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Home Grown Defensive Talent: 2022 vs. 2015, 2008

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In yesterday’s article, I offered the opinion that the Cardinals home grown talent on defense is the most impressive across the board that I have seen over the span of my six decades of being a Cardinals’ fan.

The focus of my thread yesterday was talent.

Please understand that the focus today is talent.

I would like to put this year's home grown defensive talent to the test.

Let’s put the 2022 and 2015 defenses side by side. Which one has the most home grown talent?

2022 —- 2015 (More talented players, in my opinion, in BOLD)

  • SAM OLB: Markus Golden (R2, , 2015) / Myjai Sanders (R3, 2022) ---- Markus Golden
  • LDE: Zach Allen (R3, 2019) --- Rodney Gunter
  • NT: Rashard Lawrence (R4, 2020) / Leki Fotu (R4, 2020) --- Xavier Williams
  • RDE: Cameron Thomas (R3, 2022) / Leki Fotu (R4, 2020) --- Calais Campbell
  • BANDIT OLB: Dennis Gardeck (CFA, 2018) / Cameron Thomas (R3, 2022) --- Kareem Martin
  • MIKE ILB: Zaven Collins (R1, 2021) --- Kevin Minter
  • $ ILB: Isaiah Simmons (R1, 2020) --- Deone Buchannon
  • LCB: Byron Murphy (R2, 2019) --- Patrick Peterson
  • SS: Jalen Thompson (R5-S, 2019) --- Tyrann Mathieu
  • FS: Budda Baker (R2, 2017) --- Rashad Johnson
  • RCB: Marco Wilson (R4, 2021) --- Justin Bethel

However, when we stack the 2022 talent versus the Cardinals’ Super Bowl 2008 team, it’s a tougher comparison to call.

2022 —- 2008 (More talented players, in my opinion, in BOLD)

  • SAM OLB: Markus Golden (R2, Myjai Sanders (R3, 2022) —- none
  • LDE: Zach Allen (R3, 2019) —- Darnell Dockett
  • NT: Rashard Lawrence (R4, 2020) / Leki Fotu (R4, 2020) —- Antonio Smith
  • RDE: Cameron Thomas (R3, 2022) / Leki Fotu (R4, 2020) —- Calais Campbell
  • BANDIT OLB: Dennis Gardeck (CFA, 2018) / Cameron Thomas (R3, 2022) —- none
  • MIKE ILB: Zaven Collins (R1, 2021) —- Gerald Hayes
  • $ ILB: Isaiah Simmons (R1, 2020) —- Karlos Dansby
  • LCB: Byron Murphy (R2, 2019) —- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
  • SS: Jalen Thompson (R5-S, 2019) —- Adrian Wilson
  • FS: Budda Baker (R2, 2017) —- Antrel Rolle
  • RCB: Marco Wilson (R4, 2021) —- Michael Adams

The 2008 defense was absolutely loaded on the defensive interior —-

The outside linebackers were Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor —- but neither of them were home grown and there were no home grown players behind them.

I don't think there is any question that at MIKE ILB, Zaven Collins is a more naturally talented player than Gerald Hayes. Do you agree?

At $ ILB, Karlos Dansby was not quite the physical specimen that Isaiah Simmons is, but he was a gifted playmaker. Thus, this comparison is the toughest to call, particularly this early into Isaiah Simmons’ career.

Dansby struggled in his rookie season, but started to find his groove in his second season. Isaiah Simmons’, however, did not have the benefit of regular OTAs and mini-camps, due to the pandemic.

The curious thing about Dansby is that despite being a 2nd Team All-Pro in 2013, during his 14 years in the NFL, he was never named to a Pro Bowl.

Karlos Dansby has not been inducted into the Cardinals Ring of Honor, perhaps in part due to the fact that he played only half of his NFL seasons with the Cardinals. Do you think Dansby will be inducted one day?

In the secondary, DRC was about as gifted a CB physically as the Cardinals have ever had, save for Patrick Peterson. SS Adrian Wilson is an iconic member of my All-Time Cardinals Mount Rushmore Secondary, along side of FS Larry Wilson, RCB Roger Wehril and LCB Aeneas Williams.

Antrel Rolle was perhaps more physically gifted than Budda Baker, but Budda’s quickness to the ball and superior tackling ability make him special. Antrel Rolle was a 2nd Team All-Pro twice (with the Giants, not the Cardinals) and was named to 3 Pro Bowls. However, in five seasons, Budda Baker has already been a 1st Team All-Pro twice, 2nd Team All-Pro once and has made the Pro Bowl 4 times.

Michael Adams will always be adored by Cardinals fans for his game winning strip sack of Aaron Rodgers during the 2009 playoffs. However, Marco Wilson is a superior talent.

As talented as the Cardinals’ 2008 defense was, it consistently under-achieved:

  • Yards per game: 331.5 (19th - NFL)
  • Passing Yards Per Game: 22.1 (22nd- NFL)
  • Rushing Yards Per Game: 110.2 (16th - NFL)
  • Points Per Game: 26.6 (28th - NFL)

The Cardinals defensive inconsistency was one of the reasons why at the end of the 2008 regular season, NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth called the Cardinals “the worst playoff team in the history of the NFL.”

Interestingly, the 2021 Cardinals’ defense was:

  • Yards per game: 321.9 (11th)
  • Passing Yards Per Game: 214.4 (7th)
  • Rushing Yards Per Game: 114.8 (20th)
  • Points Per Game: 21.5 (11th)

There is no denying, the Cardinals’ defense played especially well on the road, where it helped the team sweep all three NFL West games and win 8 out 9 regular season games.

For some of you, the Cardinals’ defense is just going to suck no matter what. Yesterday’s and today’s threads are tailored for those of you who can identify and appreciate talent, whether it is developed yet or not, to the point of daring to get a little excited about it.