NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
LaBoy keys Cardinals’ rebuilt pass rush
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The Arizona Cardinals went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs despite an offense that averaged more than 25 points a game, seventh-best in the NFL.
Cardinals defensive end is coming off a two-sack game.
The problem? Their defense allowed nearly as many points.
Fans looking for a big signing to bolster their defense may have been disappointed that the team's top free-agent catch was defensive end Travis LaBoy. The Hawaii alumnus was a part-time starter with the Tennessee Titans in his first four seasons.
But the acquisition of LaBoy has paid dividends after just one game.
In Arizona's opener Sunday, LaBoy had two sacks, forced and recovered a fumble and also had three solo tackles and was in on another.
The Cardinals defense - which also features newly acquired linebacker Clark Haggans and a pair of players returning from injury - held San Francisco to 13 points in a win that landed Arizona atop the wide-open NFC West.
The Cardinals sacked 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan four times in a Week 1 win.
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TEMPE, Ariz. » Arizona doesn't have just two pass rushers honing in on opposing quarterbacks from both ends of the defense. The Cardinals have four.
Not at the same time, of course, but the team has four players who can split time at positions where pressuring quarterbacks from the edge is a prime objective.
The team brought in Hawaii alum Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans as free agents this season to join Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor as a formidable pass-rushing force.
"Travis said it yesterday," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He considers Bert and himself the same guy - both No. 1s. ... We feel very good about that position. It's one of our strong points."
In last week's 23-13 victory over San Francisco, Berry knocked the ball out of quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan's hands and had a sack. Late in the game, LaBoy sacked Sullivan, then recovered the quarterback's fumble. It was one of two sacks for LaBoy.
In Arizona's defensive scheme, LaBoy and his backup, Berry, are defensive ends, while Okeafor and backup Haggans are labeled linebackers.
LaBoy was arguably the team's biggest signing of the offseason. Haggans signed with Arizona after eight seasons with Pittsburgh.
Berry missed most of the past three seasons with injuries and Okeafor missed all of last season because of a biceps injury.
So all four were essentially new to the defense this year.
They give the Cardinals a chance to rest players at a crucial position so they are fresh when it counts most.
"The depth of our outside 'backers really helps us," Whisenhunt said after the team practiced yesterday in preparation for Sunday's home opener against Miami. "We saw evidence of that in the game (against San Francisco) because the guys were really fresh."
Texans-Ravens game Monday
HOUSTON » The Houston Texans' game against the Baltimore Ravens has been moved to Monday night at 2:30 p.m. Hawaii time because of Hurricane Ike.