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What the Cardinals Can Learn from the 2020 NFC West Rankings

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Pictured Above: Rams’ HC/OC Sean McVay who is arguably the NFC West Coach of the Year.

These first six rankings are subjective. I tried to weigh all factors in determining these. Please chime in if you think I made a mistake —- you could be right. In the case of Kliff Kingsbury, he’s only been coaching in the NFL’s strongest division for 2 years, thus at this point it would have been near miraculous if he could be considered as one of the top 2 or 3 coaches and/or OCs in the division. Same with Vance Joseph, although, I believe that it is absolutely fair to assert that the Rams rookie DC, Brandon Staley is the best DC in the division right now.

Best GMs:

  1. Schneider (SEA)
  2. Snead (LAR)
  3. Lynch (SF)
  4. Keim (ARI)

Best HC/OC/DC/STC Combination:

  1. Rams
  2. 49ers
  3. Seahawks
  4. Cardinals

Best HC:

  1. McVay
  2. Carroll
  3. Shanahan
  4. Kingsbury

Best OC:

  1. Shanahan
  2. McVay
  3. Schottenheimer
  4. Kingsbury

Best DC:

  1. Stanley
  2. Saleh
  3. Norton
  4. Joseph

Best STC:

  1. Schneider (SEA)
  2. Hightower (SF)
  3. Rodgers (ARI)
  4. Bonamego (LAR)

2020 Records:

  1. SEA: 12-5
  2. LAR: 11-6
  3. ARI: 8-8
  4. SF: 6-10

2020 PFF Team Rankings:

Overall:

  1. LAR—-3
  2. SEA—-8
  3. SF—-11
  4. ARI—-25

Offense:

  1. SEA—-8
  2. LAR—-13
  3. SF—-14
  4. ARI—-19

Passing Game:

  1. SEA—-6
  2. ARI—-16
  3. LAR—-18
  4. SF—-27

Pass Blocking:

  1. ARI—-5
  2. LAR—-11
  3. SEA—-19
  4. SF—-27

Receiving:

  1. SF—-7
  2. SEA—-9
  3. ARI & LAR—-18

Running Game:

  1. SEA—-12
  2. SF—-16
  3. LAR—-20
  4. ARI—-22

Run Blocking:

  1. SF—-2
  2. LAR—-5
  3. SEA—-10
  4. ARI—-24

Defense:

  1. LAR—-1
  2. SF—-9
  3. SEA—-11
  4. ARI—-25

Run Defense:

  1. SEA—-1
  2. LAR—-4
  3. SF—-11
  4. ARI—-29

Tackling:

  1. SEA—-1
  2. LAR—-2
  3. SF—-5
  4. ARI—-8

Pass Rush:

  1. LAR—-3
  2. ARI—-21
  3. SEA—-26
  4. SF—-29

Pass Coverage:

  1. LAR—-1
  2. SF—-4
  3. SEA—-16
  4. ARI—-24

Special Tams:

  1. ARI—-8
  2. SEA—-12
  3. LAR—-19
  4. SF—-21

NFL Team Rankings (nflteamrankings.com)

Offense:

3rd Down Conversion %

  1. LAR—-5
  2. ARI—-21
  3. SF—-24
  4. SEA—-29

Yards Per Game:

  1. ARI—-7
  2. LAR—-13
  3. SF—-15
  4. SEA—-18

Points Per Game:

  1. SEA—-8
  2. ARI—-14
  3. LAR—-20
  4. SF—-22

4th Down Conversion %:

  1. ARI—-4
  2. SEA—-23
  3. LAR—-26
  4. SF—-31

Average Time of Possession:

  1. LAR—-2
  2. SF—-6
  3. SEA—-20
  4. ARI—-25

Red Zone TD Scoring %

  1. SEA—-3
  2. SF—-7
  3. ARI—-10
  4. LAR—-19

Defense:

Total Defense:

