Midseason Report: Arizona Cardinals
November, 6, 2013
By Josh Weinfuss | ESPN.com
When you win four and lose four, everything seems to just about balance out. But the Cardinals haven’t found that balance yet. Midway through the season, there are some glaring issues but there are also some extremely good facets.
There’s no denying how bad the offense struggled in the first half before finally finding a rhythm in Week 8 against Atlanta behind rookie running back Andre Ellington. For as bad as the offense has looked at times, it’s had moments when it's looked equally as good. But the bad times have far outweighed the good, so the offensive grades aren't dean’s list worthy.
The defensive grades are, however. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ version of the 3-4 clicked with this defense and it all starts up front. From there, it’s been a winning game of dominoes as the line sets up the linebackers, which set up the secondary. And for that, they’ve all played and graded well.
GRADING THE ARIZONA CARDINALS
|Quarterbacks||Carson Palmer has looked like the type of quarterback the Cardinals expected in just two games this season. His decision making has been questionable at best and his 14 interceptions are second in the league to complement just 10 touchdowns.|
|Running Backs||Until Week 8, the Cardinals' running game looked like a car engine that would stall every week. Starter Rashard Mendenhall has been playing through injury but hasn't shown the explosiveness that his rookie counterparts, Ellington and Stepfan Taylor, have. The running game hasn't established itself as the foundation of the offense.|
|Wide Receivers||The unit has done what it could with a quarterback who was being rushed constantly and had to make quick decisions on the fly. Any group with Larry Fitzgerald is going to be productive when it's allowed to be. Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts have been solid assets but the unit hasn't been stellar.|
|Tight Ends||Rob Housler hasn't lived up to the hype laid on him by coach Bruce Arians during the offseason. Jim Dray, however, has been serviceable. Combined they're just putting up an average season in the blocking department and not stretching the field like they were expected to as receivers.|
|Offensive Line||Even a change after four games couldn't salvage this line, which was severely hampered by the loss of rookie guard Jonathan Cooper during the preseason. The Cards had trouble against fast defensive ends and struggled to give Palmer enough time to find open receivers. As the line has gone, so has the offense.|
|Defensive Line||The Cards' four wins can be attributed to the pressure the defensive line puts on opposing offenses. It all starts with Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams and Alameda Ta'amu, who are thriving in a new style of the 3-4 defense. Without the line's pressure, the rest of the defense would be forced to handle more responsibility and not play as freely.|
|Linebackers||This grade comes with stipulations. Before Daryl Washington returned and after: B.D.W, the Cards struggled. A.D.W., the linebackers have been a rock solid foundation in the middle of the defense. Fortunately, the Cardinals have Washington for the rest of the season.|
|Secondary||Overall, it's a strong unit but the Cardinals have their liabilities. Their corners have, at times, been too small to defend receivers and tight ends and the safeties have let plays develop in front of them. But with 12 interceptions, the secondary has been a book end to the line.|
|Special Teams||As a whole unit, there's work to do. Punt and kick returns haven't lived up to the billing. Jay Feely has been steady on kickoffs and field goals, but the punt team has really stood out, especially punter Dave Zastudil and gunner Justin Bethel.|
|Coaching||Arians is responsible for calling the offensive plays and how the unit does reflects his performance. It hasn't been pretty. Week 8 was the perfect storm of personnel and play-calling, but it wasn't always like that in Weeks 1-7. Arians' first season hasn't been the plush ride he experienced in Indianapolis.|
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