Arizona Cardinals players most likely believed that report cards were a thing of the past but they’re still being graded
It’s something Arizona Cardinals players probably dreaded as children. Report card day would come in school, a day when their scholastic performance would be critiqued. Years later it’s still happening, but now it’s their on-field performance being evaluated.
They won’t be graded as individuals in this piece, however. Instead, each position is graded as a whole. Letter grades were used, with “A” being the best and “F” the worst, just like in school.
Note: No apples were taken as bribes in writing this article!
Quarterback- Carson Palmer’s play was up and down for most of the season, but he finished strong. He threw for 4,233 yards and 26 touchdowns, very respectable numbers. Drew Stanton played just well enough to beat the woeful San Francisco 49ers in his only start of the season. B-
Running back- It’s not an exaggeration to say David Johnson may be the best player in the NFL. He rushed for 1,239 yards and added another 879 on 80 receptions, with 20 total touchdowns. Former star Chris Johnson missed most of the year with a groin injury, and Andre Ellington saw very little action. A+
Wide receiver- Larry Fitzgerald led the league in receptions with 107, and broke the 1000-yard barrier once again (1,023). Michael Floyd was a disappointment both on and off the field before being released, and Jaron Brown tore his ACL. John Brown was hampered by a sickle cell condition, but J.J. Nelson put up 568 receiving yards and six scores. C-
Tight end- Jermaine Gresham didn’t put up big numbers (37-391-2) but he’s a fiery competitor who showed leadership. Darren Fells regressed from 2015, while Troy Niklas flashed during the preseason but got injured yet again. Ifeanyi Momah contributed on special teams but also had his year ended by injury. D+
Offensive line- It’s hard to fairly grade a line that lost both Jared Veldheer and Evan Mathis. A.Q. Shipley and Mike Iupati were solid, while D.J. Humphries had a so-so campaign. Earl Watford saw a lot of action due to the injuries, and players such as John Wetzel, Taylor Boggs, Ulrick John and Evan Boehm made starts. C+
Defensive line- Not a lot of production from this group besides Calais Campbell, who recorded 53 tackles, eight sacks, an interception and a touchdown. Corey Peters may tie up blockers, but doesn’t make many plays, and Frostee Rucker is slowing down. Rodney Gunter and Josh Mauro are solid, but Xavier Williams, Ed Stinson and rookie Robert Nkemdiche were virtually invisible. C-
Linebacker- The presence of Chandler Jones seemed to elevate the play of everyone in the group, especially Markus Golden. Jones and Golden teamed up to form quite an impressive pass-rushing duo, both registering double-digit sack totals. Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter were tackling machines, while mid-season pickup Sio Moore played well when Bucannon got injured. A+
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Cornerback- If it wasn’t for Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson, the grade for this group would be a lot worse. Marcus Cooper has good stats, but is beaten more often than the team would like. Justin Bethel makes a play here and there, but can’t be trusted, and Brandon Williams will have to improve a lot if he ever hopes to start. C+
Safety- Tyrann Mathieu looked like a shell of himself in 2016 due to injuries. Tony Jefferson (96 tackles, two sacks, five passes defensed) and D.J. Swearinger (66 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions) played lights out. Tyvon Branch was only average before injuring his groin twice. B+
Special teams- It can be strongly argued that this unit may have cost the Cardinals upwards of five games. Drew Butler remained the Cards’ punter for a good portion of 2016 despite being terrible. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed too many kicks, and long-snapping was a season-long issue. F