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Cardinals Offensive Player Grades for 2009

Quarterbacks: Players Combined Grade: B

Kurt Warner: Grade: A

Overall: The 38 year-old gray bearded veteran made another strong Hall of Fame push with a fine 2009 season.  He threw for over 300 yards four times during the regular season, had seven games with a passer rating over 100, and had four straight games with a passer rating over 120.  He minimized interceptions (for the most part) and threw over 120 attempts without a pick at one point during the season.  His performance against the Packers in the Wild Card round only aggrandized his legend as one of the best big game quarterbacks in history.  His one black mark this season was a forgettable performance at home against the Carolina Panthers, during which he threw 5 of his 14 interceptions.

Regular Season Numbers: 339/513; 3753 yards; 66.1% completion rate; 26 TDs; and 14 INTs; 93.2 passer rating.  Best Performance: Wild Card Round against Green Bay: 29/33; 87.9% completion; 379 yards; 5 TDs; 0 INTs.  Worst Performance: Week 8 against Carolina: 27/46; 58.7% completion; 242 yards; 2 TDs; 5 INTs.

Matt Leinart: Grade: B-

Overall:  There isn’t much with which to evaluate Leinart.  The most action he saw this season was a start against the Tennessee Titans due to Warner’s concussion.  Leinart played decently in that game, but really just kept his team in a position to win, though it didn’t work out that way.  In addition, Leinart played terribly in limited action in the season finale against the Packers.  In his defense, however, he did have a decent showing towards the end of the Divisional Round game, though the Saints conceded almost every throw underneath their soft coverage after they had already established an insurmountable lead.  This off-season will undoubtedly be the most important of Leinart’s professional career so far.

Regular Season Numbers: 77/51; 435 yards; 66.2% completion; 0 TDs; 3 INTs; 64.6 passer rating.  Best Performance:  Week 12 against Tennessee: 21/31; 220 yards; 67.7% completion; 0 TDs; 0 INTs Worst Performance: Week 17 against Green Bay: 13/21; 96 yards; 61.9% completion; 0 TDs; 2 INTs.

Running Backs: Players Combined Grade: B

Tim Hightower: Grade: B-

Overall:  Hold onto the ball, Tim.  Fumbles were a major problem for the Cardinals this year, Tim Hightower especially.  He put the ball on the ground 5 times while only carrying it 143 times, which is to say that Hightower fumbled 3.49% of the time he touched the ball this year.  That is simply unacceptable, especially for a third year running back.  There were bright spots, though.  Hightower had an excellent yards/carry and was decent in pass blocking situations.  Also, he caught a career high 63 receptions.  Hightower made limited progress this year, but it seems to be Beanie Wells’ job to lose next year.

Regular Season Numbers: Rushing: 143 carries; 598 yards; 4.2 yards/carry; 8 TDs; 5 fumbles; Receiving: 63 receptions; 428 yards; 0 TDs.  Best Performance: Week 11 against St. Louis: 14 carries; 110 yards; 7.9 yards/carry; 0 TDs;  Worst Performance:  Week 3 against Indianapolis: 9 carries; 22 yards; 2.4 yards/carry; 0 TDs; 2 fumbles.

Beanie Wells (Rookie): Grade: B+

Overall:  Wells had a great rookie campaign.  First, he put to rest the lingering doubts about his physicality and durability; his brutal stiff-arm and ability to finish runs aggressively were on display all season.  In addition, 544 of his 793 yards were gained after contact.  Further, Wells avoided/broke 24 tackles while only carrying the ball 176 times (league lead was 50 on 315 carries by Adrian Peterson).  Only Ronnie Brown and Michael Turner broke/avoided more tackles with less than 200 carries.  Wells added a viable third and short presence in a backfield that desperately needed someone that could fall forward for at least three yards when needed; Wells does that.  Also, Beanie has big play potential, which he exhibited on a 42-yard run against the Packers in the Wild Card round.  Finally, he gave the Cardinals hope for a balanced offense in the future.  While Wells did have some fumbling issues (4 fumbles) this season, he should get that straightened out.  Also, Wells needs considerable work on his pass blocking.  There’s time; it’s easy to forget that he was only a rookie.

Regular Season Numbers: Rushing: 176 carries; 793 yards; 4.5 yards/carry; 7 TDs; 4 fumbles; Receiving: 12 receptions; 143 yards; 0 TDs.  Best Performance: Week 15 against Detroit: 17 carries; 110 yards; 6.5 yards/carry; 1 TD; Worst Performance: Week 2 against Jacksonville: 7 carries; 44 yards; 6.3 yards/carry; 2 fumbles.

LaRod Stevens-Howling (Rookie): Grade: B

Overall:  Stevens-Howling saw limited action as a running back this year and it’s unlikely he’ll see many carries in the future with both Hightower and Wells ahead of him.  That is not to say, however, that he wasn’t a valuable cog in the Cardinals collective wheel.  Stevens-Howling’s B grade was earned as an effective kick returner, which he proved by returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Tennessee.  When coupled with Ben Graham, the pair proved to be a special teams weapon by downing a number of punts within the 5 yard line.  If Stevens-Howling is to have a future with the Cardinals, it will almost certainly depend on him maintaining his high level of special teams play.

