Consider Vance Joseph a happy guy. The Cardinals defensive coordinator has seen an influx of talent on his side of the ball this offseason with free agents and draft choices.
Significantly, a defensive line that was riddled with injuries at the end of the regular season had added Jordan Phillips as a free agent from Buffalo plus Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence in the fourth round of the draft.
He knows the pressure will be there to improve, but pressure is simply a fact of life in the NFL.
“The pressure is always there,” he said Tuesday, three days after the conclusion of the draft. “I have no problem with the pressure. That's part of coaching in the biggest football league in the world. So I'm looking forward to it.”
What he’s truly looking forward to is getting his hands on the new players, especially those linemen.
Joseph was on the Dolphins staff early in Phillips’ NFL career and truly believes he hasn’t “hit his ceiling yet. He's looking to prove everyone wrong that he can be a top-10, top-15 D-lineman.”
Calling the 6-foot-6, 341-pound Phillips “a dancing bear,” Joseph added, “I'm excited to have (defensive line) coach (Brentson) Buckner coaching him. That was one of the reasons that Jordan joined us.”
One look at the massive Fotu, and you think nose tackle, but Joseph says he’s so much more.
“Everyone assumes that he's a run stopper,” Joseph said, “but the scheme they played at Utah; he was he was really coached to beat the linebackers clean. So he's a more of a square stance; he's more catching blocks and he's just eating gaps but when you watch this guy move and run, I think once you put them into an attack stance and allow him to go vertical and be disruptive, he's going to also be a pretty good pass rusher as far as pushing the pocket.
“Most teams when they watched his tape, they assumed he was a run stopper or a nose guard, but he's going to play across the board for us: nose, three-technique and the four- and the five-(technique).”
Joseph emphasized how good Fotu moves for a big man. He said, “When we watched his tape, it was really good football as far as the movement from a big guy and how hard he played, too. It's hard to find big guys with those kind of motors, that play every snap because big guys get tired. But this guy plays hard every snap. His rugby background kind of speaks to his movement and why he runs so well.”
Joseph also loves what Lawrence will bring to the team beyond what he does on the field.
“If you ask any player on LSU's team which player you want to go to war with it's always Lawrence,” Joseph said. “He was a team captain amongst (14) drafted NFL players and and he's been a team captain three years. That's hard to do (there) with so many alpha males, but everyone in Baton Rouge spoke highly about this guy. He's a graduate; he's a 3.4 student. He's a mature grown man, so he's going to walk in Day 1 and help us win football games.”
Joseph loves the versatility and youth of the group. He made sure to mention Zach Allen, a third-round pick last season who played four games before being injured and missing the remainder of the season. “He can rush off the edge also,” Joseph said, while adding, “It's our job to find the best fit for all these players, but it's good to have players that have versatility and who can do multiple jobs because it gives you great depth on game day. And it also gives you a chance to scheme for guys to get more one-on-ones.”