The Arizona Cardinals defense in 2019: Work cut out for staff, players
The Arizona Cardinals are retaining defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced on Monday. That drew mixed reactions from the fan base.
On the one hand, the team’s defense in 2019 was not good. On the other hand, there’s lots of things that contribute to the success or failures of a unit beyond just its coaching leaders. There’s roster construction, injuries — and in the Cardinals’ case, a suspension — to take into consideration.
But as the Cardinals’ offense was rejuvenated by a new head coach in Kingsbury and quarterback in Kyler Murray, along with a new running back in Kenyan Drake, the Arizona defense struggled.
Here’s a look at that defense in 2019, by the numbers:
No defense gave up a greater number of yards than the Cardinals, who allowed 6,432 yards as a defense. That was the worst in the entire 32-team NFL.
Arizona ranked 28th in the NFL in point prevention by allowing 442 points to its opponents. Only four teams allowed more points than that: the Buccaneers, Giants, Panthers and Dolphins.
THROUGH THE AIR
The Cardinals allowed 38 passing touchdowns. Only the Dolphins allowed more as a defense with 39.
ON THE GROUND
One of the biggest positives was Arizona allowing only nine rushing touchdowns all season, which was tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL. But the squad also ranked 24th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,922) and 21st in yards per attempt against (4.4).
The Cardinals forced only 17 turnovers as a defense this year, which was the sixth-fewest in the league. Their seven interceptions were tied with the Cowboys and Lions for the fewest in football.
The Cardinals defense took 114 penalties for 1,041 yards. That yardage total was tied with Denver for the fourth-most in the NFL among defenses.
As tracked by Pro Football Reference, the Cards’ D led the NFL in missed tackles with 132.
BLITZ, BLITZ, BLITZ
The Cardinals had one of the highest blitz percentages in the NFL, doing so on 36.4% of defensive snaps. That’s the fifth-highest rate in the league behind Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and the New York Jets.
A six-game suspension for Patrick Peterson, an injury to Robert Alford and some veterans not panning out all contributed to a patchwork secondary. That secondary allowed the second-most passing yards in the NFL, better only than Detroit.
NOT ALL BAD
The Cardinals earned a 75.2 grade from Pro Football Focus in the pass-rushing category, which was the seventh-best in the NFL.
SOMETHING TO BUILD ON
According to the Cardinals’ Mark Dalton, the Cardinals’ rankings in several defensive statistical categories was much-improved over the last four weeks of the season:
Coach Kingsbury mentioned defensive improvement over last quarter of season & stats bear that out:
NFL rank over last 4 games:
Yds allowed / Play: 8th
Total yds allowed: 11th
Pass yds allowed: 8th
TDs allowed: 13th
Sacks: 10th pic.twitter.com/JR56nPubsC
— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) December 30, 2019