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2013 Arizona Cardinals Report Card: Defense

January 14th, 2014 at 5:02 AM
By Steve Smith

'University of Phoenix Stadium' photo (c) 2009, Dyanna Hyde - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
The 2013 Arizona Cardinals showed improvement in several areas from the previous year, including defensively. It was one of the reasons they improved from 5-11 to 10-6.

Let's take a look at their final defensive grade for the season just gone by:

Grade: B

The Red Birds had the best rushing defense in the NFL in 2013, allowing just 84.4 yards per game. One of the main reasons why was the play of linebacker Karlos Dansby, who lobbied to make the Pro Bowl only to see teammates John Abraham and Patrick Peterson make it instead. Dansby should have made it though – he led the Cards in tackles by far (122) and added 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and four interceptions, two which he returned for touchdowns. He was the team's defensive MVP, no doubt about that.

At age 35, the veteran Abraham had a rebirth of sorts, finishing with 11.5 sacks. That led the squad and tied him for seventh in the league. Not too shabby. He obviously still has some gas left in the tank. Peterson helped Arizona rank 14th overall in pass defense, allowing 233 yards through the air. The LSU product had three interceptions and always matched up with the best receiver on the other side of the ball. That's three Pro Bowl selections in three seasons for Peterson. Now he just needs to return a punt for a TD again.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles should also get a lot of credit in his first year at the helm. The Elizabeth, NJ native is a hot head coaching candidate right now and he instilled an aggressive, ball swarming attitude amongst his players.

Calais Campbell had another fine campaign with nine sacks while rookie Tyrann Mathieu had an excellent rookie season until he tore his ACL and LCL when returning a free kick against the Rams in Week 14. He hopes to be ready by training camp but that is not certain right now. The "Honey Badger" was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month in October and made a real impact in the Cardinals' secondary this season. Mathieu still finished fourth on the Cards in tackles (68) and chipped in with two interceptions and a sack.

He has a long rehabilitation road ahead of him but hopefully Mathieu will be ready once the 2014 season commences.

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Tags: Arizona, Arizona Cardinals, Calais Campbell, Football, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu

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