The Arizona Cardinals did some work this offseason in bolstering their defensive line. The result? More depth than they will be able to keep this season.
They drafted Rodney Gunter. They signed free agents Corey Peters and Cory Redding. They moved Matt Shaughnessy from outside linebacker to defensive end. They brought back Alameda Ta'amu. They still have Calais Campbell and they extended the contract of Frostee Rucker. They also return Ed Stinson, whom they drafted a year ago and played well before his season ended in injury, and Josh Mauro, an intriguing mid-season signing.
The result? A couple of key players from 2013 are practicing on the second field in OTAs. Shaughnessy and Ta'amu are working with the rookies. Part of the reason is to get them the reps they need, it is also a testament to the depth they have, said Bruce Arians. "Those positions right now are a dog fight."
With a 3-4 defense, the team figures to keep six, maybe seven linemen.
Campbell is a lock. Peters is a lock. Redding and Rucker are locks. After that, you have two or three spots to have Ta'amu, Gunter, Shaugnessy, Mauro, Stinson and undrafted rookie Xavier Williams fight for.
The ability to play multiple positions will be a big factor.
Peters is one of those players. He will start at nose tackle, but he is one of "about four guys who are position flexible who can play end or nose," said Arians.
"You don't want one-position players," he explained. "When they're only going to play 15-20 percent of the game, it's hard to have them on your roster."
It was a big reason why they let Dan Williams go in free agency, although he did show he could play some end last year. Reading between the lines, it makes you think Ta'amu will have to be absolutely dominant to make it.
This sort of depth is exactly what you want to see on a football team. It means there is talent. It means an injury (which you almost always have to count on) won't dramatically affect the on-field performance.
With training camp coming at the end of next month, the defensive line will be an area to pay attention to. We could see a talented player get cut.