Rookie tailback Andre Ellington has been the surprise of the season so far. Drafted in the sixth round, the Clemson product had a breakout game against the Falcons on Oct. 27 with 154 yards on 15 carries and a sensational 80-yard scoring run. He looks like a future star. Quarterback Carson Palmer has been up and down – he has 10 touchdown passes but 14 interceptions, the second most in the league. He has to be protected at all costs. He has no mobility. Larry Fitzgerald has been hampered by hamstring issues most of the season but still has five TD catches, one more than last season. Michael Floyd (34-433-2 TD) has continued to make progress in his second NFL campaign. Tight end Rob Housler (14-135-0 TD) has been disappointing once again. Veteran Rashard Mendenhall has scored three rushing touchdowns but is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry.
The Red Birds rank fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (88.2 YPG) and fifth in sacks (23). Linebacker Karlos Dansby has played like a Pro Bowler, leading the team in tackles (71) by a wide margin. He's also added three sacks. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is playing at an All-Pro level again with three interceptions and 21 tackles. Daryl Washington, who was suspended for the first four games, is starting to regain his dominant form. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell pace Arizona with four sacks each while rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu is a playmaker – he was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month of October. No one wants to face this defensive unit right now.
Special Teams: C+
Arizona's special teams have been solid but not overly "special". Jay Feely has connected on 14 of 15 field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. The Michigan product looks as good as ever at 37 years of age. Punter Dave Zastudil has enjoyed a good campaign, averaging 45.1 yards per boot, but he was even better last season. The kickoff and punt coverage units have been good if not spectacular. No one has distinguished themselves returning punts or kickoffs to date. When is Peterson, who had four punt returns for a TD in 2011, finally going to break one to pay dirt again?
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