The public record is right there in the open, ready for the reading. And it's not pretty.
The 2013 Arizona Cardinals had a rough time covering the opposing team tight ends in the receiving game and the statistics showed:
Week 1: Jared Cook -- 7 receptions, 141 yards, 2 TDs
Week 3: Jimmy Graham -- 9 receptions, 134 yards, 2 TDs
Week 6: Vernon Davis -- 8 receptions, 180 yards, 2 TDs
Week 7: Seahawks TEs -- 7 receptions, 64 yards, 2 TDs
Week 13: Philadelphia TEs -- 9 receptions, 97 yards, 3 TDs
Week 15: Delanie Walker -- 8 receptions, 53 yards, 1 TD
Total stats for the Arizona Cardinals defense against opposing tight ends:
90 catches for 1,115 yards and 16 touchdowns - all infamously leading NFL stats.
And right there in the endzone -- almost every single game -- was the chalk outline of Cards strong safety Yeremiah Bell.
Now, to Bell's credit, it's easy to pick on him. He's old in football years (born when disco was king and Jimmy Carter was president) and has been asked to commit to the run first in Todd Bowles' scheme -- which usually has him in the box. Patrick Peterson has the number one receiver typically on the weak side and Tyrann Mathieu, when healthy and playing, freelanced a lot, using his ballhawking skills to the optimum. That leaves number two CB Jerraud Powers to get deep enough in coverage depth for possible seams/slants by the tight end, yet still maintain coverage of his man. And if the TE gets past Powers then Bell needed to swivel and cover -- at which he was obviously deficient.
But hey, Bell isn't going to be around to kick anymore, he's a free agent that hasn't been signed. He's allowed to go wherever tight end heaven is. But who to replace him?
The FA market for quality safeties dried up quickly. Jarius Byrd, TJ Ward and Donte Whitner are all gone. Second tier safeties like Stevie Brown, Antoine Bethea and Louis Delmas are also gone. Even guys on the cusp of being NFL relevant like Nate Allen and Brandon Merriweather are also gone. (The only respectable safety left, in my eyes, is Chris Clemons.)
So, you go to Plan B and draft a successor, right? Unless you're getting HaSean Clinton-Dix from Alabama, you're pretty much screwed. (Welcome to the Detroit Lions, Haha.) Louisville's Calvin Pryor is considered the next best safety but more than a few experts have him tagged as a Free Safety. Then you have Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon, Dion Bailey Craig Loston...etc. that I'm sure will be fine player,s but probably not Day 1 starters and would be reaches.
The solution? Wish I knew. Re-sign Bell?
Just know for about 10 years the only thing I didn't worry about was tight ends roaming in the defensive backfield when a certain Adrian Wilson was there. The only chalk outline left back then was the opponents.
- NFL free agency grades and reactions: Looking at Arizona Cardinals and their moves [podcast]
- 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Arizona Cardinals shore up pass rush, teams make run on QBs early
- NFL free agency: Eric Winston and the right tackle position for the Arizona Cardinals
- NFL free agency: Alfonso Smith not returning to Arizona Cardinals
- NFL mock draft 2014: Arizona Cardinals go Dee Ford with 20th pick, but could go QB, CB, OL