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What Happened to the Arizona Cardinals Defense?

The once dominant force against the run has been gashed through the first three games.

NFL: Preseason-Arizona Cardinals at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals have been a team that has prided themselves on stopping the run. Last season they finished fifth in the NFL in rush yards per game allowed, in 2014 they finished 13th and in 2013 they finished first.

Yet, through three weeks of the NFL season in 2016, the Arizona Cardinals sit at 28th in rushing yards allowed per game. They have allowed 399 yards rushing in three games and only Oakland, Chicago, Miami and New Orleans have allowed more rushing yards per game than the Cardinals.

What has happened?

Well, first, they have not gotten the production out of Deone Bucannon that was expected. While this can be a big issue, my belief is this stems from the fact that the defensive line is just not very good right now.

After a really strong first game, with Frostee Rucker, Corey Peters and Calais Campbell on the field about 50% of the time together (Campbell at 83% of the snaps, Peters 49% and Rucker 45% before his injury) things have gone down hill, quickly. Peters and Campbell are still there, but who is missing?

Obviously Frostee Rucker, but can Rucker really mean that much of a difference?

Since that game we have seen an increase in snaps for Ed Stinson and Josh Mauro. They line up on the same side as Deone Bucannon. Their plays has been, less than optimal and it seems to be negatively effecting the play of Bucannon. It also seems to be negatively effecting the play of the entire defense when it comes to stopping the run.

I asked Justis Mosqueda, part of the Bleacher Report NFL 1000 team and this was his response about Mauro and Stinson:

Mauro is a non-pass-rusher who plays in pass-rushing situations and Stintson is legit horrible. Dude can't rush worth a lick and gets reached constantly. He's a non-rosterable type of talent.

It is hard to believe Robert Nkemdiche is playing worse, in practice, than these guys. Yet, for the last couple of weeks, he has been inactive. Meaning he is not a choice right now, at least to Bruce Arians, to replace them or he is still that injured.

If the Arizona Cardinals are going to get things corrected, it starts up front, on both lines, but right now, the Arizona Cardinals defense is struggling to stop the run. That could mean a long season if things do not get fixed.