-The defense is returning all of their starting front seven and the young secondary now has a year within Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles' system under their belt. That continuity is thought to bring more creativity to the defense and perhaps, according to Head Coach Bruce Arians, a bolstered pass rush.
"First of all, if we're number one against the run again this year, teams will be throwing it and I would expect us to get more than 50.0 [sacks]," said Arians. "But, we have to stay or be better in the run defense."
Part of the rotation up front that is so good at defending the run is defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches, who coaches say could be one of the most improved defensive players this year. While eyes are on him and how he's improving, Nuñez-Roches has been watching the guys across the line of scrimmage… the offensive line.
"A guy that has stepped up his game – I would have to say [Alex] Cappa," said Nuñez-Roches.
"Cappa has improved all around as far as what he has done, as far as the run and the pass. So, if I had to say somebody is stepping up, [it would be Cappa]. The other guys are pretty consistent. They've gotten even more savvy being vets, so they understand the game more, but all around just improving his game, I would have to say Cappa."
Along the same line (get it?) is a newcomer in A.Q. Shipley. He just joined the team last week but has played for Arians in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Arizona. He didn't even attend a full day of meetings before getting out on the practice field with his new teammates. Because of his familiarity with the offense though, he had no trouble. He's paired back up with quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who he snapped to in Arizona. But he's now getting his first taste of playing with quarterback Tom Brady like the rest of the team did.
"He's obviously the greatest of all time – I think his Super Bowls speak for themselves," Shipley said. "Just the way that he approaches it – the good ones that I've been around, regardless of how good they are, regardless of how long they've played, they still approach the mental aspect of the game almost like a rookie. They're still first in, last out. They grind over every mistake, they grind over the scheme and the process of the practice week and things like that. Obviously, I've only been here three or four days, but just watching his approach to the game, it's special to watch. Just the finer details – for a guy that's done it as long as he has, that's an unbelievable leader [for] a young guy and all the way up through this team to look out there and say, 'That's how you're supposed to do it.' It's pretty special to watch."
Brady isn't the only veteran teaching and grinding. Veteran running back LeSean McCoy has been imparting his knowledge on the younger crop of running backs in his room. Rookie Raymond Calais said he's appreciative of getting to learn from McCoy.
"Shady (McCoy) has been really, really helpful," Calais said. "You can tell he's a 12-year vet. He brings the energy, and even in the meeting rooms, he's really smart. He knows how to read a defense and he's always willing to help. For me, personally, I like to watch Shady, 'Ro' (Ronald Jones II) and Dare [Ogunbowale] just to get those mental reps [and] to watch [those] guys. Hopefully, one day I want to be in their position. Shady has been really, really helpful."