NFL Network’s Mayock: Arizona Cardinals are elite

Oct 14, 2015, 10:54 AM | Updated: Oct 15, 2015, 12:43 pm
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) is congratulated by teammates after his 18-yard rec...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) is congratulated by teammates after his 18-yard reception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
LISTEN: Mike Mayock, NFL Network analyst

The Arizona Cardinals are no longer among the NFL’s unbeaten, but that does not mean they are not among the league’s best teams.

In fact, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock says, “I don’t think there’s any doubt they’re elite.”

There you go.

“I watched their offensive game tape last night, and it didn’t take long because they only had 45 offensive snaps,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday morning. “But certain things stand out.”

Mayock said he tries to look at both the run game and passing game, and came away impressed by both aspects in Arizona’s 42-17 win over the Detroit Lions.

“What stands out for me is that Carson Palmer, age 36, his ball placement and pocket awareness and ball security is just outstanding,” he said.

Palmer completed 11-of-14 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the game. On the season, he has completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 1,316 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions.

“I continue to be impressed by how good the Cardinals are when he’s in the lineup,” Mayock added.

The analyst also praised the team’s running game, which is currently ranked at the top of the league. He said he does not think leading rusher Chris Johnson is the same player he was a few years ago when he earned the nickname “CJ2K” and was one of the NFL’s premier backs, but noted the runner still has burst and acceleration and can get the job done.

“The only thing that worries me a little bit is just continuing to get that offensive line playing together as a unit,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of talent on the left side of that line with (Mike) Iupati and (Jared) Veldheer, yet they struggled with a couple of defensive line twists early in the game last week. Just simple, two-on-two defensive tackle, defensive end stunt twists. I think the right side struggles a bit sometimes — Bobby Massie — but again, that’s nit picking.

“Because I think the big picture is it’s a really solid offensive line that can get better, and I think offensively this team’s just rolling, man. They can run, they can throw, and their quarterback is playing at a high level.”

Through five weeks, the Cardinals rank fifth in the NFL in total yards, with 1,965, but lead the league in points per game at 38. As any Arizona fan can tell you, that last number has plenty to do with the offense but also would not be nearly as high without the defense, which has returned three interceptions for touchdowns and also given Palmer and Co. some short fields to work with.

The Cardinals lead the NFL with 11 interceptions, with seven different players picking off at least one pass.

“You know it was interesting, it showed their depth in their secondary when they lose (Antonio) Cromartie and don’t even blink,” Mayock said. “And there’s so much talent back there.”

Mayock singled out Deone Bucannon, a second-year pro who is listed as a safety but plays a lot of linebacker, as one of a plethora of versatile players who roam the secondary.

“To me, one of the big keys in playing defense in today’s NFL is not giving up the big play yet still being able to pressure a quarterback,” Mayock said. “I think they get the best of both worlds.”

The analyst went on to talk about how the Cardinals have some underappreciated players, like defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Rodney Gunter, who may not get the recognition but help make Arizona’s defense what it is.

It’s a defense that is one of the NFL’s better, more aggressive groups, one Mayock said is well coached, disciplined and tough.

“This is as good a team as there is in the NFL when they’re healthy,” he said.

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