After taking a few days to focus on the 2013 NFL scouting combine, "Shutdown Corner" resumes our look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals.
2012 record: 5-11
What went wrong: October. November. Come to think of it, December wasn't too great, either. Following a 4-0 start to the 2012 season, the Cardinals' season took a nosedive as the team lost 11 of the final 12 games to end the season and led to major changes in the front office and sidelines this offseason.
The Cardinals' main problems were an offense that averaged 263.1 yards and 15.6 points per game. Arizona ranked 32nd in a 32-team league in total offense, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per play, passing yards per play, sacks allowed per pass attempt and third-down percentage. The Cardinals were 31st in the red zone and scoring offense. While it's true that the Cardinals played in a division with outstanding defenses (San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis), when you adjust for opponent, which Football Outsiders does, the Cardinals still finished 32nd in offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).
Arizona's quarterback position was a revolving door in 2012. Kevin Kolb opened the season as the starter, completing 59.6 percent of 183 pass attempts for 1,169 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions in six games before his season was ended by a rib injury. 2011 fifth-round pick John Skelton took over for Kolb, but would struggle, tossing nine interceptions to go with a pair of touchdown passes. The Cardinals eventually turned to 2012 sixth-round pick Ryan Lindley, who was intercepted seven times on just 171 pass attempts and is still seeking his first touchdown pass. Even Brian Hoyer, who joined the team off the waiver wire in Week 15, made a start for the Cardinals.
Overall, Cardinals quarterbacks completed 337-of-608 pass attempts for 3,383 yards with 11 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and were sacked a league-high 58 times, losing six fumbles in the process. The 58 sacks allowed show that the offensive line remains an issue for the Cardinals, who by the end of the 2012 season were starting seventh-round project Nate Potter at left tackle as Levi Brown missed the entire season with a triceps injury.
What went right: The Cardinals' offense may have been a dumpster fire, but their defense was solid in 2012. Ray Horton's charges ranked 12th in total defense, was second in the league on third down, first in interception rate, third in the red zone and was fifth in passing yards allowed per game. According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, the Cardinals defense was sixth in defensive DVOA, including second in pass defense DVOA.
One of the defensive standouts was cornerback Patrick Peterson, who made the Pro Bowl in 2011 for his return skills, but returned in 2012 due to his coverage prowess, finishing fourth in the NFL with seven interceptions on the season. Peterson would be joined in Hawaii by inside linebacker Daryl Washington, who led the Cardinals with 134 tackles, including a team-high nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss to go along with an interception. Defensive end Calais Campbell had another strong season, posting 6.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, 12 hits on opposing quarterbacks, six passes defensed and blocked a field goal in a 20-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the season-opener.
Coaching/front office changes: The Cardinals made sweeping changes this offseason, firing GM Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt on the day after the regular season finale. To replace Graves, the Cardinals promoted from within by elevating Steve Keim to the GM spot. The Cardinals' head coaching search ended with the hiring of Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has hired Harold Goodwin (offensive), Todd Bowles (defensive) and Amos Jones (special teams) as his coordinator. Former defensive coordinator and head coach candidate Ray Horton left the team to take the same position with the Cleveland Browns.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $2.7 million over their estimated 2013 adjusted cap number.
Possible cap casualties: We'll get to Kevin Kolb, but the most likely cap casualty is inside linebacker Stewart Bradley, who has failed to crack the Cardinals' starting lineup in the first two seasons of a five-year, $30 million that was signed after the lockout. Bradley took a 50 percent pay cut last year and is unlikely to return due to the $5.5 million in cash and $6.5 million cap number in 2013. Releasing Bradley would save the Cardinals $3.5 million in cap space.
The Cardinals will need to make a decision on Kolb, who is due $11.5 million in cash this season, including a $2 million roster bonus that is due on March 16. Kolb has a $13.5 million cap number in 2013 and, while a renegotiated contract is an option, his release would save $7.5 million in space.
Unrestricted free agents
Michael Adams, CB
D'Anthony Batiste, OT
Nick Eason, DE
Quentin Groves, LB
Vonnie Holliday, DE
Rashad Johnson, S
Paris Lenon, LB
Pat McQuistan, OT
Rich Ohrnberger, C/G
James Sanders, S
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB
Greg Toler, CB
Restricted free agents
Brian Hoyer, QB
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: The Cardinals do not have an unrestricted who would warrant the use of the franchise tag this offseason.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins
NFC North: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers
NFC South: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons
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