Cardinals: Run-blocking Iupati to take over at guard

| 2 years ago

Cardinals: Run-blocking Iupati to take over at guard

PFF-headlinesMike Iupati has signed a deal that sees him remain in the NFC West and move to the Arizona Cardinals. The deal represents a curious fit for a player who has clear upside, and can be a crushing run blocker, but has always struggled a bit in pass protection.

While the Cardinals don’t throw as often as some teams, when they do it is often down field and requires a lot of the pass protection holding up to give them the time to execute those shots. Drew Stanton led the NFL in average depth of target last year at 11.7 and both he and Palmer had the ball in their hands for 2.6 or more seconds on 43.5% of their dropbacks.

Iupati has never earned a positive grade at PFF over a season for pass protection and last season he earned a -7.5 grade thanks in large part to surrendering seven sacks, a league-high among guards.

Iupati’s Pass Blocking Efficiency of 95.1 was worse than all but nine other guards managed in 2014 and only seven surrendered more than the 31 total pressures he gave up.

Pass protection is definitely an issue, but there is no doubt protecting for a more predictable quarterback like Carson Palmer will make life easier for somebody like Iupati. Colin Kaepernick’s athleticism and ability to take off and scramble can be a double-edged sword when it comes to pass blocking for as much as he can bail his blockers out when they lose their man, he can also undermine their blocks by careless movement in the pocket.

Iupati headline


| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • sidbrown210

    I like the attempt to clean it up PFF.

  • MosesZD

    Struggled ‘a bit’ You rated him at 55th!!!! And what upside? He’s shown zero ability to get better as pass protector..

    And, for the record, 7 sacks allowed as a guard is worse than pathetic. A decent guard shouldn’t give up more than 3 or 4 sacks. And good guards can go years without giving up a sack.

    And considering the NFL is a passing league in this day and age… I just hope Carson Palmer has a full-exoskeleton body-brace available. He’s going to need it.

    • Andrew Maples

      When you are blocking for a guy as improv as CK, nearly every other dropback is going to result in at minimum a pressure, because the QB can go through his reads, and wants to “live or die, by the 3…”

      In this case, CK simply wants to look for the big play, and is one the worst rated QBs in the various stats that have the most effect on OLinemans’ grades.

      Under Arians, and with Palmer under center, nearly every negative stat of Iupati’s is bound to improve just based on the sheer predictability of knowing what the QB is going to most likely do, and where that transitions into a Protection scheme and its’ said “execution rate”

      More importantly, what happened in SF, is statistically irrelevant towards what happens or can be expected for 2015 In AZ. Often times the system alone can dictate production. Which can be good or bad.

      In this case, Iupati will be joining Veldheer and Cooper (at the very least), so run production shouldn’t fall off with AE/DJ running. But regardless, the production is all but guaranteed to improve from last years.

      In other words, AZ doesn’t need a great pass protector, to have a more beneficial output from the Left Guard position. Iupatis’ impact in various other aspects will trump all the other issues that were perceived due to his stint with an unpredictable CK behind center.

      People may say, well that also equals a more predictable offense for the Defense to exploit, but that’s only true depending on the outcome of essentially a “22-man battle royal” that occurs per snap.

      Across the entire Cardinals lineup, you will see a huge amount of overall upgrades at an alarming high number of key positions. Alarmingly, as in, for a team coming off an 11 win season. QB1 is improved for at least 10 games. RB1 is improved for at least 4 games, but is probably healthier in at least 10 additional games compared to last year. That is enlarge part due to RB2 (D Johnson) coming in and filling in for Dwyer, who was n/a for roughly 15 games In 2014 (Another “key position” that is being improved, on top of what garnered 11 wins last year). I can go on.

      LG (Iupati over Larsen).

      C (Shipley over Sendlein, who was -29.1 overall for 2014… ANYTHING is an upgrade over that).

      RG (Cooper over Fanaika: Coop is finally at the 2 year mark that has been well documented as the “threshold” for people the size of OL/DL to return to 100% capabilities)

      RT (huge Battle between Massie, who wasn’t awful in 2014, and 1st round pick DJ Humphries)

      TE (Niklas will be fully healthy, and was expected to be the #1 TE at this point anyways. Fells, towards the end of last year, had already started making bigger splashes than Carlson, and had finally reached a level of respectability towards his blocking. Dont believe me, check the tape. Both will be hard to surplant for snaps as it is, goin inot 2015, And if anybody else does make it on the field that’s an improvement compared to last year’s dismal effort from the position, mainly due to injuries/Ballard retirement)

      WR4/5 (Ginn was a huge fail. Having another year under Jarons belt will be an upgrade, and adding JJ Nelson to platoon with John Brown will not only add depth to a coveted deep threat option for Arians , but also reaffirms health and longevity through an entire season.

