2014 Positional Analysis: Arizona Cardinals Defensive Line

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In this edition of 2014 positional analysis, we’re going to the opposite side of the trenches to look at the Arizona Cardinals defensive line.

As NFL offenses drastically changed over the past several years, defenses have been forced to follow. Linebackers now need to have coverage skills more than ever, and defensive backs are more important to stop passing attacks than ever. Defensive lines, however, have experienced relatively less change. They are still physically massive and frightening players whose only goal is to hit the guy with the football. 

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The Cardinals defense wasn’t the backbone of the team in 2014 they way it had been for the previous couple of years. It still had big games and big moments, but it also had some sour ones, partially due to injuries. The defensive line was important to the Cards’ success, despite the losses it suffered before and in the season.

The line was anchored by two of the same guys, but several new faces, old and young, came in and did some good things. How Arizona moves forward with several decent defensive lineman is a tough question.

Note: Darnell Dockett won’t be discussed since a)he didn’t play a down for Arizona last season b) doesn’t play for them anymore and c) has been discussed thoroughly already.

DE Calais Campbell 

Dec 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) celebrates with team mates after holding the San Francisco 49ers on third down at Levi

Stats: 14 games| 58 combined tackles| 7 sacks| 1 forced fumble

Campbell was the defensive anchor for Arizona, which didn’t exactly come as a surprise. He’s become a Pro Bowl defensive lineman, and he consistently can bring good performances as the leader of the unit. Despite missing two games after being chop-blocked against the Denver Broncos, he was one of Arizona’s most important players.

Campbell is a very well-rounded defensive player. He was graded top ten in run defense, pass rushing, and coverage by Pro Football Focus among 3-4 defensive ends. With most players, there’s something to criticize or something to complain about, but Campbell never really had a bad game in 2014.

Arizona signed him to a large extension in 2012. So far, it’s been worth every penny. With so many other changes happening on the defensive end, Cardinals fans should be happy to know there’s one great player who will be around for a while.