Regular Season Numbers:  6 carries; 15 yards; 2.5 yards/carry; 0 TDs.

Dan Krieder: B+

Overall:  Kreider was a much better than average blocking fullback this year for the Cardinals.  He didn’t have a single carry and really isn’t receiving option either.

Wide Receivers: Players Combined Grade (Top Three on Depth Chart): A-

Larry Fitzgerald: Grade: A

Overall:  There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about the best receiver in the NFL; he is the diamond standard.  He has flypaper hands, can pile up yards after the catch, and seeing him go after a ball while it’s in the air is like watching an artist at work.  While his yards total is down slightly from last year, this is no slight on Fitzgerald because he demands an exorbitant amount of attention from opposing defenses.  Despite this, he continues to torch them on a weekly basis.

Regular Season Numbers: 97 receptions; 1092 yards; 11.3 yards/catch; 13 TDs; Best Performance: Week 13 against Minnesota: 8 receptions; 143 yards; 17.9 yards/catch; 1 TD; Worst Performance: Week 14 against San Francisco: 2 receptions; 22 yards; 11.0 yards/catch; 0 TDs.

Anquan Boldin: Grade A-

Overall:  Boldin is still a beast, when he plays.  The Cardinals number two receiver is still a viable number one on many other NFL teams.  He is extremely physical, is a great third down option, and can still break off big yards after the catch, as evidence by his dazzling 39-yard TD reception against the Vikings.  His touchdown receptions were down this year, but that is mainly because he shares the field with Fitzgerald.  There are doubts, however, whether Boldin will return as a Cardinal in 2010 or will be traded before his contract expires in 2011.  His durability has become a serious issue.  He missed the entire postseason this year due to knee and ankle injuries and also missed a week nine game against the Bears.  Also, the Cardinals are very deep at wide receiver with Breaston and emerging star Early Doucet apparently ready to step up in the depth chart, if necessary.

Regular Season Numbers: 84 receptions; 1024 yards; 12.2 yards/catch; 4 TDs; Best Performance: Week 13 against Minnesota: 7 receptions; 98 yards; 14 yards/catch; 2 TDs; Worst Performance: Week 1 against San Francisco: 2 receptions; 19 yards; 9.5 yards/catch; 0 TDs.

Steve Breaston: Grade B+

Overall:  Breaston’s numbers dropped considerably from last year, but he was only thrown at 79 times.  This doesn’t mean he was any less of a threat to opposing defenses this year because he demanded attention as a game changing factor.  He has very solid hands, is the only true speed threat on the receiving staff, and he is absolutely fearless as he attacks balls in mid-air without regard for his safety.  In addition, he was invaluable when Boldin was unable to play against Green Bay in the Wild Card round.  Unfortunately for Breaston, he landed on the deepest receiving staff in the NFL.  Breaston would most likely be an outright star if he were not behind Fitzgerald and Boldin.  He may get his chance at the number two spot as Boldin may be moved before the start of next season.

Regular Season Numbers: 55 receptions; 712 yards; 12.9 yards/carry; 3 TDs; Best Performance: Wild Card Round against Green Bay: 7 receptions; 125 yards; 17.9 yards/catch; 1 TD; 1 fumble; Worst Performance: Week 11 against St. Louis: 0 receptions; 0 yards; 0.0 yards/catch; 0 TDs

Early Doucet:  Grade: B

Overall:  Besides the Wild Card Round against Green Bay, there isn’t much too say about Doucet.  Fortunately, there is a lot to say about that one game, which displayed what Doucet is capable of in the future.  He answered his team’s call brilliantly and helped propel the Cardinals to a victory over the Packers.  Boldin’s trade status also affects Doucet.  If Boldin moves, Doucet will move up to the number three slot and see considerably more playing time in 2010.  If Boldin stays in Arizona, it’s doubtful that Doucet will see a significant boost in playing time, though he should.

Regular Season Numbers: 17 receptions; 214 yards; 12.6 yards/catch; 1 TD; Best Performance: Wild Card Round against Green Bay: 6 receptions, 77 yards; 12.8 yards/catch; 2 TDs

Jerheme Urban:  Grade: C

Overall:  Urban is talented, but hasn’t been given the chance to grow due to the dearth of talent ahead of him on the depth chart.  The extremely painful fumble against New Orleans in the Divisional Round certainly didn’t help his chances for increased action.  Urban’s days in Arizona may be numbered.

Regular Season Numbers: 18 receptions; 186 yards; 10.3 yards/catch; 0 TDs; Best Performance:  Week 1 against San Francisco: 5 receptions; 74 yards; 14.8 yards/catch; 0 TDs

Tight Ends: Players Combined Grade: C

Ben Patrick: Grade: C

Overall:  To this point, Patrick is only a stop-gap solution for the Cardinals, who have been without a legitimate tight end threat for quite some time.  He is an average blocker and isn’t a very productive pass catcher.  Granted, the Cardinals don’t really have to look to a tight end to make plays in the air, but it would be nice if they could.  Patrick seems to have the talent to accomplish this, but it has not come to fruition, yet.

