The Arizona Cardinals need more pass rushers but they also need help defending them. Both of those needs, however, took a hit following Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft.
While there’s no arguing the selection of CB Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall pick, pressuring opposing quarterbacks remains a huge area of need for the Cardinals.
Aside from Arizona, two teams in the NFC West managed to reel in potential game changers off the edge. The San Francisco 49ers nabbed Aldon Smith with the seventh overall pick while the St. Louis Rams benefited from Robert Quinn’s slight drop to pick No. 14.
Many consider the 49ers’ selection of Smith a reach, but reports surfaced that Arizona also fancied the former Missouri standout. Additional reports surfaced that Smith played a portion of the 2010 season with the Tigers on a broken leg. At full strength, Smith’s potential could be scary.
On to Quinn, who has an excellent chance of developing into the best pure pass rusher out of this year’s class. Quinn has a handful of red flags, but his potential is hard to ignore. He’s only 20 years of age and sat out his entire junior campaign after being suspended due to inappropriate contact with an agent.
The notion of the Cardinals needing an upgrade in pass protection has been compounded by two potential dominating forces – Smith and Quinn – joining the division.
With Friday and Saturday’s draft action still set to take place, Arizona will have plenty of chances to get better. But those chances could be limited based on availability and the team’s problems along the offensive line and under center are still far from solved.
Both of the Cardinals’ tackles, Levi Brown and Brandon Keith, are suspect on the perimeter. There has been talk about moving Brown inside to guard and Keith is coming off a season-ending injury. Furthermore, guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui could both be headed out of the desert due to retirement and free agency.
Levi Brown has had a tough time holding his own at left tackle
Arizona’s quarterback play was atrocious a year ago, and a great deal of that came because of the struggles on the offense line. If you think the days of watching the Cardinals’ signal callers run for their lives are over so soon, think again. In fact, it might be worse in 2011.
Despite the Cardinals’ inability to shore up the issues outlined above, it’s hard to place blame on the team’s strategy just yet.
Looking at how the first round played out, one of the scenarios that would have allowed Arizona to get a difference maker along the offensive line would have included trading down – which in turn would have included passing on Peterson.
The only other option would have required trading precious draft picks to move back into the first round.
Now, the Cardinals’ best chance to add another piece in the offensive trenches will likely come in Round 3, when value at the position could return. With a little luck, a pass rusher will be available at pick No. 38 when the Cards go back on the clock in Round 2 during Friday night's festivities.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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