Chandler Jones set the Cardinals’ single-season sack record in 2017 and made the All-Pro team. That monster campaign left me wondering how it compared to other great individual seasons by Cardinals since the move to Arizona in 1988.
Pro Football Reference has a formula that tries to do just that, computing a player’s approximate value each season.
The list is below, but a caveat before we begin: It’s much easier to compare players in a sport like baseball because it is an individualized game. In football, players work in cohesion and are dependent upon one another. So this list is far from perfect, but it’s a guide to some of the better individual performances in the past 30 years of Cardinals football.
1. CB Patrick Peterson, 2011 (Approximate Value of 20): The formula lists Peterson’s rookie season as his best, in large part because of his unreal special teams contributions. Peterson scored four punt return touchdowns that year and averaged 15.9 yards per return on his way to Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. He also started all 16 games at cornerback, posting a career-high 59 tackles and two interceptions.
2. CB Aeneas Williams, 1994 (AV of 18): The fourth season of Williams’ Hall of Fame career was deemed the best by Pro Football Reference. He led the NFL with nine interceptions and added 40 tackles and a fumble recovery. Williams made the Pro Bowl that season.
3. LB Daryl Washington, 2012 (AV of 17): Washington’s checkered career peaked in 2012. He put up big-time numbers: 134 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. Washington made the Pro Bowl.
T-4. QB Carson Palmer, 2015 (AV of 16): The veteran quarterback had a dominant season in leading the Cardinals to the NFC Championship game. Palmer was in the MVP race by throwing for 4,671 yards with 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, compiling a career-best 8.7 yards per attempt. He was a Pro Bowler.
T-4. QB Kurt Warner, 2008 (AV of 16): Fittingly, the two most memorable quarterback seasons for the Cardinals in Arizona end up tied on this list. Warner finished the season with 4,583 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, where they fell just short of the championship. He made the Pro Bowl.
T-4. LB Karlos Dansby, 2013 (AV of 16): The Cardinals may have had the best inside linebacker duo in football this year, as Dansby formed a dominant pairing with Washington. Dansby surprisingly didn’t make the Pro Bowl even though he finished the season with 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two defensive touchdowns.
T-4. DE Calais Campbell, 2016 (AV of 16): Campbell was a consistent forced for the Cardinals, but the formula ranked his final season with the Cardinals as his best. Campbell had 53 tackles, eight sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, an interception and a defensive touchdown. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl.
T-4. DE Bertrand Berry, 2004 (AV of 16): The pass-rusher had a dominant season in his first with the Cardinals. Berry compiled 49 tackles, 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was chosen as a Pro Bowler for his work.
T-4. Williams, 1997 (AV of 16): The first duplicate name on this list, the shutdown corner added another fantastic season to his resume at the age of 29. Williams had six interceptions – two of which he returned for touchdowns – that year and added 63 tackles and forced fumble. He was named an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler.
T-10. Chandler Jones, 2017 (AV of 15): Here is where Jones slots in. He finished this season with 68 tackles, 17 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles. Jones was named an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler.
T-10. RB David Johnson, 2016 (AV of 15): It’s no surprise to see this name on the list, as Johnson put together one of the best seasons ever for a Cardinals skill player. He finished last season with 1,239 rushing yards, 879 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns. Johnson was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro.
T-10. Campbell, 2014 (AV of 15): The star defensive end makes the list a second time. He made it to the Pro Bowl for the first time with this performance. Campbell ended up with 62 tackles, seven sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
T-10. Peterson, 2013 (AV of 15): Another repeat producer, Peterson had long established himself as an elite cornerback by this time. He finished this season with 42 tackles, three interceptions and 13 passes defensed.