First and foremost, I appreciate the constructive criticism in the prior installment. It will help going into the Defensive and Special Teams side of the series.
In 2014 the Cardinals fielded a defense with a plethora of questions. "How will they look without Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington, and Darnell Dockett?", was likely the biggest one everyone asked. They showed they can play without all three, as Larry Foote was rock solid for much of they year at inside linebacker. Calais Campbell was the heart and soul of the defensive line, helping young players get their numbers by drawing consistent double teams.
While the losses of the three mentioned players were seen, the team did not feel them until the end of the year. That's when they ran out of fresh bodies to use. As mentioned in the last installment, the Cardinals added depth to combat that issue in 2015, with the additions of Cory Redding and Corey Peters on the defensive line, and added veteran players like Darryl Sharpton, Sean Weatherspoon, and LaMarr Woodley at the linebacking positions.
The secondary was supposed to be a strength of this team, but due to the inability to create pressure without blitzing, Antonion Cromartie (Now with the Jets) and Patrick Peterson (Also battling Diabetes) failed to live up to the hype. This season, Peterson is hungry to show last year was a fluke, and the team must find the man opposite him.
So without further ado, let us predict the 27 players on Defense and Special Teams.
Defensive Line (9 Carried in 2014):
The defensive line was hampered by player rehabbing injuries or sustaining injuries in 2014. Dockett was injured in preseason, Ta'Amu was rehabbing his knee injury from 2013, and Calais Campbell missed two games due to this dirty block.
In 2015, the Cardinals drafted Rodney Gunter, an unknown out of Delaware State. They added Cory Redding and Corey Peters in free agency. With the departure of Dan Williams in free agency, those two additions will be huge. Frostee Rucker was given a one year extension that will expire in following the 2016 season. Ta'Amu will battle Peters and Xavier Williams as the starting nose tackle, which should be a fun battle to watch. Shaughnessy will move back to defensive end after the experiment at OLB failed.
With the versatility I see the team carrying eight linemen this year, saving that spot for another position.
Linebackers (9 carried in 2014)
Easily one of the teams weakest positions, but was still a shocking unit. With the departure of Karlos Dansby, and the suspension (which is shockingly still ongoing) of Daryl Washington, people expected this unit to fall apart. While it was unimpressive, the unit exceeded expectations. Larry Foote in particular was excellent for much of the year, until the late season collapse.
Much was expected out of Kevin Minter, but was hampered by an injury. He was rotated in and out with Deone Bucannon for much of the year, and Glenn Carson rotated with them towards the end of the year.
Alex Okafor, after having his rookie season cut very short, was the teams best pass rusher last season. He recorded a team high eight sacks, in only 13 games. He had a run in with the law this offseason, but everything was dropped and the NFL doesn't seem like it will take any action.
Defensive Backs (9 carried in 2014)
We're down to the final eight roster spots. The defensive backfield is loaded with talent, and several players can jump between positions. Eight seems so small, but considering the team used all four safeties, and mainly three corners it makes sense.
Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie were the staples at corner. Peterson suffered through a health issue, being diagnosed with Diabetes early in the season. He struggled but showed glimpses of his 2013 play which gave hope to the fans that he can bounce back this year.
Jerraud Powers, who the fans were critical of in 2013, was impressive in the slot, and regained the trust of the fans. He's the front runner to be the man opposite of Peterson, but Justin Bethel thinks this is his year to come out as more than just a special teams ace.
At safety, the team is stocked with four players who could very well be starters in the league. Rashad Johnson is the leader of the unit, with Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon, and Tony Jefferson following him.
Mathieu and Bucannon offer versatility, Mathieu being able to move down to the slot, and Bucannon being able to move to linebacker, which very well could save the team a LB roster spot,
Specialist (4 Carried in 2014)
The team relied on a pair of unknowns as their kickers in 2014. Chandler Catanzaro, who, not to brag or anything, was my selection to make the final 53 last year, was excellent in 2014. He hit his first 16 attempts, before having a stretch of four games, where he hit six of his 10 attempts. He finished the season 29/33, a conversion rate of 88%. He has his expectations high in 2015, hoping for a perfect kicking season.
The team had to rely on Drew Butler in place of Dave Zastudil for all but one game, in which he punted 11 times for 487 yards and an average of 44.3 yards.
Butler was serviceable in his place, punting 79 times all year for an average of 42 yards. He had five touchbacks, to 34 downed inside the 20. He had consistency issues, most notably in the playoff game and at Seattle. Unless he's changed dramatically, or an injury to Dave Zastudil, he won't be here in 2015.
Mike Leach is as reliable as they come at the long snapping position, and is here for another season.
And that's that. let me know in the comments below your thoughts and opinions? Anyone you would rather see on the roster