We've looked at the Arizona Cardinals safeties, corner backs, inside linebackers and outside linebackers but today we move to the trenches and take a look at the defensive ends. The Redbirds biggest loss this off season Antonio Smith who flew the coup for the Houston Texans and $35 million over the course of five years. Other than Smith, the rest of the depth chart returns intact and the open spot looks like it will be filled by an internal candidate. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are the projected starters and Dockett will be a key to the success of the defensive line. There are a couple of guys who are capable of playing both defensive end and tackle but we'll do our best to lay out all the possibilities.
Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Kenny Iwebema
On the Bubble
Keilen Dykes, Jason Banks
At best either Dykes or Banks will make the roster but it certainly won't be both, unless one of the top three is injured during camp. A couple of defensive line 'tweeners' like Bryan Robinson and Rodney Leslie could also see some time end and it's possible that one of them could end up being the fourth DE on the roster. I also wouldn't completely dimiss the idea of Alan Branch seeing some time at end during training camp. He's failed miserably at tackle so far but with his size he could be a decent option at end in non-passing situations and he's practiced at the position in the past. Just for the record, Dykes and Banks are both still eligible for the practice squad.
Keilen Dykes: It's no secret that ROTB has been one of Dykes biggest supporters since he was signed as a undrafted free agent last year. A quad injury limited him early in training camp last year and he was never quite able to get back up to speed. At West Virginia Dykes was a four year starter, team captain and first team All-Big East and he carries the reputation as a hard worker and a solid locker room presence. Most of Dykes experience has been at tackle but his size (6'3 294) is better suited at end in a 3-4. Dykes' best case scenerio for this season would be to earn a role in the defensive line rotation and give Dockett and/or Campbell a breather in non-passing situations.
Jason Banks: Banks is essentially in the exact same boat as Dykes considering that he's also an undrafted free agent from one year ago. Banks does have a slight size advantage over Dykes (6'5 300) and he's a better overall athlete but he's very raw. Coming out of Grambling State the book on Banks was that he'd been through four defensive line coaches in as many years so his technique was undeveloped. Banks spent last year on and off the Cardinals practice squad but he's got the physical tools to be an NFL player. It's just a matter of when or if his technique catches up to his physical talents. His best scenerio is the same at Dykes.
If you don't think that Robinson or Leslie will figure into the mix at defensive end than the battle is simply Dykes versus Banks. If Robinson, Leslie or even Branch see extended time at end then Dykes and Banks could be fighting for nothing more than a spot on this year's practice squad. It's also worth mentioning that Iwebema's health will be something to watch in training camp. I know his operation went well and he's expected to make a full recovery but an operation on the chest area is still something that could linger. So who makes the cut and who gets their "walking papers?" Are you comfortable with the depth at end?