2014 Positional Analysis: Arizona Cardinals Defensive Line

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DT Dan Williams 

Oct 12, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Dan Williams (92) against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 16 games| 26 tackles| 1 sack| 0 forced fumbles

As a defensive tackle, Dan Williams’ impact on the Cardinals is tough to measure with traditional stats. On many plays, Williams was tasked with simply being in the way of the interior running lanes. As a Cardinal, he did that job well in 2014.

He went beyond the role of lane-filler though, and occasionally was a valuable pass rushing asset. For the modern defensive tackle, that’s a more important skill than it used to be. Despite only having one sack on the season, Williams often drew the attention of multiple offensive linemen, and was about as productive in pass-rushing as some of the better nose tackles in the league.

The Cardinals let Williams jump to the  Oakland Raiders on a $6 million per year deal. The decision was a tough one, and replacing him may be a challenge for Arizona. His contributions may not be reflected in the numbers, but he was an important cornerstone of the highly wounded Cardinals’ defense.

DE Frostee Rucker 

Oct 26, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) and Frostee Rucker (98) against the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 15 games| 20 tackles| 5 sacks| 2 forced fumbles

The Cardinals relied heavily on the “nest man up” mentality to cope with the myriad of injuries they suffered in 2014. Rucker is one of the players who stepped into a more prominent role and had no trouble making an impact. He played on either side of the line, in the middle, or wherever Todd Bowles called for him to be.

Among Arizona’s d-line, Rucker took the third most defensive snaps. He managed to get specific recognition from his teammates among a sea of injuries and changes in lineups.

How to understand Rucker’s role last season isn’t complicated. He didn’t blow anyone’s mind, but he was quietly effective when called upon. Guys like Rucker really did save the Cardinals’ 2014 season.

Going forward, the absence of Dockett and Williams’ likely mean that Rucker will still be featured prominently somewhere along the line. If his 2014 season is any indication, the defense may be still well off with him  playing more snaps.