Arizona Cardinals: Calais Campbell

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The impact of Darnell Dockett's loss on the field is quantitatively measurable.

The analytics will dissect Dockett's numbers. They'll show how many sacks and tackles he was projected to have in 2014. They'll tell the Cardinals how many times he was double teamed last season, how many hurries he had, how many pressures he totaled -- basically everything anyone watching a game can deduct on their own with a few math skills.

Dockett
It's the impact of Dockett's loss in the Arizona Cardinals' locker room that can't be measured.

"Darnell's been the heartbeat of this team for 11 years,” said Frostee Rucker, who joined the Cardinals in 2012. "And you can't just really replace that.”

To a point, the Cardinals will try. Arizona coach Bruce Arians said he plans on having Dockett on the sideline every game to supply his leadership and emotion, and, along with that, Arians hopes to have Dockett in the locker room daily if possible.

"If we get that then I think we'll still be fine,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. "He definitely is the emotional leader of this team. If we get him on the sideline, he'll make us that much better.”

Dockett's presence was felt throughout the locker room.

He controlled the music. He was a liaison between the players and Arians. He got to know his teammates, safety Tony Jefferson said, taking time to talk about football and life.

And when Dockett talked, everyone listened.

"A lot of times it's uncomfortable for guys to stand up in front of the team and talk,” said veteran center Lyle Sendlein, whose played his entire career with Dockett. "Very few times when a guy does stand up and talk, everybody does listen.

"Dockett's one of those guys where everyone listened when he talks.”

When his teammates discussed Dockett this week, words like "emotional" and "leader" were used.

For some Cardinals, losing Dockett for the season was personal. Nose tackle Dan Williams has played alongside Dockett in each of his first four seasons.

"It has a little deeper meaning to me,” Williams said.

Second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu is confident some of his teammates will try to replace Dockett's spirit, but he added that it'll be tough.

Dockett will still be around, getting treatment and rehabbing. When he's in the locker room, he'll still be the same old Dockett, ribbing his teammates, blasting his music and holding court.

"We'll definitely be less entertaining,” Campbell said. "Docket was the most entertaining person in the locker room. Talking to him, he wants to stay around and be around.

"I'm sure it'll still be entertaining.”
If you didn’t pay close attention to the Arizona Cardinals during the offseason, you’d think their defense was made up of two positions: inside linebacker and cornerback.

Those areas have been getting the most headlines since the 2013 season ended. Arizona lost both starting inside linebackers from a year ago when Karlos Dansby bolted to Cleveland in free agency and Daryl Washington was suspended for at least a year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy yet again. Later in the summer, cornerback Patrick Peterson became part of a national debate about who's the best cornerback in the league – him or Seattle’s Richard Sherman.

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Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesThe Cardinals' Calais Campbell is looking to build on his nine-sack 2013 season.
Entering training camp, however, there’s more to the Cardinals’ defense. Much more, in fact, and it may be the team’s best unit, potentially ever.

The defensive line, which anchored Arizona’s No. 1 run defense last season, returns in full plus a few additions. Defensive end Calais Campbell, nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett will again be the starting front. Alameda Ta’amu, who split time with Williams last season, is expected to fully return from an ACL injury suffered in Week 17 last season. Arizona began stockpiling the future of the defensive line by drafting Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson, and while it'll be tough for them to crack the rotation early, Martin and Stinson will be learning from the some of best in the league. In 2013, the Cardinals allowed a league-best 84.4 rushing yards per game, and the 3.65 yards per run allowed were second lowest in the league.

Under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Cardinals reacted to a change in scheme with open arms. He altered the gap system and allowed the Cardinals to play based on their skill instead of having their attacks plotted out. The result was 47 sacks, the sixth most in the league last season and the third most in franchise history. Campbell had a career-high nine sacks and linebacker John Abraham had a resurgence, tallying 11.5 sacks, which moved him into the top 10 on the all-time sack list.

