Three more Cardinals land on PFF’s top-101 players list

Jun 16, 2016, 12:06 PM

Pro Football Focus has released their full list of the top-101 players in the NFL and the Cardinals have five players on the list.

PFF released the first section of the list on Monday and gave Evan Mathis and Calais Campbell the 98th and 89th spots, respectively.

On Thursday, Carson Palmer, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu joined their fellow teammates on the list.

The Cardinals’ quarterback came in at No. 40.

40. Carson Palmer is another player whose case rests on one season of obscene play. It’s tough to oversell just how good Palmer was in 2015 before injuring a finger and having the worst playoff performance from a quarterback PFF has ever graded. In that Arizona passing attack, Palmer had the league’s highest average depth of target, and his expected inaccuracy rate given the passes he was attempting should have been the highest in the league. As it turned out, he was the best on intermediate and deep throws, and if I knew I was getting that guy in 2016, he would by vying for a place inside the top-five on this list. The issue is that those performances were so far off his career performance graph that it’s tough to have any idea where his 2016 will fall. Palmer has been good before, but in the eight years before that 2015 performance, he had been pretty good at best. It’s tough to buy into the idea that he is suddenly the best QB in the game, even if he has found an offense that perfectly suits his style.

Palmer’s presence on the field may be the most important of any Cardinal player. Arizona has a 29-9 record in his 38 starts for the Cardinals, but have a 5-6 record (including playoffs) with him on the sidelines.

Last year, Palmer posted his best completion percentage since 2007.

He also had career-highs in passing yards (4,671) and touchdowns (35), while throwing a career-low in interceptions (11) in seasons where he played at least 15 games.

On the other side of the ball, Peterson, a three-time All-Pro cornerback, landed at No. 32 on the list.

32. At his best, Patrick Peterson is one of the league’s top shutdown corners, or as close as anybody can get to that term in today’s NFL of pass-happy rules. He typically tracks the best receiver an offense has, and this past season when doing that, he allowed just 50 percent of all passes thrown his way to be caught (including playoffs) and was beaten for just three touchdowns, two of which came in the postseason and one of which was a Hail Mary. He didn’t allow more than four catches in a single game all season long, and was beaten for more than 50 yards just once. He also held Antonio Brown to two catches for 26 yards on six targets when they met, albeit when Brown didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball.

In addition to shutting down Brown, Peterson also shut down the likes of A.J. Green, who caught just two passes for 24 yards on six targets in Week 11.

Peterson has played in all 80 games since he was drafted by the Cardinals in 2011. He has accounted for 232 tackles, 58 pass deflections, 18 interceptions, 19 fumbles forced and four punt-return touchdowns in his five-year career (playoffs included).

Joining Peterson on defense is Mathieu, who is a dynamic force in the Cardinals’ secondary

The Cardinals had a 12-2 record and allowed 19.2 points per game with Mathieu healthy last season, but were just 2-2 (including playoffs) and allowed 28.2 points per game with him injured.

Mathieu earned a team-high No. 18 spot on PFF’s list.

18. Whether you want to call him a safety or a cornerback, Tyrann Mathieu is one of the league’s best defensive backs. He is a true playmaker on defense and has the ability to move around and cause matchup problems for offenses, putting them on the back foot for once in a league that usually forces defenses to react, not the other way around. Last season, he was having a Defensive Player of the Year kind of impact before missing the final two games of the regular season and the playoffs, leaving a big hole that the Cardinals weren’t really able to fill. He is a versatile playmaker, capable of excelling in the run game, in coverage, and generating pressure on the blitz, and regardless of what position he gets labeled as, he’s just a fantastic player.

Mathieu earned first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career in 2015 after finishing with 89 tackles, five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 17 passes defensed, 11 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

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