WR Larry Fitzgerald (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The Cardinals snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday with a 41-17 blowout win against the Buffalo Bills. With most of the division struggling, Arizona has an opportunity to distance itself from the competition over the coming weeks. Brad Wilbricht dissects the current state of the Cardinals and breaks down their early season performance.
As expected, the Cardinals’ offense has been tremendous over the first five games of the season. Arizona is currently ranked fourth in the league in points scored (147) and fifth in total yards per game (376.8). QB Kurt Warner has thrown for over 1,400 yards and has 10 touchdown passes on the year. Furthermore, he’s completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and is fourth in the NFL with a QB rating of 102.5.
Although Anquan Boldin missed last week’s game due to injury, he and Larry Fitzgerald continue to perform at a Pro Bowl level. Fitzgerald has racked up 497 yards receiving, second most in the league behind Packers WR Greg Jennings. In only four games, Boldin has reeled in 27 passes for 366 yards. Additionally, he is currently tied for the NFL lead with five touchdown grabs.
On the ground, the Cardinals still lack game-breaking ability. While rookie RB Tim Hightower has provided a spark to the running game, Arizona is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry and has a long run of just 17 yards. Veteran RB Edgerrin James leads the team with 92 carries for 334 yards. On a positive note, the Cardinals' ground game has managed to reach paydirt eight times and has fumbled only once.
Arizona invested in multiple free-agent acquisitions this offseason and has already reaped the benefits. Linebackers Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans have significantly upgraded the Cardinals’ pass rush as they’ve totaled 15 sacks on the year. Arizona had just 24 sacks all of last season. LaBoy is currently tops on the team with four sacks while Haggans has 1.5 sacks.
In addition to the newcomers on defense, the return of Adrian Wilson, Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor have helped jump start Clancy Pendergast’s defensive unit. Although Wilson and Berry have already been dinged up, their veteran leadership has been invaluable. Okeafor has been all over the field thus far, totaling 13 tackles, two sacks and one interception.
Punter Dirk Johnson is only averaging 42.5 yards per punt but he’s currently ranked third in the NFL landing 46.2 percent of his kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Only four of his 13 boots have been returned in the season. While kicker Neil Rackers has been shaky at times on kickoffs, he’s nailed all 16 of his extra points and has connected on seven of nine field goal attempts.
Outside of dismal performance against the New York Jets, the Cardinals have largely been a success up to this point in the season. Before heading into the bye week, Arizona will face the ultimate task against the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys this Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. This week’s matchup against the Cowboys will give the Cardinals an excellent opportunity to see how they stack up against one of the NFC’s elite teams.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org