Cardinals making up for lost personnel

GLENDALE, Ariz. – No NFL team remains the same from one year to the next. There are always players that move on, whether it be because of a trade, a release or retirement. Every team has to reload at various positions to make themselves viable in the fight for a world championship.

Cole Schultz over at Pro Football Focus took a look at the Arizona Cardinals, in a series called “Snaps Lost,” and in it, Schultz analyzed the Cardinals, and what they lost manpower wise in the offseason, and if they’re worse off after the losses.

Schultz and Pro Football Focus measure the losses with what they call a “Full Time Equivalent” metric, which is the total number of missing snaps, divided by the number of plays the team ran on that side of the ball. It measures how many full-time players (100% snap count) a team would need to bring on to make up for their offseason losses. The “FTE” can only fall between zero (no players left the team) and 11 (if everyone left on offense or defense).

Schultz had a few caveats to mention before he got down to the nuts and bolts of the Cardinals’ situation:

  • Suspensions and injuries that might limit 2015 snaps counts aren’t considered.
  • Biggest losses are strictly in terms of snap count, not necessarily in terms of impact.
  • All snap counts are for the regular season only.

In terms of the Cardinals, their overall FTE lost was 6.73, ranking them 28th out of the 32 NFL teams. Schultz broke it down further, going from offense to defense:

Offense

FTE Lost: 3.18, 24th

Biggest Losses: Lyle Sendlein (1,089), Paul Fanaika (916), John Carlson (755), Rob Housler (327)

Summary – Both Sendlein and Fanaika struggled in 2014, each grading below -20.0 for their work on the year. At tight end, neither Carlson (-25.0) nor Housler (-8.2) did any better, so while the Cardinals’ losses on offense were plentiful, they don’t seem to be any worse for it.

Replacement Plan – Mike Iupati was brought in from their division rival to help shore up the line. He won’t replace Fanaika directly, but he’ll come in at left guard and bump the oft-injured Jonathan Cooper over to the right side. Ted Larsen will kick inside to Sendlein’s center spot after a poor showing at guard in 2014, and Arizona will hope he’s less exposed as a pass protector there. The Cardinals failed to address the tight end position in free agency or the draft (seventh round, notwithstanding) so it’s likely an open competition between Darren Fells and Troy Niklas, both of whom played sparingly last year.

Defense

FTE Lost: 3.55, 24th

Biggest Losses: Larry Foote (1,018), Antonio Cromartie (1,012), Tommy Kelly (726), Sam Acho (483), Dan Williams (427)

Summary – The Cardinals lose two full-timers in Cromartie, who was poached by the Jets, and Foote. At 34 years old, Kelly was allowed to walk even though he was reasonably productive in 2014. Williams took big bucks to take his run-stuffing skills to Oakland, while Acho moved on to Chicago after four underwhelming years in Glendale.

Replacement Plan – One year removed from a torn Achilles, Sean Weatherspoon was signed on a one-year deal and should have the inside track over Kevin Minter to start in place of Foote. The loss of Cromartie may take more than one person to replace. Jerraud Powers should move into the starting role from the nickel, and a fully healthy Tyrann Mathieu could easily double his 438 snaps from last year. The two big departures on the defensive line were countered by the addition of Corey Peters and Cory Redding in free agency and Rodney Gunter in the draft. Acho’s snaps won’t be missed much if Matt Shaughnessy stays healthy (though he’ll reportedly play more inside this year) and second-round pick Markus Golden adapts quickly to the NFL.

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