Cardinals stressing pass rush on both sides of ball

Cardinals hope to improve their QB pressure this week while curtailing that of the Lions.

TEMPE, Ariz. – Rushing the passer is an adrenaline rush for Cardinals linebacker John Abraham.

"It's what I do," said Abraham, who has 122 career sacks. "I’m used to playing and being a big factor in the game."

That opportunity wasn’t available in the Cardinals’ season-opening loss in St. Louis, but coach Bruce Arians expects Abraham’s snap count to rise from the 20 he got against the Rams to around 30 this week -- a number Arians would like to maintain throughout the season.

"It’s good to hear that, because it definitely bothered me not to be out there contributing here and there," said Abraham, who signed a two-year, $4.6 million deal in the offseason. "There will definitely be a little more pressure on me, but it’s something I welcome."

Pressure will be a focal point for both the defense and the offense this week when the Lions come calling. The Cards clearly need to generate more than they did against the Rams, as they didn’t post a sack of QB Sam Bradford. But they’ll also need to shore up their own protection, which yielded four sacks, including three allowed by Levi Brown.

The Lions pose a different sort of challenge from that of the Rams. The strength of the Rams’ defensive line came from its ends; the strength of the Lions’ line comes from the interior, where NFL outlaw Ndamukong Suh and fellow tackle Nick Fairley reside.

"The front four for these guys is what makes or breaks this defense. They’re the movers and shakers," Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge said. "But especially on the interior, you know you’re going to have to bring your best effort against those tackles."

You also have to be vigilant. Last week after an an interception, Suh turned back and took out the legs of Vikings center John Sullivan, who was nowhere near the play.
The cheap shot cost Suh a $100,000 fine, but Colledge shrugged off the play and Suh’s reputation as a dirty, reckless player.

"Beyond all the speculation off the field, the guy’s going to play from the snap of the whistle on every play and maybe a little bit after that," Colledge said. "There are some guys in this league where you know have to survive three, four, five plays and you’re going to be fine, but with Suh, you’re going to play every play, every quarter, or he’ll embarrass you."

The job of limiting Suh (22 sacks in three seasons) and Fairley will largely fall to Colledge, guard Paul Fanaika and center Lyle Sendlein, while the job of pressuring Lions QB Matthew Stafford will fall to numerous players on a defense sporting multiple new faces.

"There’s definitely a comfort level with our unit that has to be reached," Abraham said. "Our defense is pretty much all new people other than a few pieces here and there. Our communication is getting better in practice, so it will start to show in games."

No time like the present.

Fitz questionable: Arians said receiver Larry Fitzgerald's hamstring injury occurred when he "tweaked" it in Wednesday's practice which leaves him questionable for Sunday's game. Fitzgerald was limited in practice on Friday and will likely be a game-time decision. Fitzgerald has only missed four games in his career. 

Much was made of the fact that the Cardinals only kept four receivers. If Fitz can't go, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Jaron Brown will have to carry the load. Clearly, Fitzgerald's absence would hurt the passing game, especially with tight end Rob Housler (ankle) also on the shelf.

As insurance, the Cards elevated former ASU receiver Kerry Taylor from the practice squad on Saturday while releasing cornerback Jamell Fleming, the club's 2012 third-round pick.