Broncos vs. Cardinals: Which Pass Rush is Better?


Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58) after the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach the week five matchup of the Broncos vs. Cardinals, one pressing issue that I’ve been getting an overload of warnings about is the pass rush of the Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps justifiably so.

The Cardinals are one of the best defenses in the league through their first three games, allowing only 15 points per game thus far. What’s interesting about the Cardinals is how they get the job done. They do get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but perhaps not at the rate you’d expect.

Through three games, the Cardinals have 36 quarterback hurries, five quarterback hits, and three sacks. By comparison, the Broncos have 50 hurries, eight hits, and nine sacks. You tell me which quarterback is in trouble.

Because Peyton Manning has struggled with Seattle’s defense and the interior pressure they applied in the Super Bowl, it’s widely expected that the Broncos are a bad matchup for the Cardinals’ zero coverage scheme and frequent A-gap blitzes, or blitzes sent right up the middle of the field. The Cardinals also do a good job of delaying blitzes and confusing offensive lines and running backs in pass protection.

My guess is, the Broncos won’t be surprised by anything they see, and will be able to keep the Cardinals at bay. The Broncos use a wide variety of quick hitting pass plays, and have ever since Peyton Manning came to town. They force opposing defenses to make adjustments on the quick passing game, and so far really the only team that has been able to shut it down for a full game or close to a full game has been Seattle. The Seahawks’ defense is far more talented than any the Broncos will face this year outside of their own practice, and while the Arizona defense is tough and talented, the Broncos will be able to make the necessary adjustments offensively to beat their pass rush and move the ball down the field.

On the Broncos’ defense itself, Jack Del Rio has called a pretty aggressive defense so far this season but at times has Broncos fans scratching their heads wondering why he’s only sending three or four guys on a pass rush.  My assertion is that even with what seems like at least a full game’s worth of hurries, hits, and pressures more than the Cardinals’ defense at this point, the Broncos’ pass rush could be far more aggressive and better. They’ve had some big plays in terms of pass rush taken away due to penalties as well.

The fact is, these two teams apply pressure on quarterbacks in such different ways that it’s almost unfair to compare the two, but I figured it was appropriate to lay out the numbers since so many seem to have it skewed which team has been more effective in rushing the quarterback to this point.

This is a matchup, specifically in terms of pass rush, that favors the Broncos. Drew Stanton is starting over Carson Palmer, and is facing a rowdy Denver crowd along with having to account for DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller off the edges, Terrance Knighton in the middle. The Broncos should be able to get pressure on Stanton early and often, and I think the Broncos can humble an Arizona defense that right now feels and looks like one of the best in the league.