Saturday, March 14, 2009

Best Cardinals Of My Fandom Team - Part 3

So, time for the defense. As usual, some of the choices were easy, and some were hard. The way I understand it, your responsibilities as a defensive player change depending on which side of the field you're on, whether you're weak side or strong side, or whether you're on the QB's blind side. So I tried to pick players representing both sides, based on the starting line-ups Pro-Football Reference provided.

Defensive Ends: Simeon Rice, 1996-2000; 73 starts, 51.5 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 7 fumbles recovered, 1 INT. Michael Bankston, 1993-1997; 76 starts, 14.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 7 fumbles recovered, 1 INT

The only other player I considered was Bertrand Berry. He and Rice both have 1 Pro Bowl appearance as a Cardinal, and Bankston has none, but Rice and Berry are also similar players. They're both lightweight speed rushers that are weak against the rush (though with Rice that may have been at least partially due to indifference), so I figured I'd only select one. Berry has the advantage of being a better teammate, but he's also been injured frequently (2008 was only his 2nd year in 5 in Arizona where he played in 12 games or more), and he's spent a lot of time playing a sort of hybrid DE-LB position the last couple seasons, so that detracts from the perfomance. Bankston doesn't have their sack totals (though he did have 7 in '94), but he has a bit more size, so he should balance them out in the run game, since he was actual a nose tackle for Arizona his rookie year (1992).

Defensive Tackle: Eric Swann, 1993-1999; 83 games, 70 starts, 39.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 8 fumbles recovered, 2 safeties, 1 INT (TD). Darnell Dockett, 2004-2008; 69 starts, 19 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 8 fumbles recovered (1 TD), 3 INTs.

There weren't really any other close competitors in my estimation. Swann is one of those frustrating players every franchise has, where you see how good he could be if only he could stay healthy. he was actually on the time from 1991-1999, and started just 84 games (9.3) per season. He did have a stretch from 94-97 where he played in 58 of 64 games, and started 56 of those, and that was when he made two Pro Bowls ('95, '96), but the rest of the time he was a too infrequent presence on the field. Still, when he was there, he commanded double teams inside. Dockett hasn't had the injury problems Swann did, but his numbers aren't quite as impressive either. Still, he demonstrated in the Super Bowl that he can be a disruptive force up the middle, and paired with Swann, they could overwhelm more than few offensive lines.

Outside Linebacker: Seth Joyner, 1994-1996; 48 starts, 12 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 4 fumbles recovered, 7 INTs. Karlos Dansby, 2004-2008; 66 starts, 24.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, 9 fumbles recovered, 9 INTs (2 TDs).

I probably cheated a little here. Joyner was listed on the Football Reference page as LLB all three years in the desert, and so was Dansby from 04-06. Then in '07 Dansby is listed a RLB, and the '08 starting lineups haven't been posted. Still, there wasn't anyone lsited predominantly as RLB that jumped out at me. Maybe Rob Frederickson, but his 53 starts, 8 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, and 3 INTs (1 TD), looked kind of paltry compared to the other 2.

Middle Linebacker: Ronald McKinnon, 1996-2004, 141 games, 119 starts, 12 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 7 fumbles recovered (1 TD), 10 INTs (1 TD).

This was incredibly easy. McKinnon was the starting MLB for seven of his seasons in Arizona, plus a year as starting RLB. There's really no one else that was close. He's one of those sort of classic middle linebacker success stories, like Sam Mills or London Fletcher, the undersized guy (6 foot, 246) from a small college (North Alabama) that goes undrafted but shows everyone they underestimated him. Granted, McKinnon's size meant he was in deep trouble if any O-linemen made it out to block him, but with the DTs I've got in front of him (assuming Swann could stay on the field) it shouldn't be a problem.

Cornerback: Aeneas Williams, 1993-2000; 128 starts, 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries (2 TDs), 37 INTs (6 TDs). Renaldo Hill, 2001-2004; 32 starts, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, 8 INTs (1 TD), 30 passes defended.

Aeneas Williams was a no-brainer, OK? 6-time Pro Bowler, 2 time 1st Team All-Pro. Good teammate, class act, family man, strong in the community, stayed in Arizona for a decade trying to help the team turn it around, everything you could want. All I wanted to mention (besides all that) was in the 2 years he was on the team prior to my becoming a fan, he started 31 games, recovered 3 more fumbles, and intercepted an additional 9 passes. So you can add those on to his totals above, if you want. I would have included his passes defended, but they didn't have it listed. The trick was who to start across from him, and it was difficult, primarily owing to the lack of any standout candidates.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has 4 INTs this year, and became the #1 corner in his rookie season, but he also didn't become the starter until about the halfway point of the season, so it's a bit early yet for him. I considered Antrell Rolle, who's in his 4th year with the team, and has 8 picks. But, he only played 5 games his rookie year, and they converted him to free safety this year, so I'd say no. There was Tom Knight, who started 53 games in 5 seasons, was a starter for 3 seasons, but intercepted only 3 passes. And keep in mind that he was playing with Aeneas all 3 of those seasons, so they had to be throwing the ball his way a bit, yet in two of his seasons, he started a total of 29 games, and intercepted 0 passes. Yes, zero.

