or so, coordinator Ray Horton believes his players have proved they can handle more. So he now has the whole playbook at his disposal for the first time since Week 2.

Horton was forced to cut back after poor performances against Carolina and Washington to open the season.

He installed the entire defense in the preseason and thought the group was ready to handle it in games, but there were numerous missed assignments early, especially in the secondary.

The Cardinals didn't give up on blitzes, but the number of them was reduced, and the more intricate ones were shelved.

The defense isn't great, but at least it's progressing. The loss to the Ravens on Sunday was the Cardinals' sixth in a row, but unlike the offense, the defense is improving.

The use of personnel has changed, too. Rookie Sam Acho started at right outside linebacker in place of Joey Porter, who missed practice last week with a sore knee.

The injury was not the only reason Porter was replaced. He made no impact in the first six games, and Acho and O'Brien Schofield were getting more snaps.

They deserve to play, as they showed in the 30-27 loss to the Ravens. Acho had a sack and a forced fumble, and Schofield did, too. Both showed great athleticism and hustle.

The coaches are going to have to live with some mental errors, but that makes more sense than sticking with an old player who can't produce.

It could be the beginning of some major adjustments at three of the four linebacker spots. Schofield didn't start last week, but he played almost as many snaps as Acho. Schofield is the better pass rusher, but Acho makes fewer mental mistakes.

Inside linebacker Stewart Bradley is starting to play more, too. Against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, the Cardinals used him in passing situations as an outside rusher. He didn't make a great impact, but his athleticism should help in those situations.

Bradley is backing up Paris Lenon at the strong inside spot, and could see an increasing amount of action there, too.

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