The 49ers’ offensive line better be ready this week: the Cardinals’ pass rush has it’s groove back, thanks to the return of inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
Washington, who was suspended the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, made an instant impact with nine tackles, two sacks and an interception against the Panthers in Week 5. But it just wasn’t Washington’s personal results—it was also the impact that his presence created for the rest of the defense. Basically, Washington helped the Cardinals return to their swarming ways of last season. Not only was Arizona The MMQB’s top pass rushing team of the week, but tackle/end Calais Campbell was also the Interior Rusher of the Week, just ahead of Washington.
“I’ll tell you, that guy is one of the most special players to play with,” Campbell told The MMQB this week. “He just adds a boost of confidence because you know what we he can do. And for the rest of the season, teams have to gameplan against him so they can’t gameplan against me as much. He can do so much. There’s nothing he can’t do on the field—he’s the best blitzing linebacker in the game, and he just adds another dimension to our pass rush.”
Not surprisingly, the Cardinals’ posted their best pass rushing game of the season. Arizona entered Week 5 ranked 23rd in pressure rate (23.1 percent). It’s now jumped to 17th (26.1 percent) with Washington back (and, to be fair, playing against Carolina’s porous offensive line).
“That’s definitely not a coincidence at all,” Campbell said. “That’s just the way it is when D-Wash comes on the field. He makes all of us better.”
As for Campbell, he was immense with two unassisted sacks—which caused a safety and a fumble—and assisted three other sacks (one full sack assist and two half sack assists). Campbell also added two hurries and one quarterback hit.
“That was part of the game plan,” Campbell said. “Studying the film, we knew we would have some advantages against the O-line and we tried to exploit them. We knew we were going to blitz a lot and we did what we wanted to do, and it worked out for us.”
The Cardinals’ aggressive game plan was on display on this 3rd-and-9 play in the second quarter. Washington (58) drew two blockers, which singled up Campbell (93). He nearly brought down quarterback Cam Newton, and then blitzing defensive back Tyriann Matheiu (32) finished off the sack.
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Edge rusher of Week 5
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. At 32-years old, and with longtime bookend rusher Dwight Freeney gone to San Diego, the end looked to be near for Mathis. So much for that. Mathis had two sack and five hurries against the Seahawks, finishing as our top-rated pass rusher of Week 5 (4.50 pressure points). For the season he ranks third in rate (11.7 percent). Mathis hasn’t pushed higher because four of his sacks have come in the “other” category (unblocked, garbage time and coverage sacks fall into that category). Mathis is tied with Buffalo’s Mario Williams with “other” sacks. For those scoring at home, Terrell Suggs and Ryan Kerrigan lead the NFL with four solo (or unassisted) sacks. In any event, Mathis is having a much-needed huge season for the Colts, who already lost first-round pass rusher Bjoern Werner for the season.
Week 5 edge rusher rankings
Cumulative edge rusher rankings
Unsung edge rusher of Week 5
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
Being third in total pressure points (18.5) and fourth with an 11.6 pressure rate doesn’t exactly make you unsung for the season, but Quinn was just that in Week 5. Despite not having a sack, Quinn still tied for third with 4.0 pressure points with five hurries and three quarterback hits. No stat sheet glory, but a big impact nonetheless.
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Interior rusher of Week 5
Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals
As mentioned in the lead item, Campbell had two unassisted sacks—which caused a safety and a fumble—and assisted three other sacks (one full sack assist and two half sack assists). He also added two hurries and one QB hit.
Week 5 interior rusher rankings
Cumulative interior rusher rankings
Unsung interior rusher of Week 5
Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins
Starks has showed up every week on film despite having just two sacks to his name. His pressure rate of 7.1 percent is eighth among interior rushers this season. Starks was the only player among the top 10 interior rushers of Week 5 not to have a sack, yet he finished fifth with three points because he had three hurries and three hits. That’s something the traditional stat sheet wouldn’t tell you.
WEEK 5: TEAM PRESSURE POINTS
CUMULATIVE TEAM PRESSURE POINTS
TOTAL PRESSURE POINTS ALLOWED BY O-LINES