Arizona Cardinals Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 10?
After five losses in a row, I look at this team and say, how did the Cardinals start 4-0? They started 4-0 because their defense was keeping them in every game and they were actually getting some production from Mike Miller's offense.
Over the last five weeks, Arizona has only averaged 10.6 points per game. It's hard to win many games when your defense is required to hold the opposing offense to under 10 points a game. At least when the Cardinals were winning, their offense was averaging 22.7 points per game.
Is John Skelton the problem, or is it the offensive line? Quite possibly, it could be a combination of the two. Miller's play-calling has been suspect as well—the only thing we do know is that there is plenty of blame to go around as Arizona heads into its Week 10 bye.
Let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between.
Through the ups and the downs of 2012, the most consistent and impressive unit has been Ray Horton's defense. It's hard not to like Arizona's big three—Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington and Patrick Peterson.
There's no question Campbell has been the best defender on the field for the Cardinals. He truly does it all—he rushes the passer, he controls the line of scrimmage and he plays penalty-free football. According to the stat gurus as Pro Football Focus, he is the second-highest graded 3-4 defensive end in all of football.
Through nine games this season, he has four sacks, nine quarterback hits and 14 hurries. Not to mention he also has four batted passes. The only real flaw in his game this season is his inability to wrap up tacklers at times. No 3-4 defensive end has more missed tackles than Campbell's six.
Regardless of the six missed tackles, there's no player who does more for his fellow defenders than No. 93, and inside linebacker Washington knows it. Without him, he wouldn't be having the All-Pro type of season he is having. Heading into the bye week, he currently accounts for one-third of the Cardinals sacks on defense.
No inside linebacker has more sacks or total pressures than Washington. His eight sacks are sixth in the NFL, and even though he's not ahead of the pace yet, he has an outside shot of eclipsing the Arizona Cardinals' single-season sack record. It is currently held by Simeon Rice, who recorded 16.5 sacks in 1999.
The last player to benefit from this two-way trickle down effect would be PP. After a rough rookie campaign coverage-wise, he is starting to make his transition into a top-tier cornerback. Opposing quarterbacks have targeted him 51 times, yet has has only allowed 27 of those 51 passes to be completed.
Also, his three interceptions tie him for the fourth-highest number among all cornerbacks. Quite the change from his rookie season, where he only intercepted two passes and was picked on 113 times in coverage. His continual improvement has led to quarterbacks throwing away from him more and more.
Unfortunately, the bad has outweighed the good for Arizona this season. Even though multiple facets of the Cardinals have been bad, there is no worse unit than Russ Grimm's offensive line. At times I often sound like a broken record, but this group could quite easily go down in history as one of the worst offensive lines ever.
So far this season, they have allowed 40 quarterback sacks, 23 quarterback hits and 122 quarterback hurries—that's 185 total quarterback pressures. Let's stop and put that in perspective for a moment. Last year, PFF had the New York Giants down as having the worst pass blocking offensive line in the league.
Through 20 games, they surrendered 342 total pressures—42 sacks, 50 hits and 250 hurries. Arizona is already ahead of that pace, and chances are, it will only play 16 games this season.
Inserting Nate Potter at left tackle should help, yet I wouldn't expect one player to be the saving grace. Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie is still in the lineup, and outside of D'Anthony Batiste, he is the biggest culprit on the Cardinals roster.
Couple their poor play with mediocre quarterback play and an anemic run game—it's easy to see why Miller's offense struggles to move the ball. I never thought I would say this, but Arizona would be in a lot better shape if Levi Brown wasn't injured.
One thing is for sure—Potter will need the full two weeks to prepare for an elite pass-rusher like John Abraham.
Rising: Larry Fitzgerald
It's no secret that Larry Fitzgerald is still the Cardinals' No. 1 option. His 90 targets make him the third-most targeted player in the league. It's doubtful that he will reach 1,411 yards again this season, yet he is still on track for his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. For the second year in a row, it looks like his talents will be wasted due to poor quarterback play.
Falling: Bobby Massie
I mentioned Mr. Massie a little bit above, but let me break down his awful play for you guys even further. Currently, he is the worst starting offensive tackle in the NFL, according to PFF's grading system, and no offensive lineman has allowed more quarterback sacks this season. In comparison to other starting tackles in the league, his 13 sacks allowed are untouchable.
Rising: Kerry Rhodes
After suffering through a multitude of ailments last season, safety Kerry Rhodes appears to finally be healthy. His pass coverage, run defense and pass rushing abilities are all above average. Opposing quarterbacks have only gotten one touchdown behind his coverage, and like Campbell, he hasn't been flagged once.
Falling: Paris Lenon
An OK season in 2011 helped Paris Lenon hold onto his starting inside linebacker gig, but it appears this year will be his last after continuous poor play weekly. His ability to play the run and rush the passer have went down the drain—Stewart Bradley, anyone?
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