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2014 NFL training camp: Arizona Cardinals enter camp with even better D-line than 2013

The very talented group is even more talented.

Christian Petersen

Our training camp preview series wrapped up the offense over the weekend, so now we open up the defensive side of things.

The defensive line is actually in really good shape entering camp. It is the one area on the defense that doesn't have any major concerns.

But let's look at the camp roster, what the roster outlook is like, any possible battles for playing time or for the roster and the questions that there are.

The roster right now:

DE Calais Campbell: Entering his seventh year, originally a Cards second round pick out of Miami

DE Kareem Martin: Entering his rookie season, drafted in the third round this year

DE Frostee Rucker: Entering his ninth season and second in Arizona, signed as a free agent in 2013 and re-signed for two years this offseason

DE Ed Stinson: Entering his rookie season, drafted in the fifth round this year out of Alabama

DT Darnell Dockett: Entering his 11th season, drafted originally by the Cards in the third round out of Florida State

DT Bruce Gaston: Entering rookie season as undrafted free agent out of Purdue

DT Anthony McCloud: Entering first season, having spent time on the Cardinals practice squad in 2013

DT Justin Renfrow: Entering his rookie season, signed as undrafted free agent out of Miami

DT Alameda Ta'amu: Entering his third season, his second with the team, acquired off waivers last preseason and re-signed this offseason

DT Christian Tupou: Entering second year in the league, signed as free agent this offseason

DT Dan Williams: Entering his fifth season in the league and with Cards, drafted by team in the first round in 2010

Likely post-training camp roster outlook:

The truth is that the players on the defensive line, barring injury, appear to be set. The team kept six defensive linemen last year and really only five played. There are seven that will probably be on the squad. You have the returners -- Dockett, Williams, Campbell, Ta'amu and Rucker -- and this year's draft picks -- Martin and Stinson.

Now, we don't know exactly what will happen yet with Ta'amu as he recovers from a torn ACL. If he starts the season on the PUP list, it might open the door for another player like McCloud or one of the undrafted big guys.

But the best-case scenario for the rest of the group is probably the practice squad.

Dockett, Williams and Campbell will start. Ta'amu, whenever he is healthy, will split time with Williams at nose tackle. Rucker is the veteran on the bench and Stinson and Martin will make the team.

What camp will determine is how much playing time the younger guys will take from Dockett, Campbell or Williams.

And more than anything, depending on the play of Ta'amu upon return and someone like Stinson, who can play end or tackle, it will help determine the future of Dan Williams, who is entering the final year of his contract.

This scenario effectively eliminates any "bubble players".

Possible positional battles:

If Ta'amu were healthy, there would be a good battle between he and Dan Williams. The two split snaps at nose tackle last year and did so very effectively. But Ta'amu's knee makes it more or less a foregone conclusion that Williams is the guy there.

There aren't other real "position battles," but in the battle for playing time, we will see what Martin and Stinson can earn, battling the veteran Rucker for time off the bench in the line rotation.

A more likely tertiary battle will be had between the young tackles that will be fighting for a practice squad slot. Undrafted rookies Gaston and Renfrow have the frame to play where Williams and Ta'amu do. Tupou has a little experience in the league. Who will show enough promise for the team to bring him back after cuts?

Questions entering camp:

The defensive line for Arizona is one of the best in the league. But how much is left in the tank for Darnell Dockett? He has not been the dominant player he once was for quite some time, grades out negatively in many facets and, while he had a few sacks, two of them came in one game against a rookie guard. Will he be able to play at a high enough level?

Will Calais Campbell take the next step to being a star? He has been a very productive player at his position with sacks and tackles. He just hasn't gotten much in the way of recognition. Can he become a household name?

Can Ta'amu return effectively from injury? When will he return? There was some talk of being ready to start the season, but that seemed unlikely. He will probably begin camp on the PUP list. If he is not ready to start the season, then PUP means missing the first six weeks at minimum.

What about Dan Williams? He is in the last year of his deal? Can he play as well as he did and do so for 30 snaps a game instead of 15? Can he stay healthy and productive?

Can the Cardinals count on their rookie draft picks to be quality depth off the bench? How much time will they get?


There are plenty of major questions about the team entering camp. The defensive line really is not one of them. What do you expect to see? Can any of the undrafted kids step up? Will there be any surprieses? Tell us what you think in the comments below.