Horton making Cardinals' defense productive

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

It took five years and the firing of two coaches, but coach Ken Whisenhunt appears to have finally found a defensive coordinator.

It took five years and the firing of two coaches, but coach Ken Whisenhunt appears to have finally found a defensive coordinator.

Ray Horton took over the job this season under tough circumstances. Horton, who spent seven years coaching the Steelers' secondary, had to install a new system, and he had no offseason.

The transition was rough in the first month, but the defense has been sterling over the last six weeks.

The Cardinals have won five of the past six games mostly because their defense has improved greatly.

The Cardinals have registered five sacks in each of the past two games. In each game, five different players recorded them.

Look for Horton to again bring pressure this week against the Browns.

An infusion of young talent has helped immensely. Outside linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield give the team athleticism it didn't have when Joey Porter was at the position. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington is blossoming into a star. End Calais Campbell is having his best season.

Some veterans have also bought in. End Darnell Dockett has always played a one-gapping style, which fit his strengths. He's explosive off the ball and can wreak havoc in the backfield.

In Horton's system, however, he has to use a two-gap technique far more than ever before his career.

Dockett has adapted and is making it work. His numbers are down - he has just 1.5 sacks - but he's doing his job within this system.

So is strong safety Adrian Wilson. He's playing more of a conventional role than ever before. He still plays near scrimmage at times, but less often than he used to. He had breakdowns in coverage early in the season, something that plagued him in 2010.

But Wilson has adapted to the system over the last two months. His flexibility has been a key part of the improvement. He's been able to play well in zone coverage, but he's also been a force against running teams.

Against the 49ers, the Cardinals gave up only two first downs in the second half and one of those came via penalty.

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