2014 Positional Analysis: Arizona Cardinals Cornerbacks

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In this edition of the 2014 positional analysis, I’m taking a look at the Arizona Cardinals’ cornerbacks . The corners shined in some games and failed in others

The fact that NFL teams are throwing the football at an ever-increasing rate has made the positions that defend against passes increasing more important. Elite NFL corners are a hot commodity now, and safeties who work well in coverage are also in high demand.

The Arizona Cardinals went into 2014 with a very talented group of corners. They came out with results that were mixed in some areas. Arizona was 16th in opposing QB completion percentage, fourth in yards per game allowed, seventh in team interceptions, and third in most throws of 40+ yards allowed.

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All of this points to the need for evolution in a group that is solid. Arizona lost an important player in that area this offseason, but they do have a very good talent base to add to.

CB Patrick Peterson

Nov 16, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends against Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson (81) at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Lions 14-6. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 50 total tackles| seven passes defensed| three interceptions 

I really don’t want to talk about Patrick Peterson in 2014, but I have an obligation to do so. Peterson in 2014 was, well, bad. After signing a $70 million dollar deal, he struggled greatly in coverage last season.

He allowed eight touchdowns and opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 95.5 when throwing in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus. Peterson just wasn’t keeping in front of his man, and quarterbacks were no longer afraid of throwing in his direction. Instead of just being tasked on the other teams lead receiver, he tended to stick more to one side.

His 10 penalties also were a blemish on the record. He was one of some corners who struggled with the more strict enforcement of contact rules. The penalities were sometimes very harmful and definitely made the perception that Peterson was overrated.

It wasn’t all bad though. Peterson improved his tackle total from 2013, notched his first career pick six in awesome fashion, and was still selected to the Pro Bowl.  The fact that his diabetes apparently affected his play means there’s hope for a bounce back.

The Cards need Peterson. This is a fact. There’s no reason to sound the alarm on a terrible contract quite yet, and Peterson still showed that he is a good player, but 2014 was not the year to remember for him.

CB Antonio Cromartie 

Nov 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie (31) returns a fourth quarter interception for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 49 total tackles| 10 passes defensed| three interceptions

Cromartie was the best corner for Arizona in 2014, which is something I doubt most people expected. In contrast to Peterson, Cromartie allowed only two touchdowns and a 74.9 rating. He was one fothe better defenders for Arizona last season, which came as a present surprise after a bad 2013 that allowed the Cards to get him on the cheap.

Some games it seemed like Cro was unbeatable, and then a few other games he came up with a rough night. The Cardinals’ were lucky to have had him though with Peterson struggling. He came up big a couple of times.

It’s unfortunate for Arizona that he stuck around for only a year, but just looking at 2014, the production he provided was important. The Cardinals will need a replacement for him over the long term.

CB Jerraud Powers 

Nov 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) fight for a pass during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

 Stats: 53 combined tackles| 10 passes defensed| three interceptions 

The Cardinals’ injury ravaged defense stayed competitive because several players quietly managed to put in good work in a non-flashy, sometimes invisible way. Jerraud Powers was one of those guys. After a rough first year with Arizona, Powers bounced back. He quietly did a fine job of protecting slot receivers.

Powers is one of those players whose stats are theoretically padded by a smaller role. He’s a second string corner, so he may not get as many attempts meaning there are less chances to get burned by receivers. According to PFF though, Powers was targeted 87 times, only twelve less than Peterson and four less than Cromartie.

Powers was a major asset to the Cards. He has certainly earned consideration for the permanent role of starter next to Peterson. If he can have another good season, the Cards defensive backfield becomes more dangerous.