Looking At The Cardinals' Pass Protection

Arizona was one of the worst in pass protection in 2010. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Yes, the 2010 season was a disaster on offense (and in general). The Cardinals did not run the ball enough and when they passed, it was ineffective. When Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Richard Bartel dropped back to pass, there were issues keeping them protected, so I am sure it would be no surprise to find out that their "pressure statistics" don't look good. 

Pro Football Focus broke down the numbers for all the teams in the NFL regarding pressure allowed and then sacks allowed when pressured.

None of it was really encouraging, but here are the numbers. 

The gaggle of Cardinals quarterbacks took 642 passing snaps. There was pressure in 252 of those plays, which is 39.25 percent of the time. That was 22nd in the league. What team was pressured the least? The Seattle Seahawks with 28.29 percent of passing plays having pressure. The highest? That would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had pressure on Ben Roethlisberger just over half the time. Of course, there are explanations for this and it is not always the offensive line.

It turns out that the quarterbacks did do something relatively well. Only six times was the pressure caused by the quarterback. The pressure was allowed 181 times by the offensive line, 26 times by skill players and apparently 39 times it was the result of an unassigned rusher. 

The worst part of the stats is in the sacks. Of the 252 pressures, 45 times they ended up in sacks. that was the fifth-worst rate (17.86 percent) in the entire league.

What can we attribute this to? It is several things. One is that Kurt Warner was no longer masking flaws in the offensive line. I would imagine that the pressure numbers would be higher because he was able to wait longer to make a play, but the sack rate obviously be lower, much like Tampa Bay, who had the second highest pressure rate but fifth best sack rate.

Also, on the offensive, there were changes. Brandon Keith was a first-year starter. Levi Brown was playing left tackle for the first time in his pro career. Alan Faneca replaced Reggie Wells, who was adequate in pass protection. Faneca has always been known to be a very good in run blocking but nothing special in pass protection. Additionally, the loss of Anquan Boldin and the injuries (and time lost as a result) of Steve Breaston and Early Doucet caused a downgrade in receiver quality. Better receivers get open and provide targets for the quarterback. 

What can we expect moving forward? 

To begin, we know that the team is expected to upgrade at quarterback. On the offensive line, there is the potential to have four new starters. I don't expect that to happen, but at a minimum there should be an improvement from Levi Brown and Brandon Keith, Brown for now having a year under his belt at LT and Keith because of simply having gotten on the field.

With the addition of Ryan Williams and Anthony Sherman to the backfield from the draft, there is the expectation that the running game will be improved. A better running game will alleviate some of the pressure to the quarterback. 

What is clear is that if Arizona seeks to return to the winning ways of the recent past, something will have to change for the better.

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