Three Arizona Cardinals are already garnering some national attention before the pads even come on.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson, running back David Johnson and linebacker Chandler Jones all made the cut of CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco’s top 100 NFL players of 2019 on Tuesday.
The bad news?
They all fell down the ranking in this year’s edition.
Leading the trio was Patrick Peterson, who came in at No. 42 despite his suspension.
He is suspended for the first six games, which means he can’t go to the Pro Bowl. But he’s still an outstanding cover player.
While the All-Pro cornerback isn’t eligible to play until Week 7 against the New York Giants, he still finds himself in the top 50.
Even with not playing six games, Prisco sees Peterson as the top Cardinal on the team.
In a seemingly down 2018, Peterson recorded two interceptions, five passes defensed (a career low), a sack and 54 total tackles in 16 starts.
Last season’s stats certainly affected Peterson’s ranking as he sat at 29th just a year before.
He has less time on the field this time around, but last season’s marks are easily attainable, and can be exceeded, for someone of his caliber. In his eight seasons, Peterson has made fewer than two picks just once (2017) in his career.
Wedged between Ravens guard Marshal Yanda and Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa was Johnson at No. 55.
Johnson saw the biggest drop out of his teammates from 2018’s rankings, falling from 21st.
His numbers weren’t great last season, but there are reasons for it. I see him bouncing back in a big way, maybe even with a 1,000-1,000 season.
Last season, Johnson accounted for 258 of the team’s 355 carries. But while he sat third among NFL running backs in attempts last season, the team as whole fell to 28th.
His target share also took a dip, dropping from 120 in 2016 to 76 in 2018, showing a lack of utilizing his skillset.
Adding to that, Arizona ranked dead last in total offense (241.6 yards per game), total points (225), rushing yards per attempt (3.8) and rushing yards per game (83.9).
Much of that can be credited to an offensive line that saw as many as 10 different line combinations, and finished the season with seven linemen on the injured reserve.
That paired with former rookie quarterback Josh Rosen’s rough first season only added to Johnson’s fall.
But things are looking up for the running back, who enters 2019 with a new-look offense that will “revamp” what he can do under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Rounding out the three is Jones, who comes in at No. 62.
He too saw a drop in his standing among the top 100, falling from 47th in 2018.
There’s no doubting the linebacker’s abilities on the field.
His ability to get to the quarterback will be key to the Cardinals’ defense going forward. He has 30 sacks the past two seasons.
Tied for seventh among all NFL players in sacks with 13.0, Jones recorded yet another stellar season with the Cardinals.
All told, he’s accumulated 41.0 sacks, 127 tackles 10 passes defensed. He’s also forced nine fumbles.
This could be the makings of an even more impressive year for the LB as he’s got some added motivation in the locker room.
Not only is Jones working to “impress the coaches,” but he now gets to pick the brain of newly signed Cardinal linebacker Terrell Suggs, someone the two-time Pro Bowler has had the desire to learn from even before Arizona brought him over.
Jones is putting in work off the field as well.
Dropping 15 pounds from 280 to 265, Jones calls his stature more of a linebacker now and less of a defensive lineman. He’s not done there, however, as he hopes to drop down to 255 by the time the start of the season rolls around.
His weight loss will play a big factor as he moves from the line back to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
That scheme, by the way, has benefited Jones in the past.
Before the Cardinals jumped to then-head coach Steve Wilks’ 4-3 defense, Jones set career marks in the 3-4, recording 17.0 sacks — good enough for first among all NFL defenders — and 28 tackles for loss.
Three Cardinals made the list, yet one name from last season’s ranking was left off.
After landing at No. 87 in 2018, Cardinals All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did not make the cut after going through a dismal season where it was difficult to get him the ball.