Adrian Wilson (Getty)
After losing Pro Bowl-caliber players such as Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle, the Arizona Cardinals’ defense looked to be severely depleted. However, recent free-agent additions and preparations for the NFL Draft have things headed back on track for Bill Davis’ unit. Brad Wilbricht previews the Cardinals’ defense heading into 2010 and highlights who might be headed to Arizona later this month.
Although the Arizona Cardinals’ defense suffered key losses this offseason, many of the core players that helped the franchise win two consecutive division titles remain in tact. That core group includes standout players at each position on the roster, giving the Cardinals one of the league’s more versatile and dynamic defensive units. The returning players coupled with free-agent additions and prospects to be selected in this year’s draft have Arizona’s defense poised to show improvement in 2010.
Along the defensive line, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell could emerge as one of the most productive tandems in the NFL. Dockett’s abilities are already well known but Campbell’s legend is just beginning. Campbell had a relatively quiet rookie season in 2008 but began to breakout a year ago. On the season, Campbell totaled 48 tackles and seven sacks. Look for those numbers to grow even more as opposing defenses continue to key on Dockett in the trenches.
The loss of Karlos Dansby certainly sets back the Cardinals’ linebacking corps but Gerald Hayes remains in the middle. Hayes isn’t a flashy performer and often goes unnoticed but the six-year NFL veteran is a model of consistency. Hayes has played a full 16-game season in three of the past five years, accumulating at least 88 tackles in each of those three campaigns. With Dansby gone to the Miami Dolphins, Hayes' value increases dramatically due to the addition of more responsibilities.
In the secondary, both Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie return on a defense that accumulated 21 interceptions last year. Wilson’s ability to be utilized in a variety of ways makes him one of the most valuable assets in the NFL. Meanwhile after a banner rookie season, Rodgers-Cromartie had signs of a sophomore slump throughout 2009. Despite his struggles, the Cardinals are confident in Rodgers-Cromartie’s skill-set and expect him to continue developing into a shut-down corner on the perimeter.
Looking ahead to late April and the NFL Draft, Arizona will have plenty of options at pick No. 26. GM Rod Graves has instilled a best player available mentality and the Cardinals have stuck to that motto in recent drafts. In 2008, Arizona managed to nab Rodgers-Cromartie with the 16th pick and RB Beanie Wells fell into the team’s lap at pick No. 31 a year ago. Graves and the Cardinals’ front office are expected to use this year’s first-round pick on an offensive lineman or another playmaker on defense.
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