  1. LAR—-1
  2. SF—-4
  3. ARI—-13
  4. SEA—-22

Opponents’ Points Per Game

  1. LAR—-1
  2. ARI—-12
  3. SEA—-16
  4. SF—-17

Opponents’ 1st Downs Per Game

!. LAR—-1

2. SF—-4

3. ARI—-23

4. SEA——26

Opponents’ 3rd Down %

  1. SF—-3
  2. LAR——4
  3. ARI—-11
  4. SEA—-31

Opponents’ Rushing Yards Per Game

  1. LAR—-4
  2. SEA—-5
  3. SF—-8
  4. ARI—-21

Opponents’ Passing Yards Per Game:

  1. SF—-12
  2. LAR—-15
  3. ARI—-16
  4. SEA—-18

Opponents’ Red Zone TD %

  1. ARI—-4
  2. SF—-9
  3. LAR—-12
  4. SEA—-16

Team Stats

Turnover Ratio

  1. SEA—-15
  2. ARI—-19
  3. LAR—-20
  4. SF—-31

Penalties:

  1. LAR—-2
  2. SF—-14
  3. SEA—-17
  4. ARI—-32

Special Teams Overall 2020 Rankings: (per wwwlineups.com)

https://www.lineups.com/nfl-team-rankings/special-teams

  1. SEA—-11
  2. SF—-14
  3. ARI—-18
  4. LAR—-27

Observations:

Kudos to the 2020 Cardinals for leading the NFC West in these 5 categories:

  • Pass Blocking (per PFF grades)
  • Special Teams (per PFF grades)
  • Offensive Yards Per Game
  • 4th Down Conversion %
  • Opponents’ Red Zone TD %

2020 Offense:

  • What doesn’t make a lot of sense is why the offense was so run heavy when their run blocking grades were the lowest in the division —- and yet their pass blocking grades were the highest in the division.
  • What also doesn’t make a lot of sense is how this run heavy offense was 25th in the NFL in average time of possession at 28:50 and yet was 7th in the NFL in total yards. The contributing factors are: being #32 in penalties, #21 in 3rd down conversion percentage and the Cardinals defense (#25) giving up 31:10 in time of possession to the opponents.
  • What these numbers suggest is that the Cardinals should pass more frequently and, if they commit fewer penalties and improve their 3rd down conversion percentage, because the 2020 offense was in the top 10 of the NFL in total yards (#7) and Red Zone TD percentage (#10), then just imagine what kind of numbers the offense could produce in 2021.
  • The numbers suggest that the Cardinals need to get stronger blocking up front and a little deeper and more dynamic at RB if they are going to try to maintain their focus on the running game —- and they need playmakers to emerge in the passing game.

2020 Defense:

  • The improvements the Cardinals need to make here are: reducing penalties (#32), stopping the run more consistently (#21), cutting down of the opponents’ time of possession (#25), and improving their pass coverage (#24).
  • What doesn’t make a lot sense is how well ranked the defense was in 3rd down conversions (#11) and Red Zone TD scoring percentage (#4) and scoring defense, points per game (#12), but somehow was on the field (#25) longer than the team’s offense. It was more of a classic “bend but don’t break” approach. But, as the season progressed it seemed that few down and distances seemed easy for this team to stop and that opponents, even with backup QBs, were running a number of sustained, time consuming drives. Plus, the defense had a tendency to give up costly points and momentum shifts at the ends of both halfs.
  • The numbers suggest that Personnel-wise the Cardinals need to get stronger play up front, at inside linebacker and on the perimeter at CB (both in coverage and in forcing the run)..

2020 Special Teams:

  • Started the season strong —- has some mid-season struggles —- but then finished the season strong.
  • While the Cardinals earned very good individual grades from PFF, as seen on the overall special team grades (per www.lineups.com),the units combined were a little below average on the whole. This had to do with the missed FGs, some lapses on the cover teams and a general lack of production and enthusiasm from their own kickoff and punt return teams.
  • What the numbers suggest is that the Cardinals’ special team could be special in 2021 if they add good depth to the studs they already have on the roster, if they improve the return teams (upgrade the kickoff and punt returners to get guys who are aggressive and eager) and if they get stronger consistency in converting field goals, particularly in clutch situations.