Arizona Cardinals Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 16?

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Arizona Cardinals Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 16?
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It proved to be a long time coming for head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the Cards. They had waited nine long weeks to get back in the win column. All it took was a superior defensive effort and a return home trip to the desert.

Arizona capitalized on great field position and four Detroit turnovers. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions and return man Stefan Logan put one of his returns on the ground. Three of the four turnovers came in the second quarter, which is preciously why the Cardinals exploded offensively. 

They scored 21 of their 38 points in the second quarter and led the rest of the way out. Moreover, rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley did a better job of securing the football than in games previous and running back Beanie Wells put together his second three touchdown game of his career.

Let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between from Arizona's Week 15 matchup.

 

 

The Bad

Despite the strong play from Ray Horton's defense, the Cardinals still have a long way to go on the offensive side of the ball. For the fourth time in five games, Mike Miller's offense failed to muster up 200 yards of total offense. Week 11 they managed 178 yards, Week 13 they put up 137 yards, Week 14 they ground out 154 yards and in Week 15 they only managed 196 yards.

Against the Lions they actually managed to accumulate more yards on the ground than through the air. By game's end, Lindley had thrown for 97 yards and Arizona's backfield had pounded out 99 yards. In today's NFL it is rare for a ground attack to outgain its air attack.

They only team who manages to do it on a consistent basis is the Minnesota Vikings, but that's not really a surprise considering they have the best running back in the NFL. And quarterback Christian Ponder has been less than impressive as a pocket-passing quarterback this season.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Regardless, a win is a win, no matter which way you spin it.

Many of you on here have said it in weeks past—head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the offensive coordinator are trying to tailor the play calling around Lindley's strengths, but he is simply not executing the game plan and is making the wrong decisions.

One thing I noticed when analyzing the film from his starts was his inability to connect on throws 20 yards or more downfield. When throwing outside the numbers 20 yards or more downfield, Lindley is 1-7 for 25 yards. When he throws down the middle of the field for 20 yards or more he is 0-4 with two interceptions. And lastly, when he throws outside the numbers 20 yards or more downfield he is 0-8.

Which means that he is 1-19 on the season for 25 yards and two interceptions.

Chart via Pro Football Focus

Above is a passing chart from Pro Football Focus that charts all the rest of his throws by the zone.

By no means is this breaking news, but it is safe to say either Kevin Kolb or a fresh face will be under center at quarterback next season for the Arizona Cardinals.

 

 

The Good

But obviously, not all was bad in a 38-10 thrashing of the Detroit Lions. On a day where Horton's defense saw one of its best outputs of the season, it seemed as if everything was clicking. Calais Campbell had his motor running wide open as he attacked quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Not to mention cornerback Greg Toler quite possibly had the best game of his career and yes, Patrick Peterson intercepted yet another ball, bringing his interception total to seven for the season. But before we get ahead ourselves, let's go back and examine Toler a little bit more.

Toler was targeted six times total by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Which wasn't unexpected due to the fact he has had a hard time finding the field for the Cardinals in 2012. So, to target him instead of Peterson was definitely the right move, yet he still made Stafford pay.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

He made No. 9 pay by completely shutting down left wide receiver Kris Durham. Durham and Stafford were teammates and roommates at Georgia, so there's no question they have a bond with one another that has translated on the field. 

Durham was targeted a total of five times on Sunday. He caught one of those five targets for 14 yards. However, when Toler had coverage on Durham, he caught exactly zero passes on four attempts. One of the four attempts was picked off and taken back to the house.

Toler's 102-yard interception return marked the longest interception return of his career and it was his second career touchdown. In 165 pass coverage snaps, he has two interceptions and five pass deflections. Meaning, he gets his hand on a pass attempt once every 23 throws.

Somehow, Horton needs to get this guy on the field more.

 

 

Stock Watch (Week By Week Evaluation)

Rising: Nate Potter

The rookie left tackle impressed once again this week as he stonewalled the Lions defensive line. Nate Potter didn't allow one sack, one hit or one hurry. It signaled the first time that has happened for him in his young career.

 


Falling: Andre Roberts

Despite catching three of his five targets, wide receiver Andre Roberts had two drops to his name this weekend. His two drops were a team high and it added to the seven other drops he had already amassed this season. Nine drops through 13 games is a ridiculously high number.

 


Rising: Calais Campbell

After a down week rushing the passer in Week 14, Campbell found his groove in Week 15. He registered three quarterback pressures total—one sack and two hurries. Additionally, he had seven defensive stops and one batted pass.

 


Falling: Paris Lenon

Inside linebacker Paris Lenon has a tough time trying to figure out what type of player he wants to be. One week he is up and the next week he is down. Unfortunately for the Cards, this week he was down. He struggled in pass coverage and against the run. He also missed a tackle and drew a penalty flag. PFF has him graded out as the third worst inside backer in the league.


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