The Arizona Cardinals defense was quite good a season ago. That hasn't stopped the team from trying to upgrade and change things up. One area that has seen a clear upgrade is the defensive line. Last year's unit was solid, and when you have Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, you certainly are not chopped liver.
However, under Ray Horton, Campbell and Dockett were frequently the only linemen on the field, as they would go with a 2-4-5 nickel scheme, taking tackle Dan Williams off the field.
They had depth players in Nick Eason and Vonnie Holliday, but they were used sparsely. The had a young and developing Ron Talley as well.
This year is different. In signing Frostee Rucker and Matt Shaughnessy, they have players who are not only nice depth, but they picked up two guys that started all 16 games. When they brought in Eason, in eight seasons previous, he had only started 14 games combined. Holliday once was a long-time starter, but had started five games in the previous two years before coming to the Cards.
Arizona currently has seven defensive linemen -- Williams, Dockett, Campbell, Rucker, Shaughnessy, Talley and David Carter. Five are bonafide starting players. Carter and Talley are third year players.
There is versatility on the line. Rucker can play tackle and end. So can Carter and Dockett. Bruce Arians says that Shaughnessy can even line up at outside linebacker and rush off the edge. Campbell is a stud as one of the most productive defensive linemen in the league.
What does this mean? Well, for one, should anyone get hurt, there is better depth. It also lends the defense to be a little more versatile -- they can play with four down linemen better. They can rotate in and out more often with less of a dropoff in talent.
What do I think will happen? I think we will see a different nickel package -- a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5 -- rather than 2-4-5. More than anything, I think we will see different looks than we did a year ago and more looks on the line.
With a bolstered front line, maybe the defense can stop the run this year. That would be a good thing to see.
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