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Cardinals Defensive Player Grades for 2009

Ends: Average of Player’s Grades: A-

Calais Campbell:  Grade: A-

Overall:  Campbell rewarded the Cardinals by turning in an outstanding year after being given his first shot as a starter.  He was constantly pressuring opposing quarterbacks and is currently the best pass rush threat the Cardinals have on their roster.  Among all defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme (39 players), he was 1st in sacks, 2nd in quarterback pressures, 7th in hits on the quarterback, 2nd in batted passes, and 3rd in tackles.  This production is remarkable, considering Campbell is young and has a lot of room to improve.  Campbell, however, loses an A because his play against the run doesn’t match his pass rushing efforts.  Unfortunately, Campbell suffered a fractured thumb in week 17 against the Packers and was of limited value during the postseason.  Calais should return at full strength and as a force to be reckoned with in 2010.
The Regular Season Numbers: 7.0 sacks [tied for team lead]; 29 QB pressures [team leader]; 6 QB hits (didn’t result in sack); 37 solo tackles (not including sacks); 11 assists; 5 batted passes [team leader]; 1 forced fumble.  Best Performance: Week 6 against Seattle: 2.0 sacks; 3 tackles; 1 batted pass.

Darnell Dockett: Grade: A- (Pro Bowl)

Overall:  Dockett achieved his second straight Pro Bowl bid in 2009.  Among all defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme, he tied for 2nd in sacks, ranked 4th in quarterback hits, 4th in quarterback pressures, 3rd in batted passes, 5th in tackles, and even notched 1 interception.  Dockett, therefore, was a well above average pass rusher that consistently disrupted opposing teams’ blocking schemes.  From week 9 to week 12, Dockett totaled an impressive 6 sacks.  Unfortunately, he didn’t get his next sack until 9 weeks later against Green Bay in the Wild Card Round.  Dockett missed an A because he was a below average run defender the majority of the time, although he made the occasional tackle for a loss due to his quick hands and feet.  Regardless, his value as a pass rusher and emotional leader necessitates that the Cardinals consider signing him to a long term contract before his current deal expires in 2012.
The Regular Season Numbers: 7.0 sacks [tied for team lead]; 22 QB pressures; 9 QB hits [tied for team lead]; 42 solo tackles; 9 assists; 4 batted passes; 1 INT.  Best Performance: Week 12 against Tennessee: 3.0 sacks; 4 tackles.

Tackles:  Average of Player’s Grades: B-

Gabe Watson: Grade: B

Overall:  As a run stopper, Watson was the most productive defensive tackle for the Cardinals in 2009.  He actually piled up a relatively impressive number of solo tackles (22) considering the amount of snaps he played (359).  In other words, Watson made a solo tackle in 6.12% of his snaps.  For some context, Kelly Gregg (Ravens) posted the best tackle/snap percentage (8.20%), while Kevin Williams (Vikings) posted the worst (1.95%).  As a pass rusher, however, Watson was well below average; he failed to post a sack and only pressured the quarterback twice in 2009.
The Regular Season Numbers: 0.0 sacks; 2 QB pressures; 0 QB hits; 22 solo tackles; 6 assists; 0 batted passes.  Best Performance: Week 14 against San Francisco: 3 tackles; 3 assists.

Bryan Robinson:  Grade: B

Overall:  Made decent use of his opportunity to play.  Robinson compiled 17 solo tackles in 421 snaps for a 4.03% tackle/snap percentage.  Robinson seems to be right in the middle of the pack as a run stopper.  Like Watson, however, Robinson was a well below average pass rusher, though he did get one sack.
The Regular Season Numbers: 1.0 sack; 4 QB pressures; 0 QB hits; 17 solo tackles; 11 assists; 4 batted passes.  Best Performance:  Week 10 against Seattle: 1.0 sack; 1 tackle; 2 assists.

Alan Branch: Grade: B-

Overall:  Except for a great two sack performance against the Giants, Branch had an unremarkable season.  Branch was the Cardinals best bet for a pass rush from a defensive tackle this year, which doesn’t say much.
The Regular Season Numbers: 2.0 sacks; 13 QB pressures; 3 QB hits; 10 solo tackles; 1 assist; 2 batted passes. Best Performance: Week 7 against the New York Giants: 2.0 sacks.

