The final team that will be covered in this article series is .. the team that finished with the worst record in the NFL.
32. Arizona Cardinals
Biggest strength: The Cardinals didn’t have many strengths last season, but they did tackle well. As a team, Arizona earned a tackling grade of 82.5, ranking 10th in the NFL. Led by edge defender Chandler Jones — who missed only three tackles last year — the Cardinals’ defense can at least take pride in excelling at one of the most fundamental aspects of the game. Arizona’s defense missed 113 tackles in 2018. For perspective, a great Texans defense missed 119 tackles, and the Eagles missed 124.
Biggest weakness: The Cardinals ranked 32nd in pass blocking (55.8) last season and allowed a whopping 218 total pressures (34 sacks, 42 hits and 142 hurries) on 563 pass-blocking snaps. In the past eight seasons, only two teams have had a worse single-season pass-blocking grade than the Cardinals did in 2018: Arizona (55.4) and Houston (54.8) in 2017.
X factor for 2019: Kyler Murray enters a difficult situation in Arizona, but he has the talent to help remedy the situation. His quickness should help him overcome a bad offensive line, and he can make all the throws. Murray earned an overall grade of 94.6 at Oklahoma last season, leading all quarterbacks and also tying fellow Sooner Baker Mayfield (2017) for the best single-season overall grade for a quarterback in the PFF college era (since 2014). If Murray can make a similar impact as a rookie as Mayfield did last season, the Cardinals could be an interesting team to watch.
Hard to argue with any of the assessments here. I would add that in addition to the mentioned issues, Arizona decided to hire someone fresh off being fired as a HC at Texas Tech. Kliff Kingsbusy had a job secured as USC’s offensive coordinator. The hire was somewhat jarring, as Kingsbury’s qualifications for the job are virtually non existent. Previous HC Steve Wilks, at least on paper, looked like a decent hire. The one saving grace here is that Arizona’s defense has the potential to be a solid unit. If Kingbury can get the offense going to a point, they might be able to sweep the 49ers again.
Photo credit: CKnuckles