      Punter (Zastudil is basically an all pro punter. He had like a halfdozen punts before getting injured. Yes the cards can also expect this position to be upgraded from their 11 win 2014 campaign.

      PR/KR (again, Ginn was a huge fail. Check the stats. JJ with his 4.2 speed should be an upgrade at this position.

      Secondary – “losing Cross hurts…”, or does it?

      In the last 10 games of 2013, pre-Cro, AZ allowed 187 points (18.7 ppg… moving on)… but Mathieu was injured for the final 3, so looking at the 7 games he did start, AZ allowed just 120 points (17.1ppg). This is over 1.5 ppg LESS than what AZ allowed, with Cro, in 2014 (18.6ppg). That’s right! PP21, Powers, RJ, Mathieu and… wait for it…. Tony Jefferson (no disrespect intended, TJ’s a really good player) were all, relatively, better than the 2014 Cardinals. Going into this year, with PP21, Powers, Mathiue, Deone, RJ, Bethel and TJ, it was already going to be tough to replace any of those players for snaps (Even in a dime package, let alone a standard 4 DB set, or Nickel situations.

      Yet the 2015 team will also include

      DWash (at some point, hopefully… please?!),

      a fully healthy Mathieu,

      Shaughnessy for more than just a handfull of games,


      These are the players that are replacing,


      D Williams(played like 33% of the snaps),

      S Acho (only had like half a dozen sacks all season),

      Foote (smart, but can’t cover a pillow with a king-sized blanket),


      To me, I see very few “expected drop offs” across the entire cardinals roster. And in fact, I see huge upgrades that, when combined to the 11 win team from just last year, is something that I think is being drastically overlooked at this point.

      This team was poised to be better than they were in 14, just based solely on their 2014 roster returning from IR/Susp. Yet when you account for all their losses, and balance it against all their additions… you literally are left with like 9 of the key 25 roster positions being upgraded. And only a minimal amount of drop off amongst maybe 2 or 3 positions (that could easily be made up for by the unknown (rookie production, full strength chemistry/production/etc. Sometimes having DWash there, makes everyone on the defense better. Like, the same way Palmer effects the offense.

      Cards are 13-3 over Palmers last 16 starts. When I look at their 2015 team and compare it to everything I can from anybody those rosters that Palmer lead, I can see significant improvementa at several key positions.

      To me, that equates to more than. 14 wins.

      If anyone is willing to give me 15-1 odds, I will bet 100 bucks that AZ wins 13 games in 2015. But if I’m right, again you have to pay me 1500.

      The funniest thing about the Cards, is that for a mojority of last year, we all at one point or another heard everyone say, “it’s amazing to think how good this team could be when healthy”…

      Yes that included the likes of Cro and Dockett (who’s now gone). but regardless of those losses, it was known that this team had that many key players not contributing to an 11 win campaign. Throw in every one else that’s been added and it’s literally farfetched to think that an 11 win team can improve this drastically on paper.

      Look at the stats for each individual position/group of players and tell me where exactly I should see a potential drop off in production.

      As of this moment, I think I’ve read 1 article from three Eight five (or whoever) that said AZ got an exorbitantly high amount of fumble recoveries in 14.

      This is basically saying that AZ got lucky in the fumble recovery department enough to win them like 3 games more than what was expected…

      Ok, so energy, awareness, rally-to-the-football mentality aside, as if none of things have anything to do with this stat, is saying AZ got 3 wins based on stats, yet those conclusions can’t point to 1 game that shows a single fumble that decidedly equated to an AZ win.

      Doesn’t the injuries to their mainstay of personnel, equal at least 3 wins (to offset that luckiness of fumbles theory)? And if so, why do people feel like AZ will only win 7 games in 2015 (Bleacher Report)?

      We’re not simply talking about, “this guy was good in college, and we have a huge need, so we’re gonna be super awesome this year…” BLAH BLAH BLAH.

      Any aspect of the Cardinals team, as it sits right now, has to be considered amongst the wholeness of the team. That’s a given when talking about an 11 win team that has retained a majority of its starters and returns several key players from IR. For anyone to look at their situation and think that 11 wins(or more)bist already a given, either is blind, doesn’t know a thing about football, or has some personal issue with the Cards in general.

      Put your homerisms aside, go position by position for each of the Cards main starters from last year and this year, and tell me there isn’t vast improvements overall. Only a fool couldn’t see the improvements. In fact it’s almost insane to not run to Vegas and bet the mortgage on the Cards current odds (8 wins… lol)

  • Jaguars28

    Arizona needed to upgrade the interior line any way they could. Good signing.