Linebackers: Average of Player’s Grades: B

Karlos Dansby: Grade: A-

Overall:  Karlos Dansby turned in a quality performance this season, which was most likely his last with the Cardinals.  Among inside linebackers (115 players), Dansby ranked 11th in tackles, tied for 6th in quarterback hits, and was 21st in assists.  Dansby missed an A because he only compiled 1 sack.  Despite this, he was above average in pass coverage.  Opposing quarterbacks had an 81.1 passer rating when targeting Dansby in coverage.  In addition, Karlos only gave up one TD pass in coverage, though he was thoroughly tested; he was thrown at 55 times, which ranked 9th most among inside linebackers.  Further to this credit, Dansby forced one fumble and recorded one interception.  Also, his heart stopping over-time fumble recovery for a touchdown against Green Bay in the Wild Card Round will be remembered in Cardinals history forever.  Beyond his measurable accomplishments, Dansby has been the centerpiece and emotional heart of the Cardinals defense.  Whether or not the “Dirty Bird” migrates before next season, no one will forget the contribution he made to turn this franchise around.
The Regular Season Numbers: 1.0 sack; 7 QB pressures; 5 QB hits; 89 tackles [team leader]; 20 assists [team leader]; 1 forced fumble; 1 interception.  Best Performance: Wild Card Round against Green Bay: 4 solo tackles; 1 tipped pass; 1 fumble recovery; 1 TD.

Gerald Hayes: Grade: B-

Overall:  Had a slightly below average 2009 season as he didn’t make many impact plays for the Cardinals.  He posted 49 solo tackles with 13 assists, which was decent, but he failed to record a sack.  To his credit, however, Hayes was able to force one fumble this season.
The Regular Season Numbers: 0.0 sacks; 2 QB pressures; 2 QB hits; 49 tackles; 13 assists; 1 forced fumble.  Best Performance: Week 1 against San Francisco: 8 tackles; 1 assist

Clark Haggans: Grade: B+

Overall:  Haggans played a solid outside linebacker in the team’s first full year in a 3-4 defensive scheme.  He was a slightly above average pass rusher and a slightly above average run stopper.  Among all outside linebackers in a 3-4 defensive scheme (28 players), he ranked 3rd in solo tackles, 14th in assists, 14th in sacks, 12th in quarterback hits, and 9th in quarterback pressures.  Haggans’ achilles heal, however, was his pass coverage, which was well below average.  Opposing quarterbacks had a 97.9 rating when targeting Haggans in coverage.  In addition, Haggans led all outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme in missed tackles with 8.
The Regular Season Numbers: 5.0 sacks; 27 QB pressures; 9 QB hits [tied for team lead]; 57 tackles; 14 assists; 2 forced fumbles.  Best Performance: Week 10 against Seattle: 2.0 sacks; 3 tackles; 1 assist; 1 QB pressure.

Chike Okeafor: Grade: B-

Overall: The aging veteran had about an average year for the Cardinals.  Among outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme, he ranked 18th in sacks, 26th in hits on the quarterback, 18th in quarterback pressures, 12th in tackles, and 19th in assists.  Although Okeafor did compile 4 sacks this year, he isn’t the constant pass rushing threat he once was.  Specifically, he doesn’t generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the outside.  In addition, his value defending the run and in coverage are limited due to his decrease in speed over the years.
The Regular Season Numbers: 4.0 sacks; 15 QB pressures; 2 QB hits; 35 tackles; 12 assists.  Best Performance: Week 8 against Carolina: 1.0 sack; 1 QB hit, 1 QB pressure; 3 tackles; 1 assist

Bertrand Berry: Grade: B

Overall:  This may be a moot point considering the B-Train has finally pulled into the station or left the station, depending on which way you want to look at it.  In any event, Berry turned in an average effort for his final season.  Among outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme, Berry ranked 16th in sacks, 28th (last) in quarterback hits, 13th in quarterback pressures, and 28th (last) in tackles.  Although Berry had a nice sack total this year, his other numbers were very modest.  He had a great two sack game against the Packers in the Wild Card round and performed extremely well during the Cardinals improbable postseason run last year.

The Regular Season Numbers: 6.0 sacks; 18 QB pressures; 0 QB hits; 9 tackles; 1 assist.  Best Performance: Wild Card game against Green Bay: 2.0 sacks; 2 tackles.

Secondary:  Player’s Combined Grade: B

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: Grade: A- (Pro Bowl)

Overall: DRC made immense progress in his first full season as a starting cornerback, but he is not quite all the way there.  In any event, he will be a star in the NFL for years to come because his speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rare “shut-down” corner.  DRC could very well find himself among the elite cornerbacks in the history of the game; he is that physically gifted.  Amazingly, the word does not seem to be out on DRC’s abilities, yet.  He was thrown at a league high 120 times this season.  Despite getting plenty of challenges, opposing quarterbacks combined for a measly 67.4 passer rating.  Only Darrelle Revis (Jets), who is widely regarded as the best CB in the NFL right now, held quarterbacks to a lower rating (a mind boggling 32.3) while being thrown at over 100 times.  Among all CB in the NFL (143 players), DRC was 2nd in passes defended, tied for 3rd in interceptions, and ranked 37th in tackles.  While his performance this year was obviously spectacular, there is room for improvement.  First, DRC’s tackling must improve; he needs to be more physical in that regard.  Second, Rodgers-Cromartie did give up big plays when he was unsuccessful in defending against a completion.  He ranked 3rd and 8th highest in yards allowed after catch and reception yards allowed, respectively.  In addition, DRC allowed 6 TDs in coverage, which was 3rd most in the NFL.  Some of those numbers may be bloated due to the number of times he was thrown at, but he also takes chances by attempting to jump routes to intercept the ball; when he misses, there’s a big play.  Finally, DRC admitted this season that his concentration sometime wanes during games, which may cause assignment confusion.  This is only a sign that he has to mature as a football player and there is little doubt around the Cardinals camp that this will happen.

