No, the Arizona Cardinals defense isn’t as bad as you think

Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Cameron Thomas (97) against the
Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Cameron Thomas (97) against the / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One major network ranked the Arizona Cardinals defense as the worst in football, but that couldn’t be further from the case.

When Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report revealed their defensive rankings, they placed the Arizona Cardinals unit as the worst in the league. And while they lost Zach Allen, Byron Murphy, and perhaps even Budda Baker, the Cardinals D won’t be as bad as many believe. 

For one, the Redbirds will have a better-than-advertised trio at edge rusher, with B.J. Ojulari, Cam Thomas, and Myjai Sanders. Zaven Collins may also end up jumping ship to edge, and if he does, watch out. This unit may not have a blue-chip edge rusher yet, but all four men are good enough to be effective in pressuring the quarterback, especially if there’s a rotation going on. 

I’ve said it a few times now, but Owen Pappoe could be the Cardinals best draft pick, and don’t be surprised if he plays sooner than later. Also, Kyzir White and Krys Barnes are both proven NFL talents who double up as sure tacklers, and they too will be effective in stopping opposing running games. 

Arizona Cardinals defense is better than advertised for 2023

The secondary could have a gaping hole if Baker doesn’t return, that I’ll concede. But we’re also forgetting about Isaiah Simmons’ versatility, and he could easily fill the void at strong safety if Baker doesn’t come back. 

While I will agree with most of the fanbase and state Simmons’ best position is linebacker, he could better serve the team at safety this season given the lack of talent at the position. Sans Jalen Thompson, who has put up sound numbers when healthy. 

Then there is corner Marco Wilson. And despite his 55.3 PFF Grade for 2022, he’s one reason I don’t put too much stock into PFF’s metrics. You look at Wilson’s sheer numbers, with three interceptions, a pick six, and 10 passes defensed, it tells a different story. 

Further, Wilson allowed only 57.5% of his passes on 87 targets, 6.3 yards per target, 10.9 yards per completion, and a quarterback rating of 77.1. Those were, overall, solid numbers that you need to know about. 

My only real concern regarding the Arizona Cardinals defense is at CB2, where the aging Antonio Hamilton will likely man. Behind them is unproven but intriguing talent like Garrett Williams (when cleared to play) and Kei’Trel Clark. 

Overall, I’m not going bold and saying the Cards will have an excellent defense, or even a good one in 2023. What I am saying is, given the under-the-radar personnel they have, it’s easy for outlets who don’t study them to the same extent we do to write them off. But when you break down this unit, they are not as bad as most people think. 

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Source: Ranking Every NFL Defense After the 2023 Draft by Kristopher Knox,

(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)