Regular Season Numbers: 12 receptions; 146 yards; 12.2 yards/catch; 2 TDs

Anthony Becht: Grade: C+

Overall:  While Anthony Becht was never considered to be a pass catching threat, he added some thump to the Cardinals two tight end running formation.  Other than his adept blocking, he offers little else to the offensive scheme.

Regular Season Numbers: 7 receptions; 61 yards; 8.7 yards/catch; 1 TD

Steven Spach:  Grade: Incomplete

Overall: Only participated in 7 games; limited action in each. There may not be any room for Spach to live long and prosper, at least not with the Cardinals.

Regular Season Numbers: 4 receptions; 38 yards; 9.5 yards/catch; 0 TDs

Offensive Line: Players Combined Grade: C+

Mike Gandy:  Grade: C-

Overall: Gandy was an absolute turnstile for most of the season.  His footwork and hand placement are highly suspect against speed rushers.  In fact, Gandy tied for second in the NFL among tackles for the most sacks allowed in 2009.  Only Adam Snyder of the 49ers allowed more.  Also, Kurt Warner was hit 20 times as he threw in 2009, which was the league high among quarterbacks.  It’s difficult to hang that on Warner holding the ball too long because his release is like lightening.  In his defense, however, Gandy was a better than average run blocker.  Gandy started 31 consecutive games (including 2008 playoffs) before a groin injury kept him out of a week 13 game against Minnesota.  He attempted a comeback the next week against San Francisco, but was soon placed on IR to surgically repair a sports hernia, which ended his season.  It is unlikely that Gandy, an unrestricted free agent, will return to the Cardinals in 2010.  It may be just as well.

Regular Season Stats: 12 games started (played 1 qtr. in week 14); 9 sacks allowed; 10 hits on the quaterback allowed; 28 pressures allowed; 8 penalties committed

Reggie Wells: Grade: B-

Overall:  Lutui was the better guard this year, but Wells played well enough.  He was a better than average run blocker and a slightly below average pass blocker.  While he kept his sacks allowed down, Wells allowed 22 pressures on the quarterback this year, which was 5th most among guards in the NFL.

The Regular Season Stats: 17 games started; 3 sacks allowed; 14 hits allowed; 22 pressures allowed; 3 penalties committed

Lyle Sendlein: Grade: B+

The Overall: Has consistently improved in most aspects of the game over the past two seasons.  He was a better than average run blocker and a slightly better than average pass blocker.  Sendlein anchored the line nicely, is very quick, and got up into the second level of the defense in a hurry on runs.  Statistically speaking, he was the best lineman for the Cardinals in 2009.

Regular Season Stats: 17 games started; 1 sack allowed; 8 hits allowed; 13 pressures allowed; 3 penalties committed

Levi Brown: Grade: C-

Overall:  Unfortunately, Brown is one of the other tackles tied with Gandy for second most sacks allowed among tackles in the NFL this year.  Gandy and Brown allowed an NFL high 18 sacks among starting tackle combinations.  They accounted for exactly 75% of the 24 sacks on Warner this year.  This unfortunate stat is even more disheartening considering the number of snaps the Cardinals ran out of the shotgun.  Brown was also the 7th most penalized tackle in the NFL; he drew 11 flags.  In short, Brown continues to disappoint.  Like Gandy, he needs to improve his footwork against speed rushers.  Despite this, he’s large, extremely physical, and was a better than average run blocker.  If Brown corrects his pass protection issues, he can become a great, possibly Pro Bowl tackle.  It still stings, however, knowing that the Cardinals passed on Adrian Peterson to draft him.

Regular Season Stats: 17 games started; 9 sacks allowed; 18 hits allowed; 32 pressures allowed; 11 penalties committed

Deuce Lutui: Grade: B

Overall: Lutui was solid for the Cardinals at guard for the second straight year.  He was a much better than average run blocker, but was a slightly below average pass blocker.  The only reason for his below average pass blocker assessment was his very high number of quarterback pressures this year, which was 3rd most among guards in 2009.

Regular Season Stats: 16 games started; 2 sacks allowed, 10 hits allowed; 27 pressures allowed; 4 penalties committed

Jeremy Bridges: Grade: B-

Overall: Bridges played inspired football against Jared Allen in week 13 when filling in for injured Mike Gandy; Allen barely came close to Warner all night.  Other than that game, Bridges didn’t play particularly well.  His run and pass blocking was below average during his brief 2009 campaign.  If Gandy and the Cardinals part ways, which is likely, Bridges may be starting next year.  Another possibility is that young tackle Herman Johnson would step up into the position.

Regular Season Stats: 5 games started (played 3 quarters in week 14); 3 sacks allowed; 8 hit allowed; 9 pressures allowed; 3 penalties committed


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One Response to “Cardinals Offensive Player Grades for 2009”

  1. […] Kelly Phillips Erb wrote a very interesting post today.   Here’s a quick excerpt:Quarterbacks: Players Combined Grade: B Kurt Warner: Grade: A Overall: The 38 year-old gray bearded veteran made another strong Hall of Fame push with a fine 2009 season. […]

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