PFF Preview: Chargers @ Cardinals, Week 1
The first week of the 2014 regular season concludes with Bruce Arians’ Arizona Cardinals hosting Mike McCoy’s San Diego Chargers, at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday Night Football. It’s the Chargers’ third consecutive Monday opener, but the Cardinals’ first in seven years.
The San Diego defense ranked third to last in the NFL against the pass in 2013, with a cumulative -47.6 coverage grade, so it was no surprise to see them address the issue by adding cornerbacks — first-round draft pick Jason Verrett, and key free agent Brandon Flowers are both expected to contribute right away. Flowers struggled to adjust to the Chiefs’ press man coverage in 2013, but from 2009 to 2012 Flowers recorded coverage grades of +14.6, +14.9, +10.9 and +13.0, respectively, never finishing worse than eighth among cornerbacks.
Cardinals running back Andre Ellington led the league in big runs, recording 312 of his 652 rushing yards on just 12 carries, for an impressive 47.9% breakaway percentage. Ellington is expected to be a bigger part of the team’s offense this season, but a foot injury is threatening his involvement in this season opener. That forces the team to lean heavily upon the ultra reliable hands of Larry Fitzgerald, whose drop rate of 1.2% was the best among all receivers with 20 or more receptions in 2013.
Here are three more notable numbers for each side:
San Diego Chargers
Ladarius Green – Green’s 2.67 Yards Per Route Run ranked second among tight ends who recorded at least 20 receptions in 2013, while also recording a 66.7% catch rate on passes of 20 yards or more.
Sean Lissemore – Lissemore did enough as a rotational lineman in 2013 to earn a shot as the starting nose tackle for the Chargers. Although the sample size was small, Lissemore’s 13.7% Run Stop Percentage was joint second among all defensive linemen who played more than 20 snaps against the run.
Philip Rivers – Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of Rivers’ 2013 improvement was evident in his ability to pass under pressure; his 69.9% Accuracy Percentage under pressure was a marked improvement over his 58% from the year before.
Jared Veldheer – Veldheer struggled with injury in 2013, but his +9.1 pass block grade in 2012 was 10th best among left tackles, which is good news for an offense that recorded a league-worst -82.1 pass blocking grade last season.
Michael Floyd – Floyd caught all nine of the catchable deep passes thrown his way in 2013, and is facing a defense that was weak against the deep ball in 2013.
Patrick Peterson – In 2013, Peterson gave up just one reception for every 14.1 snaps he spent in coverage, ranking fifth among all cornerbacks.
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