Chicago vs. Arizona: Analyzing the Cardinals' Defense for Week 16
After the Cardinals started the season 4-0, many wondered if they were a legitimate threat in the NFC West, but their offense continued to struggle and the team has gone 1-9 in their last 10 games.
Offensively, the Cardinals are a mess. Various quarterbacks have found their way in and out of the lineup, their offensive line has been beat up, and their running game has struggled to find a rhythm.
The defense has been one of the few bright spots of this team and heading into their week 16 matchup against the Bears, they ranked 11th in total defense and fourth against the pass.
Their pass defense starts with arguably one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL, Patrick Peterson. He is one of the bigger cornerbacks in the league, standing 6'1" and weighing nearly 220 pounds, and he will pose a difficult matchup for Brandon Marshall.
Peterson's great speed and athleticism give him the ability to take risks without forcing himself completely out of position. He has seven interceptions on the season and his ability as a return man poses a threat for him to take one to the house if he is able to pick off Jay Cutler.
Lining up opposite of Peterson is veteran William Gay. He has struggled at times against bigger receivers and the Bears will likely match him up with rookie receiver, Alshon Jeffery.
Safeties Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson on paper should be one of the most consistent veteran safety tandems in the game, with both having the ability to stop the run and to play well in the open field.
Wilson has struggled at times this year and has seen his role decline in recent weeks, often being replaced by Rashad Johnson and James Sanders and has only played in 59 percent of the team's defensive snaps in the last five games (h/t SB Nation).
One of the best defensive players you haven't heard of currently patrols the middle of the defense, linebacker Daryl Washington. He has 115 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles and nine sacks. He is great in stopping the run and is a terrific on the blitz up the middle. Center Roberto Garza will have to keep Washington in his sight at all times if they want to keep Jay Cutler upright.
Veteran Paris Lenon claims the other inside linebacker position next to Washington with Quentin Groves and Sam Acho on the outside. Both Groves and Acho are better as pass rushers than run stoppers, so expect the Bears to try and test them early and often in the running game.
Along the defensive line, Calais Campbell may be one of the most underrated 3-4 defensive ends in the game. He has tremendous size and length combined with a good pass rush and an ability to set the edge in the running game. He has only four-and-a-half sacks on the season but his ability to get pressure on the quarterback is often enough to force bad throws.
Opposite of Campbell is veteran Darnell Dockett. Not quite as intimidating as he once was, he is still very effective against the run and can still get some pressure on the quarterback. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb has been more effective against the stronger defensive ends in comparison to speed rushers, so it will be interesting to see whether he can hold his own against the experienced Dockett.
Lined up inside at the nose tackle position is Dan Williams. Williams has missed time this season and was not active last week when they played the Detroit Lions (h/t SB Nation). If he is not able to go on Sunday, David Carter will take over as the starter.
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