Playing-time percentages for NFC West defensive rookies tell us a few things:
Draft order matters. The three defensive players chosen in the first round are the three with the most playing time. Starting cornerbacks stay on the field for almost all the snaps. That, more than performance, explains why Arizona's Patrick Peterson has played so much more than pass-rushers Aldon Smith and Robert Quinn.
Good values at cornerback. The San Francisco 49ers found a quick contributor in third-round cornerback Chris Culliver, who has seized the nickel job. The Seahawks' fifth-round corner, Richard Sherman, is also looking good early. Injuries forced him into the starting lineup last week. Sherman picked off one pass and tipped a ball that teammate Kam Chancellor intercepted.
Mid-round linebackers ascending. Seattle's K.J. Wright and Arizona's Sam Acho are dissimilar as linebackers. Wright has played the middle after entering the draft as a strongside type, and now he is starting on the strong side. Acho is converting from college defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. There are similarities as well. Both have replaced big names in their starting lineups. Wright replaced Aaron Curry. Acho replaced Joey Porter. Both players have impressed their teams with their smarts. Acho has one sack in each of the Cardinals' last two games.
Late-round find. The Cardinals have been pleased with sixth-round defensive lineman David Carter, even though another sixth-rounder, Quan Sturdivant, came to the team with higher expectations for making an immediate impact. Carter has pushed 2010 first-round pick Dan Williams for playing time. Williams has 152 snaps. Carter has 105.
Thanks to Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information for passing along the numbers. Dashes represent bye weeks in the chart.