Gerald Hayes (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Ken Whisenhunt suffered a multitude of ups and downs on the defensive side of the ball, but was able to buckle down and produce one “A” game. The linebackers earned head-of-the-class honors while the rest of the defense has some catching up to do. Here is a look how defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's unit graded out.
The Cardinals' defensive line did a good job tying up blockers in the running game but failed to generate much of a pass rush. They held opponents to less than a hundred rushing yards per game, but allowed teams pass for 232.2.
Bertrand Berry (torn triceps tendon) bowed out in Week 10 and his teammates were never able to pick up the slack. Joe Tafoya made an effort with two sacks and 17 tackles, but the shallow line folded late in the year.
Darnell Docket is the player this unit will build around. At 26, Dockett is one of the younger members of the line. He earned a career-high nine sacks and 58 tackles. Dockett’s issue is consistency.
The linebacker corps is the most talented unit on defense. Most of the key players earned career-highs across the board.
Gerald Hayes, Calvin Pace and Karlos Dansby all transitioned seamlessly into the 3-4 defensive scheme. Hayes tallied 98 tackles, four sacks and an interception. Pace earned similar numbers but added 2.5 more sacks. Dansby picked up 97 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Pace and Dansby are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. General Manager Rod Graves believes he is close to agreeing to terms with Pace. The team is not so close with Dansby and may have to use the franchise tag to secure his services.
The Cardinals have some talented safeties, but injuries hampered results. Adrian Wilson’s spot on injured-reserved handed Aaron Francisco the No. 1 role for the last three games of the season. Francisco kept the backfield afloat, but Arizona missed Wilson’s extensive range.
Terrence Holt earned solid tackling numbers (69) but gave up a lot of big plays. Antrel Rolle could replace Holt at free safety next season, or the Cardinals could bring in a replacement through either free agency or the draft.
Arizona's cornerbacks have been a liability for years. Last season was not the turn around that the Cardinals hoped for, but injuries played a part of that.
Eric Green (groin) missed five games and failed to earn a pick for the second consecutive year. Rolle nabbed five interceptions but struggled to hold up in man coverage.
Roderick Hood was a pleasant surprise after joining the Cardinals in free agency. He set career-highs with 57 tackles, 21 pass breakups, five interceptions and two touchdowns.
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.