Every player in the Cardinals locker room knows Ray Hortons pedigree. They know he spent seven seasons under famed Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau mastering one of the NFLs most successful and most enduring schemes.
But as Horton installed a similarly modeled defense last season in his first year as the Cards coordinator, he refrained from wearing that badge of honor on his sleeve.
"I said, 'There is a city in western Pennsylvania,'" Horton said. "I never used the team's name. I didnt want to disrespect the men in the room. We were talking about Arizona and what we were doing here."
Respect was a slowly earned commodity as the Cards opened the season 1-6. But a 7-2 finish during which the unit ranked among the NFLs elite in several categories has ramped up expectations for 2012. The Cardinals have more depth, they understand and can execute the defense far better and, perhaps most importantly, they have full buy-in from the key players on the roster.