Adrian Wilson struggled in 2010
More than likely the most underperformed unit on the team in 2010. With the addition of Kerry Rhodes and the elevation of Greg Toler into the starting line-up there was high hopes for a secondary that was going to make opposing offenses pay for any mistakes. However the unit as a whole struggled and while outside influences (lack of consistent pressure from LB’s) too many errors were committed by the individuals themselves.
In 2010 the Cardinals ranked 23rd in the league giving up 228.4 yards per game in the air, at a 27th in the NFL mark of 7.3 YPA. On the other side they ranked 9th equal in allowing just 22 touchdowns through the air, showed a penchant for turnovers with 17 interceptions on the year ranking 11th in the NFL and were 10th equal in allowing just 7 plays of over 40 yards to be completed.
However the bane of this unit was their consistent inconsistency. One week they would be beaten left right and centre by passes making it near impossible for the team to make a comeback in a game, allowing the opposition QB to pile up yards on few attempts while not looking like making a play (See @ San Diego). The next they would provide the team with a boost making plays and not allowing the offense to make plays forcing turnovers and essentially winning the game for the team despite an inept offensive performance (See vs New Orleans). The defense created 30 turnovers in 2010, 14 of them coming in three games all wins vs STL, vs NO and @ DEN. In four games in 2010 the Cardinals won the turnover battle, three of them wins, the fourth the heartbreaking OT loss to the Vikings. More consistent playmaking and better ball protection from the offense could be huge in 2011.
But sticking with the DB’s, tackling is the biggest issue. Wilson (18), Rhodes (12) and Rodgers-Cromartie (10) all had 10 or more of their tackles broken in the 2010 season, both Wilson and DRC finishing among the worst 5 DB’s in the league with 40 or more tackles when comparing their broken tackles as a percentage of tackles attempted, DRC’s 18.9% (43 tackles, 10 missed) was the worst among all NFL DB’s. All four starting DB’s struggled with their coverage at times last season, DRC continues to "Fall asleep" and let lesser players take advantage of him, Toler was continually abused on 5 yard slants by Big Mike Williams (Though to be fair who wasn’t) but his lack of adjustments (Maybe play some inside technique, make him beat you vertically) is very concerning. Rhodes seemed to warm to the task, but on more than one occasion was beaten deep because of poor technique, and Wilson has arguably his worst season in coverage since he came into the year, though injuries may have had a part to play. The starting quartet need to improve their play in 2011 of this defense could remain on the same track that led them to the bottom of the NFL defense rankings in 2010. However at least the starting four have talent, the depth in this area is sorely lacking. Mike Adams is a great special teamer who works hard, but should not see the field on defense, let alone as a nickel in the pass heavy NFL of the modern era. Rashad Johnson is bordering on bust status after he has failed to make any kind of an impact at the Cards 3rd safety, seeing a lot of playing time in both nickel and dime situations when the Cards tend to play three safeties rather than put four corners on the field. Matt Ware and Hamza Abdullah are special teamers at best, and AJ Jefferson and Marshay Green while rookies will have to prove their worth on defense to retain a spot on this team.
The addition of Patrick Peterson via the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft has helped to strengthen this unit. It has not only added to the immediate depth, but will provide a long term starter at one of the most important positions on the defense. His addition will allow Toler to play as the #3 and in turn will help to keep Adams and Johnson off the field and improve the overall performance of the back end of the defense.
Looking forward to the 2011 season, the top 5 on the depth chart provide the DB’s on the Cardinals with a very high ceiling. Wilson coming back from injury, and the quick adaption of all to a new defensive scheme will be keys, expect to see Peterson playing a spot role for the first four or five weeks at least, the lack of OTA’s and possibly lost time in Training Camp will make it even harder for Whis to promote a rookie into the starting line-up against his urges. However with the number of 3 and 4 wide sets that are used in the NFL these days that does not mean that Peterson will not be seeing the field a lot. Adams will be allowed to show his wares on Special Teams and play a spot role as the fourth corner. Johnson looks likely to stick as the 3rd safety, but unless his play improves enough to play three safeties over three corners (Johnson or Toler) he will not be seeing as much time as he has in the past. Ware, Adbullah, Green, McBride and Jefferson will battle for the final two DB spots likely one safety and one corner.
Week 1 Depth Chart
FS : Kerry Rhodes
SS: Adrian Wilson
CB: Greg Toler
Nickel: Patrick Peterson
#3 S: Rashad Johnson
End of season Depth Chart
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
FS : Kerry Rhodes
SS: Adrian Wilson
CB: Patrick Peterson
Nickel: Greg Toler
#3 S: Rashad Johnson
Key Performer: Adrian Wilson, the performances of the veteran safety and team captain coming back from the hip injury suffered early in 2010 will be the key to the overall performance of the unit. When Wilson is firing on all cylinders he is tough to contain, he must be accounted for on every snap and can hurt an offense in numerous ways.
One To Watch For: AJ Jefferson, Jefferson was an UDFA from Fresno State in the 2010 draft and surprisingly spent a solid amount of time on the roster as a rookie. He has supreme athletic ability, (4.31 fourty, 44" vert, 4.00 short shuttle, 6.72 3 cone, 12’6" broad, 17 reps on the bench) and provides good length and size at 6-0 190 pounds. He has a year with the team, and played well on Special Teams. With good coaching and a chance he could be a surprise performer on defense.