Arizona Defense Ready to switch it up

Antonio Smith (Getty)

Coach Ken Whisenhunt holds Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau in high esteem, and that's evident by the Cardinals' defensive philosophy and practice habits. Whisenhunt implemented a hybrid 3-4 scheme when he came to Arizona, because he saw it work in Pittsburgh.

Ken Whisenhunt also encourages his defensive staff to throw a variety of looks and blitzes at the offense during training camp practices.

That's something LeBeau did when Whisenhunt was the Steelers' offensive coordinator. Whisenhunt said it could be frustrating at times, but he thought it helped his offensive players prepare for similar defenses.

So Whisenhunt and LeBeau would match wits in practice, which Whisenhunt relished, until the offense struggled and coach Bill Cowher would get upset.

But the offense emerged from camp better prepared. There was a feeling among the offensive players that defenses couldn't throw much more at them than they had already seen in practice.

Whisenhunt and assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm adopted the same style of practice when they came to Arizona. At training camp, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will throw all of his blitz packages at the offense, which Grimm thinks is a good learning tool for his line.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Quarterback Kurt Warner has peaked in the playoffs. He has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 770 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions. His passer rating of 112.1 is higher than it was in any of his three previous playoff appearances.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald has set a playoff record with 419 receiving yards. He has five consecutive 100-yard receiving games and tied a playoff record with three touchdowns last week.

--DE/OLB Travis LaBoy expects to play with a left biceps injury, which he suffered against the Eagles. LaBoy will be taped up, or braced. He is practicing this week.

--RB J.J. Arrington likely won't practice this week because of a sore knee. He suffered the injury last week in the title game. Coaches hope he will improve enough to practice next week in Tampa.

--DE Antonio Smith is practicing after suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles. An MRI revealed no damage, but Smith still has some soreness.

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