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Cardinals vs. Rams review: Carson Palmer the master, Darnell Dockett a disaster according to PFF

A look at how our friends at graded the Cardinals’ Week 1 loss at St. Louis.

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The game was a hard-fought nail-biter until the clock ran out on the Arizona Cardinals. They lost to the St. Louis Rams, 27-24, due largely to poor performances from many along the offensive and defensive lines.

On defense, the line gave no push all game, and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was not sacked for the third consecutive regular-season game, dating back to last season. On offense, the line could not stop Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Co. as Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer went down four times -- three alone from Quinn as he abused Levi Brown all afternoon.

Here are some grades of note, again provided by ProFootballFocus.


QB Carson Palmer (+5.7)

It was a positive Cardinals debut from Palmer, as he was PFF's highest-rated quarterback -- just ahead of Chicago's Jay Cutler (+5.6) and record-breaking Broncos QB Peyton Manning (+4.7). His grade originally was a +7.6, but it's early in the season, and even our game-grading gurus need some time to get into the swing of things again.

Palmer completed 26 of 40 (65.0%) for 327 yards, 8.2 YPA, 2 TD and 1 INT for a 96.6 passer rating. Though he did not have the opportunity to hit his six-deep-ball quota, he was effective when doing so, going 2 of 3 for 68 yards (22.7 YPA) and a score.

One area in which Palmer struggled was under pressure. Despite avoiding a sack on 17 blitz attempts and both touchdown passes coming on plays in which the Rams brought five or more, Palmer was, as you can see from the PFF table below, poor under pressure.


The troubling thing is that all four sacks came when St. Louis sent four pass-rushers. Brown was beaten soundly by Quinn on three of them, so it may be a good idea to help him whenever possible on four-man rushes.

WR Andre Roberts: (+3.4)

Andre Roberts had a brilliant season debut in St. Louis, earning the fourth-highest grade among wideouts. His 4.38 yards per route run from the slot was the third-best, right behind Anquan Boldin (5.18) and Vincent Jackson (6.56).

The fourth-year Citadel grad caught eight passes for a team-high 97 yards (12.1 YPC) and converted four third downs -- also a team high.


Roberts made tough catches on numerous occasions, including the diving catch you see above that converted a third down. Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan was called for illegal contact on the play, as he was holding onto and grabbing Roberts before the ball arrived.

It obviously did not matter.

RT Eric Winston (-3.8)

Veteran right tackle Eric Winston had a poor showing and was the lowest-ranked offensive player in his Cardinals debut. Dealing with Long for four quarters will have that effect on even the best at the position.

Dealing with Long as he stands up and moves all over the place is even more difficult, and Rams D-coordinator Tim Walton does, indeed, have his Pro Bowl defensive end standing up as a linebacker and moving around at the line of scrimmage.

PFF gave Winston a -2.9 for pass-blocking, the second-lowest mark on the team after Brown's -4.4. Only Brown's +1.1 run-blocking grade saved him the dishonor of the worst-ranked offensive player on the team.

Other notable grades

WR Larry Fitzgerald (+2.6), TE Jim Dray (+0.9), LG Daryn Colledge (-1.8), RG Paul Fanaika (-2.8), LT Levi Brown (-2.8)


DE/OLB Matt Shaughnessy (+2.8)

One of the free-agent additions to the team this offseason, Matt Shaughnessy emerged as the highest-graded defender for the Cardinals in St. Louis. We'll call him a defensive end right now since that's where PFF has him listed (though, he will stand up at times this season).

He was the fourth-best 3-4 DE for Week 1, behind only Desmond Bryant (+3.3), Cameron Jordan (+5.7) and J.J. Watt (+7.2).

He ranked highly at pass-rushing (+1.7, ranked fourth) and run-stopping (+1.5, tied for eighth) on his way to a solid Cardinals debut, and if he keeps it up, he could push for a starting spot somewhere within the front seven. That could be at outside linebacker or defensive end, depending on what happens in the near future.

ILB Karlos Dansby (+1.1)

His overall grade was brought down due to poor coverage of Rams receivers (-1.9), but Karlos Dansby was a complete animal against the run. His +2.9 grade for run defense was second among inside linebackers for Week 1, behind only Brad Jones (+3.0).

Both he and Jasper Brinkley (+2.4 against the run) contributed big time to the Rams averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, and because of that, both finished in the top four in the category for their position (Brinkley was fourth).

If Dansby can be a monster against the run all season, the defense could look very good once Daryl Washington returns from suspension.

DE Darnell Dockett (-6.2)

It's possible Darnell Dockett's name wasn't called once against the Rams, he was that invisible. Putting his overall grade into perspective: All other Cardinals defenders who earned a negative grade from PFF added up to -6.4.

He is another whom the site re-graded -- they first had him at -8.2. Dockett was far and away the worst 3-4 defensive end in the league last week, and the next closest player was Muhammad Wilkerson of the Jets, who received a -3.2 overall grade. Dockett's -4.5 grade against the run alone was worse than that.

A poll question in this great piece from RedC asks if Dockett should still play. As of now, 56 percent (227-407) of you answered, "It's preseason...let him play." Well, it's not the preseason anymore.

How do you feel about Dockett now?

Other notable grades

NT Dan Williams (+1.4), OLB Lorenzo Alexander (+1.1), FS Rashad Johnson (+1.0), DB Tyrann Mathieu (+0.8), CB Patrick Peterson (-1.2), SS Yeremiah Bell (-1.3)