PFF: Cardinals had fifth-best defensive front seven in 2016

Jan 17, 2017, 5:10 PM

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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden, right, and defensive end Calais Campbell during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Of all the things that went wrong for the Arizona Cardinals in 2016, their defensive front seven really was not one of them.

The group, which was led by Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, Corey Peters, Kevin Minter and Deone Buccanon — with contributions from many others — excelled at getting after the quarterback and stopping the run.

The Cardinals ultimately led the NFL in sacks, with 48, and were tied for second in allowing opponents to average just 3.6 yards per rush.

They were good — quite good — and according to ProFootballFocus, the Cardinals boasted the fifth-best defensive front seven in the entire NFL.

Top overall grade: DE Calais Campbell, 90.4

Lowest overall grade: DT Corey Peters, 73.8

The Cardinals’ defense finally got something they’d been missing for some time—an edge rush. Unfortunately, it just so happened to coincide with the collapse of their secondary. Chandler Jones had a career year, finishing with the seventh-highest grade of any edge player, while Markus Golden made the second-year leap, finishing 24th. As a whole, Arizona recorded the highest pressure rate of any team in the NFL, at 40.15 percent.

Golden led the Cardinals with 12.5 sacks, while Jones notched 11 and Campbell eight. Campbell also led the Cardinals in QB hits and QB pressures with 27 and 26, respectively.

As for Peters getting the lowest overall grade, his statistics did not jump off the page, with 30 tackles, 13 QB pressures and two QB hits, but his ability to play in 15 games — with 14 starts — after missing 2015 with an Achilles injury led to head coach Bruce Arians calling him “the unsung hero up front.” Of the four teams ranked ahead of the Cardinals, each squad’s lowest graded player was significantly worse than Peters, and of all teams, only Tennessee (ranked 13th overall) had a higher graded player in the lowest spot.

As for the four teams ahead of the Cardinals, two reside in their own division, with the Seattle Seahawks (1) and Los Angeles Rams (4) joining the Philadelphia Eagles (2) and Carolina Panthers (3) to round out the top five.

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PFF: Cardinals had fifth-best defensive front seven in 2016