Arizona Cardinals Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 13?
Another week, another loss for head coach Ken Whisenhunt's Arizona Cardinals. After starting 4-0, they have now dropped seven in a row. It's hard to believe that Kevin Kolb's injury has hurt this team as much as it has.
Ray Horton's defense is still playing admirably, as it is the seventh-best defense in the NFL in terms of yardage. Not to mention it is only allowing 20.6 points per game—pretty impressive considering it is on the field more than Mike Miller's offense is.
Kevin Kolb will reportedly miss several more weeks nfl.com/news/story/0ap…— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) November 25, 2012
And unfortunately for Arizona, Kolb won't be under center or in the huddle anytime soon. He's making progress, according to Coach Whisenhunt, yet he is still a ways off. Currently, Kolb is the only quarterback who has won a game for the Cardinals this season.
Let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between from Week 12. That way we know what the Cards need to improve upon heading into Week 13.
After a 31-17 drubbing to the St. Louis Rams, there wasn't a whole lot of good that stood out initially, but after I had the opportunity to go back and watch the game a second and third time, there were plenty of things that could be considered the silver lining.
The biggest having to be the uptick in play from cornerback Patrick Peterson. He notched his first interception since Week 6, and Sam Bradford's quarterback rating when throwing at him was an atrocious 8.3—easily Bradford's worst mark when throwing at any starting cornerback through 11 games.
Pro Football Focus had him graded out as plus-1.9, his third-highest coverage grade of the season. Moreover, it marked the third game in a row where Peterson has received a positive grade from the stat gurus over at PFF, his longest streak of the season.
During that three-game stretch, opposing quarterbacks have completed 6-of-12 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown with a quarterback rating of 62.9. Right now, Peterson is the 17th-best cover corner in the NFL and steadily rising.
If he keeps up this same high level of play, there's no question he could slide into the top 10 by seasons end. However, Peterson isn't the only player who has been standing out in the Cardinals defensive backfield as of late.
The fourth-year veteran, Rashad Johnson, has also been playing well in limited action. Over the last two weeks, he has only played 25 snaps, yet he has made the most of every opportunity. He hasn't allowed a completion, and he registered the second interception of his career against the Falcons.
It's hard to believe he would have any real value as a starter, but he appears to be the ideal package player in Horton's defense. Arizona's secondary is currently its strongest unit on both sides of the ball hands down.
To no one's surprise, this week's bad has to be rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley. After an OK relief showing against the Falcons in Week 11, Lindley tanked in Week 12. Against Atlanta, he made a few bad throws here and there, but against the Rams, it was easy to count poor throw after poor throw.
First of all, there's no reason a rookie quarterback should be throwing the ball 52 times during the second appearance of his career, and secondly, the offensive line needs to do a better job of opening up holes in the run game.
The Cardinals ran the ball 23 times, yet they only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Arizona's longest run of the game was a measly 13 yards, and it came from wide receiver Andre Roberts. A young quarterback's best friend is an effective run game.
And It's not like St. Louis is some type of juggernaut against the run—it is allowing 111.1 yards per game.
Nevertheless, I don't want to shift the focus away from Lindley's poor throwing ability. Fellow rookie Janoris Jenkins decided the perfect time for him to get out of slump was against a player who was making his first career NFL start.
Two of Lindley's four interceptions were snagged out of the air by Jenkins.
On Jenkins' first pick, he baited Lindley by showing man coverage, when he was really in a cover 2 look. If it would have been a true man look, he would have continued to stay with the left wide receiver—instead, he faked the drop, read Lindley's eyes and picked the ball off in the flat.
On Jenkins' second interception, it was just simply a poorly thrown ball. Lindley was falling away ,and he didn't have his feet set as he threw, which lead to an easy interception. The bad part about both picks thrown to Jenkins was the fact that No. 21 housed them both.
Note to the rookie quarterback heading into Week 13: Don't throw at Antonio Cromartie.
Stock Watch (Week-By-Week Evaluation)
Rising: Bobby Massie
For the third game in a row, right tackle Bobby Massie had a strong game in pass protection. He hasn't surrendered a sack in three weeks, and he has only allowed a total of four pressures during that same time span. Whatever light bulb went off in his head, good for the Cardinals offensive line.
Falling: Larry Fitzgerald
I'm sure Larry Fitzgerald will bounce back with ease next week; however, he had one of his less-than-stellar performances on the year against St. Louis. He dropped two passes and had a generally hard time getting open against Cortland Finnegan and the Rams secondary.
Rising: Quentin Groves
On a day where the Cardinals didn't generate much of a pass rush, Quentin Groves accounted for 30 percent of Arizona's total pressures. As a team, it managed 10 total pressures; Groves had three of them himself—one sack, one hit and one hurry.
Falling: Justin Bethel
Rookie defensive back Justin Bethel played exactly one snap, and on that one snap, he allowed a 37-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Chris Givens. When given your first opportunity in coverage all year, it's not quite the way you picture things happening in your head.
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