You could not help but watch Sunday night’s Super Bowl and marvel at the kind of pressure both the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers were able to apply on Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, respectively.
In a losing effort, the Panthers brought Manning down five times, and in victory the Broncos sacked Newton a whopping seven times. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Broncos actually pressured Cam on 21 of the 41 drop backs in which he did not get sacked.
What Denver did in the 24-10 win, as Vince Marotta pointed out, was not all that different from what the Panthers did to Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer two weeks prior in the NFC Championship Game, and if nothing else, it served as yet another reminder of the importance of a top-notch pass rush.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals and their quest to fix their pass rush, the reality of the NFL is such that every team knows how important it is to get after opposing quarterbacks and will pay a premium, in both draft picks and money, to excel at it.
Von Miller, the Super Bowl 50 MVP and an impending unrestricted free agent, would look great in a Cardinals uniform, but it’s hard to imagine the Broncos letting the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft walk. Even if they did, there will be a bidding war for his services, and the Cardinals are not exactly known for shelling out the biggest of bucks for free agents.
And therein lies the rub for a team like the Cardinals, who may be a pass rusher away from a Super Bowl: Quite simply, they’re very, very difficult to get unless you are picking high in the draft or have plenty of money to spend. The Cardinals don’t check either box, by the way.
That does not mean you should not trust Keim and his staff to land a player capable of getting after the quarterback, though it may be wise to keep your expectations in check. Besides the fact that the Cardinals may not be in position to grab an elite pass rusher, historically speaking, it’s rare that they ever have one.
Since moving to Arizona in 1988 the Cardinals have had just six different players account for their eight double-digit sack seasons. Here’s a look at them:
Freddie Joe Nunn
14.0 sacks in 1988
No. 18 overall pick in 1985 NFL Draft
The 14 sacks the defensive end tallied in 1988 is tied for the fourth-most in a single season in franchise history. He played nine seasons for the organization, and in those years notched 66 sacks, which tops the franchise list.
10.0 sacks in 1990
No. 12 overall pick in 1988 NFL Draft
Harvey may have finished his career in Washington, but it began in Arizona. The team’s first-round pick in 1988 tallied 47.5 sacks in six seasons with the team, which ranks fifth all-time. Ten of those sacks came in 1990. The linebacker finished his 11-year NFL career with 89 career sacks.
11.0 sacks in 1995
Signed a five-year, $14 million free agent contract in 1994
Simmons joined Buddy Ryan in Arizona in 1994 after eight excellent seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and after a five-sack performance in his first season with the Cardinals posted 11 in his second and final campaign with the team.
16.5 sacks in 1999, 12.5 sacks in 1996, 10.0 sacks in 1998
No. 3 overall pick in 1996 NFL Draft
Before he referred to Arizona as the “armpit of the NFL” and before he went on and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rice was a dominant pass rusher for the Cardinals. He reached double figures in sacks in three of his five seasons in Arizona, totaling 12.5 as a rookie in 1996, 10 in 1998 and a franchise-record 16.5 in 1999. While it did not help the Cardinals, Rice went on to record 69.5 sacks in six years with Tampa Bay and another one with Indianapolis, giving him 122 for his career.
14.5 sacks in 2004
Signed a five-year, $25 million free agent contract in 2004
In some ways the Cardinals took a chance on Berry, signing him to a big contract after the defender posted just one double-digit sack total in his first six NFL seasons. Their faith was validated early on, however, as Berry produced 14.5 sacks in 2004 and was named to his first Pro Bowl. While the B-Train never reached that kind of production level again — injuries had a lot to do with it — his six seasons with the Cardinals, in which he notched 40 total sacks, are undoubtedly viewed as a success.
11.5 sacks in 2013
Signed a two-year, $4.6 million contract in 2013
The Cardinals added the veteran on the eve of training camp in 2013 when, at the time, many around the league thought his best years were behind him even though he collected 10 sacks in 2012. All Abraham did was add another 11.5 to his career total while making the signing look like a steal. Unfortunately, a rocky offseason was followed by concussion issues that led to him appearing in just one game in 2014.
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