The NFL last expanded in 2002, and the then-expansion Houston Texans may have had a better defensive line, at least on paper, than what the Arizona Cardinals are giving us in 2023. While I have long said that the Arizona Cardinals are a much better football team than they are being given credit for, there is no denying that the defensive line is nothing more than abysmal.
But that doesn’t mean the line can’t be exciting in 2023, as the element of surprise could always be in store for us. Sometimes, a position group could look terrible on paper, but thanks to the system in place, they could play better than anyone may have thought, and that’s another possible case for the 2023 Cardinals.
Arizona Cardinals may have diamonds in the rough at defensive line
In 2020, the Cardinals selected a pair of defensive/nose tackles in Rashard Lawrence and Leki Fotu, but neither has lived up to expectations. However, Lawrence looked good last season before an injury forced his 2022 campaign to end early, and Fotu put together his best season to date.
L.J. Collier is another so-called wasted draft pick who signed with the Cardinals after he flamed out in Seattle. And while we have seen former first round picks fall to the wayside when they underachieve in one city and fail to make an impression in another, there are numerous examples of the opposite being true. And perhaps Collier can achieve more favorable results now that he’s playing in a new city.
While a player can legitimately come out of nowhere to snag a starting spot and start for a team, defensive line is the most probable position where this could occur in 2023. And the Cardinals have several fringe players who could snag such an opportunity like sixth round pick Dante Stills, Jacob Slade, and Ben Stille.
Despite their overall ineptitude on paper, it only takes one or two players to seize an opportunity and make the best out of what looks like a bad situation. And it will be interesting to see if anyone is interested in stepping up and proving to naysayers that this position group can be a lot better than what many are assuming.
If that occurs, then the Arizona Cardinals defensive line just got a whole lot more exciting. It will be up to those lining up in the trenches to decide whether they will turn this ‘why they may be exciting’ into ‘why they will be exciting.’