Eventually, I narrowed it to David Barrett, Renaldo Hill, and David Macklin. David Barrett was a starter for 3 years of the 4 he was there, started 39 games, and had 6 picks. Renaldo Hill was on the team 4 years, a starter for 2, with 32 starts total and 8 INTs. David Macklin was a Cardinal for 3 years, starter for 2, with 38 starts, and 7 INTs. In the years they were starters Barrett averaged 13 starts, Hill 12.5, and Macklin 15.5. Hill has the most sacks (4.5), Barrett the most forced fumbles (5), Macklin the msot passes defended (38), and Barrett and Hill are tied with 2 fumbles recovered apiece. All of them had 1 TD. I think I chose Hill because a) I remember thinking he did a good job as a starter, and because he seemed able to rack up similar statistics to the others, but in less time.

Strong Safety: Adrian Wilson, 2001-2008; 101 starts, 18.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, 6 fumbles recovered (2 TDs), 18 INTs (2 TDs), 59 passes defended.

If you were a 49ers fan in the 90s, you might remember Tim McDonald. Turns out he was a Pro Bowler for Arizona, it just so happens he went to San Francisco right before I became a fan. Would have amde things more interesting. As it is, Wilson is the only Pro Bowler, and for his weaknesses as a pass defender, his skill at pass rushing, run support, and generally putting the fear of pain into opposing offensive players helped tap him for this spot.

Free Safety: Kwamie Lassiter, 1995-2002; 71 starts, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles recovered, 24 INTs (1 TD).

This came down to Kwamie Lassiter or Brent Alexander. I chose Lassiter partially because of seniority (5 years as starter to 3), but primarily because of style. Alexander's stats were unimpressive. 50 starts over 4 seasons, but only a half a sack, 4 INTs, 5 forced fumbles, and a single fumble recovered. Those numbers look fairly paltry compared to Lassiter's. it gives me the impression that Alexander was a "safe" free safety. He wouldn't get burned for big plays, but he wasn't going to make many big plays either. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, if your team is good enough everywhere else, it's probably for the best, but I'd rather have a chance taker, who might kill you, but might also kill the other team. Plus, Lassiter picked off a bunch of passes in '98 to help the Cardinals make the playoffs, and that doesn't hurt my opinion of him any.

In case you're wondering about special teams, and I doubt you were, I'm taking Scott Player as my punter, on the basis of his many years of service, and Rackers as my kicker, for his Pro Bowl, and general usefulness this season. And with that, this exercise no one's been reading draws to a close. Thanks if you have been reading. Hopefully you were a little entertained.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Best Cardinals Of My Fandom Team - Part 2

It's part 2, which is going to go much more quickly because we're talking offensive line this time, and truth be told, I don't know how to properly rate offensive linemen, and I don't see the answer crashing down from heaven anytime soon, so best to just get on with it.

Left Tackle - Lomas Brown 1996-1998.

L.J. Shelton actually has more years as the starter, but Brown has a Pro Bowl, and I recall Shelton being kind of a bust, especially for being a 1st round pick (21st overall). Leonard Davis had 3 years here as well (2004-2006), but again, he suffers from never living up to the hype placed on him being drafted 2nd overall. Luis Sharpe probably merited consideration, since he was a 3-time Pro Bowler, but all of those were in the late '80s, outside the purview of this exercise.

Left Guard - Pete Kendall 2001-2002.

Funny thing, no Arizona Cardinal has been the starting left guard more than 2 consecutive seasons. Whether that means they can't find anyone good, or they don't consider it a position worth finding a long-term answer for, I don't know. Given their track record for the majority of the period in question, I'd bet on the former. As for why Kendall, I just remember him getting generally good grades in the reports after games.

Center - Ed Cunningham 1993-1995.

Only person with 3 years as starting center. Yeah, it's that basic.

Right Guard - Anthony Redmon 1995-1997.

Redmon started 41 games those 3 years, Lester Holmes 45 from 98-00, and Deuce Lutui has 40 starts the last 3 years. I know Lutui has a penchant for penalties, and there was considerable talk this year about him getting benched at times. Holmes never played in the NFl again after leaving Arizona, despite being just 31, while Redmon logged 2 years with the Carolina, and 1 with Atlanta, including one year as starting right guard. Holmes was a 1st round choice for Philly, Lutui a 2nd for Arizona, Redmon a 5th round choice. So I guess I'm choosing the underdog.

Right Tackle - Anthony Clement 1999-2001, 2003

I don't think Clement was ever anything to write home about, to be honest. he was a massive guy, and he and Shelton were supposed to be these massive bookend tackles that would protect Plummer and open lanes for the running game, but it never really came to fruition. Clement seemed to be hurt frequently, and his size left him vulnerable to speed rushers. Still, he logged more time there than anyone else, so I guess he'll do.

Well, that was entirely unsatisfying, but I never was that well-versed on what makes linemen good or bad. Next time, I'll focus on the defensive side, so hopefully that will be a little more interesting.

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