The Regular Season Numbers: 6 INTs [team leader]; 16 passes defended [team leader]; 48 tackles; 2 assists; 3 forced fumbles [team leader]; 1 TD [team leader].  Best Performance: Week 5 against Houston: 1 INT; 3 tackles; 1 TD; 1 pass defended.

Bryant McFadden: Grade: C-

Overall: McFadden turned in a well below average effort in his first year (and maybe last) as a starter for the Cardinals.  Arizona had high hopes for the former Steeler, but those hopes were mostly unfulfilled as McFadden proved to be almost useless in coverage.  While opposing quarterbacks posted a somewhat acceptable 86.5 passer rating, McFadden failed to get a single interception and gave up the 5th most receiving yards in coverage of all CB in the NFL.  In addition, McFadden was 6th highest in yards allowed after a catch, and 7th most in receptions allowed.  Although DRC allowed similar numbers, DRC was thrown at more and consistently made big plays for the Cardinals while covering the opposing team’s best receiver/playmaker.  McFadden hardly drew such challenging match-ups and made virtually no big plays.  Instead, McFadden was constantly picked on by opposing quarterbacks.  It seemed every time an opponent needed to convert on a third and long, McFadden was their man.  Finally, McFadden is a five year veteran that should have things figured out much better than he does.  The only bright spot on McFadden’s season was that he only allowed 2 TDs in coverage.  Despite this, he gave up just about everything else, which placed opposing teams in position to score against the Cardinals.  In conclusion, it seems the Cardinals were fooled by McFadden because he was hidden on an overwhelmingly talented Steelers defense.  His days in Arizona are most likely numbered (see the note below on Greg Toler).

The Regular Season Numbers: 0 INTs; 12 passes defended; 64 tackles; 5 assists.  Best Performance: Week 7 against the Giants: 4 tackles.

Adrian Wilson:  Grade: A (Pro Bowl)

Overall:  The senior Cardinal turned in another Pro Bowl effort this year.  Wilson is a leader on defense, which will be an increasingly important role if Dansby leaves before the start of next season.  Among all NFL safeties (87 players), Wilson tied for 1st in sacks, tied for 3rd in QB hits, tied for 4th in QB pressures, tied for 4th in interceptions, tied for 14th in passes defended, and ranked 35th in tackles.  Although Wilson is a sure tackler and ferocious run stopper, he was also quite valuable in pass coverage.  Adrian held opposing quarterbacks to a remarkable 53.0 passer rating, which ranked 7th among all safeties with at least 700 snaps played this season.  Adrian did give up 3 TDs in coverage, but also intercepted 5 passes this year.  Finally, Wilson accomplished a career milestone in 2009 by surpassing the 20 sacks/20 interceptions landmark; he currently has 20.5 sacks and 23 interceptions in his 9 years in the NFL.

The Regular Season Numbers: 2.0 sacks; 5 INTs; 15 passes defended; 72 tackles; 15 assists; 1 forced fumble.  Best Performance:  Week 16 against St. Louis: 1.0 sack; 4 tackles; 1 INT.

Antrel Rolle: Grade: B+

Overall: Rolle had a slightly above average year at free safety for the Cardinals.  Among all safeties, he tied for 7th in sacks, tied for 7th in interceptions, tied for 12th in QB hits, tied for 6th in QB pressures, tied for 33rd in passes defended, and was ranked 27th in tackles.  Opposing quarterbacks against Rolle posted a 65.9 passer rating; Rolle had 4 interceptions while only allowing 2 TDs in coverage.  Antrel missed the A-/A range because he needs to clean up his tackling; he had the 4th most missed tackles among all safeties with 14.  Finally, it should be remembered that Rolle was drafted and began his career as a CB and made the switch to FS at the start of the 2008 season.  In many ways he is still learning the position and should continue to improve and be a viable weapon for the Cardinals if they are able to re-sign him to a long-term deal.

The Regular Season Numbers: 1.5 sacks; 4 INTs; 2 passes defended; 60 tackles; 11 assists; 1 forced fumble; Best Performance: Week 7 against the Giants: 1 INT; 6 tackles; 2 assists; 1 pass defended.

*** Note on Greg Toler (rookie) *** Greg Toler was very impressive in the limited action he saw during his rookie year (120 snaps).  Toler replaced the injured DRC in the Divisional Round game and played quite well, although the Cardinals were getting annihilated.  Regardless, many of the things that went wrong in that game were not Toler’s fault.  The former 4th round pick played well enough to compete with McFadden for a starting job, which may be one of the more intriguing position battles this summer.

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