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Positive Top 10 Grades For Cardinals Defense

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Background: Oct 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) pushes Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) out of bounds during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale

The young talent on the Cardinals’ defense is beginning to blossom.

When you peruse the Cardinals’ Top 10 PFF grades on defense versus the Eagles (thanks to Joe Comeau), what stands out to you?

This was my response to The Professor:

Of course, it is fantastic to see LB Isaiah Simmons not only playing the majority of the defensive snaps, but also earning the top grade, by virtue of his 13 tackle performance (one of which on QB Jalen Hurts is pictured above).

Byron Murphy has been the most reliable and the most physical player in the Cardinals’ secondary this season. The trio of Budda Baker (65.5), Jalen Thompson (69.7) and Byron Murphy (73.0) played hard and fast —- have you noticed that the Cardinals’ opponents are more than a little reluctant to throw over the middle?

The question is —- which CB opposite Byron Murphy will emerge as a tour de force?

Marco Wilson (45.2 on 68 snaps) continues to struggle, not only in coverage, but in forcing the run and blowing up screens. His run defense grade of 28.6 and tackling grade of 44.6 are two of the reasons why his overall grade after 5 games is 37.7.

Trayvon Mullen (40.4) did not grade much better in his 19 snaps thus far and is now dealing with a hamstring injury.

Antonio Hamilton (55.4) in his 16 snaps versus PHI was good in coverage giving up 8 yards on 1 target, but was not effective tackling (23.1). Chances are that once Hamilton gets his feet back under him, he could make a profound impact in rounding out the secondary.

But, a guy to keep an eye on is 2022 7th round draft sleeper Christian Matthew. He’s only been given 2 defensive snaps this year, but has made the most of them while posting the highest defensive grade on the team at 79.5. As we saw in the pre-season and on special teams thus far (81.7), Christian Matthew brings a physical presence and a baller’s mentally.

On the defensive interior, Zach Allen (65.8), JJ Watt (66.9) and Michael Dogbe (66.0) turned in commendable efforts this week and helped to stifle PHI RB Miles Sanders, while putting solid pressure on Jalen Hurts.

It will be quite a bonus when the team gets back emerging leader, NT Rashard Lawrence, who has been one of the team’s brightest performers.

Top 5 defensive grades after 5 games:

  1. Zach Allen —- 76.6
  2. Dennis Gardeck —- 74.8
  3. JJ Watt —- 72.9
  4. Rashard Lawrence —- 71.1
  5. Byron Murphy —- 67.4

How often have we seen 3 defensive interior players graded in the top 5?

At linebacker, Zaven Collins (56.7 on 73 snaps) was inconsistent this game. Imagine what the defense could accomplish when Collins and Isaiah Simmons are both playing well.

On the edge, it was good to see Cameron Thomas (69.8) continue to grade well in his limited action. Good to see Myjai Sanders (65.2) not only get his first snaps of the season, but also grade well in his limited action.

Edge Grades (through 5 games):

  • Dennis Gardeck —- 74.8
  • Cameron Thomas —- 69.8
  • Myjai Sanders —- 65.2
  • Victor Dimukeje —- 60.2
  • Devon Kennard —- 59.1
  • Markus Golden —- 56.2


  • JJ Watt —- 2.5
  • Zach Allen —- 2
  • Dennis Gardeck —- 1
  • Byron Murphy —- 0.5

QB Pressures:

  • Zach Allen —- 15
  • JJ Watt —- 11
  • Markus Golden —- 11
  • Dennis Gardeck —- 9

The Cardinals are being linked to edge rushers like Robert Quinn and Brian Burns as potential trade targets.

I made the point last week, that it would be very good to know whether Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders can start making splashes, because, spending big draft capital on an edge rusher when the Cardinals have re-signed Dennis Gardeck to a 3 year deal, re-signed Markus Golden to a 1 year extension and have drafted 4 edge players (Thomas, Sanders, Dimukeje, Luketa) in the past two years, already feels like a very strong commitment to the position.

  • Robert Quinn —- 36.1 PFF grade —- 10 pressures, 1 sack —- asking price? Day 2 pick?
  • Brian Burns —- 72.8 PFF grade —- 24 pressures, 4 sacks —- asking price? 1st Round pick in 2023, plus 2nd Round pick in 2024?

What are your thoughts about the Cardinals making a trade for an edge rusher? What draft capital would you be willing to give up for one of the top edge rushers at their given ages?

Other potential edge rusher targets?

What are your thoughts about the CB position opposite Byron Murphy?