≡ Menu

538: NFC West Preview Articles

Yesterday, Neil Paine previewed the NFC East teams over at FiveThirtyEight. Today, yours truly is up with a look at the NFC West.

The Cardinals won 10 games last year, only the second time the team reached double digits in victories since moving to Arizona in 1988. Their run defense was the key. The Cardinals allowed just 1,351 rushing yards, the fewest in the NFL. They ranked first in rushing defense DVOA, Football Outsiders’ main defensive statistic, and stuffed opposing ball-carriers for no gain or a loss on 28 percent of runs, the most in the NFL.

But three of the key players responsible for that success are gone, including inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby was one of just two players in 2013 to record 100 tackles, more than four sacks, and more than four interceptions. He is a very good run defender, but he is also a strong pass-rusher and is excellent in pass coverage. Of course, that’s why the Cleveland Browns signed him to a four-year, $24 million deal on the first day of free agency.

The Cardinals were prepared for Dansby’s departure, but the other two exits left the team with little time to find a solution. In June, starting inside linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the season for (again) violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Like Dansby, Washington is a versatile player: He’s a great pass-rusher (his nine sacks in 2012 were the most by an inside linebacker since Bart Scott’s 9.5 in 2006) and above-average in coverage, in addition to being a strong run-defender.

And last Monday, defensive end Darnell Dockett was lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. Dockett is not just an above-average 3-4 defensive end against the run, but a team leader and — along with superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald — the player on the team with the longest tenure.

You can read the full article here.

  • I still find it very strange the way people are acting like the Rams had their season ended by the Bradford injury. It’s like when the Browns traded Trent Richardson and people insisted all year long that it was some sort of terrible loss for them. Your last sentence about them is pretty much a perfect summation of that situation.

    Remember when saying anything non-complimentary about Bradford meant you were a numbers freak who had never watched him play? (Still one of my favorite Chase Stuart pieces: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=9017)

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks, Shattenjager. I’m with you. And thanks for bringing up one of the few articles where I look really good with the benefit of hindsight!

    • Nick Bradley

      Bradford simply isn’t that good, so its not a big deal

    • Red

      In the long run, this might be the best thing that could have happened to the Rams. Bradford is a low-ceiling QB in the mold of Alex Smith, and he carries a massive salary cap number. I doubt STL would have contended this year, regardless of whether or not Bradford played. Now they can cut bait after 2014 and get a head start on drafting and developing their real franchise QB.

  • Nick Bradley

    Hey Chase: have you thought about doing AV-adjusted team age for 2014 rosters going into the season? I think it will yield some interesting results

    • Chase Stuart

      The problem, of course, is we don’t have 2014 AV grades.

      • Nick Bradley

        Oh I’m just saying to look at offseason roster turnover.

        Did anyone replace a 35 year old guard with a first round pick, for example