For the second installment of my Mid-season Arizona Cardinals Report Cards, I will be looking at our tight ends and defensive linemen. Honestly, I just considered it a waste to include the offensive linemen on the report card. We all no that they are bad, despite a relatively good effort last Sunday vs. the St. Louis Rams. Levi Brown and Brandon Keith are human turnstiles in pass protection, and our guards and center, Daryn Colledge, Rex Hadnot, and Lyle Sendlein, are all very average offensive lineman. Everyone is aware of our entire offensive line's collective mediocrity, and the need for change in the off season. With that being said, I'll try to lighten the mood with these players grades:
Todd Heap, TE
So far in his tenure with the Cardinals, Heap has been a slight disappointment. This is not, however, due to inability to perform on the field, it is due to the fact that Heap cannot get on the field. After starting off the season relatively well, with 150 yard in his first 4 games, Heap ran into injury trouble. A lingering hamstring strain has kept him out of the last 4 games (he dressed last game but wasn't on the field).So while he did start out decently, injuries have kept his grade lower than he is capable of. I hope he can return soon and provide a legitimate TE option for whomever is at quarterback.
Mid-season Grade: C
Jeff King, TE
King was not brought in to be a receiving tight-end. He is a solid blocking tight end, whose primary responsibility is being an extra lineman on blocking plays. Despite this, King has becoming our most productive receiving tight end. He leads our tight end in both yards, with 174, and touchdowns, with 2. He is our only tight end to find the end zone, although Housler would have two were it not for arrant throws from Kolb. He has done his job in blocking fairly well, and has provided some offense when the defense is surprised and leaves him open.
Mid-season Grade: B+
Rob Housler, TE
When Housler was picked, i was pretty upset. I was convinced that we were going to select some sort of pass rusher, and then the Cards surprise me once again with this pick. After my initial anger had subsided, i grew to really like this pick. With the new breed of tight-end coming into the NFL, Housler was actually a very good pick. Housler will become the Cardinals version of a hybrid tight-end, think Jimmy Graham, Jermichael Finley, Aaron Hernandez, using his size mismatch on DBs along with his speed mismatch on LBs. He has been getting open, but he hasn`t been able to catch the ball consistently or Kolb misses him with the throw. Housler will be a very good player, he just isn`t there yet.
Mid-season Grade: C+
Darnell Dockett, DE/DT
There are countless opinions on Dockett`s performance this season and his role in this defense. I for one, still think he is a fantastic player, who is being underutilized in our 3-4 defense. In most scenarios Dockett is lined up somewhere inside the offense tackles. Therefore, being one of three down-lineman and usually lined up between two of them, Dockett gets double teamed a lot. While he doesn't show up on the stat sheet, only 0.5 sacks this season and 25 tackles, he does do a very important job. Dockett occupying defenders has allowed Daryl Washington to make so many big plays in the opponents back field. Maybe Dockett would be a bigger play-maker in a 4-3 defense, but in that defense Washington would be making less plays. While it is not a glorious job, someone has to do it, and Dockett does do a good job in that role.
Mid-season Grade: A-
Calais Campbell, DE
Someone get this man a new contract. Campbell has been arguably the best player on our defense, being terrific in all facets of his game. He is a monster on run defense, racking up 44 tackles (among those 32 being solo), terrific in pass rushing, with 5 sacks, and heroic on special teams, with 2 field goal blocks (one of which saved the game against the rams). There is really not much else to say about Campbell's play this season. CC and DD have formed quite a dynamic duo on our defensive line, and together have become the disruptive force we hoped they would. Please, just pay the man.
Mid-season Grade: A+
Dan Williams, NT
And now we reach what may be considered one of the bigger disappointments for this season. When Williams feel to us at #26 in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, i thought we had gotten a big steal. As per Ken Whisenhunt's modus operandi, Williams sat much of his rookie season, hardly seeing the field in the first half of the 2010 season, and slowly being worked in during the second half. This season, likely due to the lock-out, Williams came into training camp overweight and out of shape. He has now worked back to his "playing weight" but hasn't been very consistent at the nose tackle position. There are plays when he does a fantastic job in blowing up the pocket, but most of the other times he is efficiently taken out by the opposing guard or center. This is likely the reason why the Cardinals like to use two down linemen sets with Dockett and Campbell being the only lineman on the field. He definitely need to step it up in the second half, or the murmurs of him being a bust will start to grow louder.
Mid-season Grade: D
And there you have it. There are obviously many other defensive lineman who come into play, David Carter, Vonnie Holliday, Nick Eason. However, they get rotated out so regularly it is often difficult to tell who is in on certain plays. So let me know what you think of these grades? Was I too generous or too strict on certain players? Leave a comment below
Next Midseason Report Card: LBs