Abraham was signed last July as a third-down rusher and spot linebacker. That all changed in Week 3 when the Cardinals lost Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho and Alex Okafor to season-ending injuries. But what role Abraham will have this season will be one of camp’s most intriguing questions because all three linebackers lost last year are returning healthy. Abraham, who was also selected for the Pro Bowl, has earned the start at outside linebacker but will be part of a competition that’ll include Alexander, Acho, Okafor and Matt Shaughnessy, who re-signed with Arizona during the offseason.

While there’s an abundance of options at outside linebacker, the opposite is the case at inside.

The Cardinals were left to start from scratch without Dansby or Washington. This much we know: second-year linebacker Kevin Minter will replace Dansby. Who’ll start next to him is anybody’s guess. Arizona’s options are limited. The Cards signed veteran Larry Foote and Ernie Sims to compete for the spot while another second-year linebacker, Kenny Demens, impressed during the offseason, giving him a leg up for the role.

Without set starters, rookies like Glenn Carson and Jonathan Brown, and fourth-year backer Keenan Clayton have an opportunity to earn playing time with impressive camps.

But without the core of the defense intact, added pressure will be put on the secondary. And this year’s defensive backfield may be as prepared as ever to handle it.

The addition of veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie solidified Arizona’s corners as one of the best tandems in the NFL. Arizona replaced Yeremiah Bell by drafting Deone Bucannon at strong safety while Rashad Johnson will hold down free safety until Tyrann Mathieu returns from ACL and LCL surgery.

When all told – and when all healthy – the Cardinals may have one of the best overall secondaries in the league. During camp, Tony Jefferson will give Bucannon a run for the strong safety job while Johnson will try to prove that Arizona doesn’t need to wait for Mathieu to return.

Jerraud Powers, one of last year’s starters at cornerback, has been relegated to nickel back, and Bryan McCann, who’ll also compete for a gunner job, will be battling to be the next corner called upon.
Calais Campbell knows what is in his control and what isn’t.

For example, the Arizona Cardinals' 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end knows the method people use to select who plays in a Pro Bowl is out of his control. But he also knows he can control his play on the field, which could help sway the powers that be.

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Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesComing off a nine-sack season, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell seems on the verge of stardom.
Being named to the 2013 Pro Bowl as an alternate was a disappointment for Campbell, who recorded a career-high nine sacks while anchoring the Cardinals’ No. 1 rush defense. The difference, he believes, between a booked ticket to Hawaii last season and waiting idly by for the phone to ring, was a few plays.

“I left a lot of plays on the field last year,” Campbell told ESPN.com. “There were times I had opportunities to make plays and I didn’t, and maybe if I made those few extra plays I missed I probably would’ve had that call. But it is a goal of mine.

“I do want to go to the Pro Bowl. It’d be a great achievement for anybody.”

Two weeks before training camp begins, Campbell, who is entering his seventh season, feels like he is in the right place to be considered an NFL all-star. While it is a goal, Campbell's focus isn’t solely on the Pro Bowl. His ideal situation would be to earn a nod but have to decline the invitation because the Cardinals are playing in Super Bowl XLIX. Both games, however, will be hosted on Campbell’s home turf, University of Phoenix Stadium.

The validation that comes with being a Pro Bowler is important for any player. But for Campbell, it would just be the next step in him becoming a bona fide NFL star. For the past couple seasons he has been teetering on the edge of stardom, but playing on losing teams and for a franchise that doesn’t receive much national attention has slowed that process.

Now 27, Campbell is ready.

“I’m very ready,” he said. “I want to have an ability to lead my team to a Super Bowl and win one. I feel like now is better than any other time. If I’m going to become the elite player I want to be, it has to be now. I put all the work in to be the best I can be.”

Being elite and being a Pro Bowl player have become nearly synonymous in the NFL.

One will beget the other. If Campbell becomes an elite player in 2014, he will likely be named to the Pro Bowl. If he is named to the Pro Bowl, Campbell will likely be considered an elite player. Until recently, Campbell didn’t feel like he had the opportunity to truly be considered for the Pro Bowl. Coming off a career season, that is likely to change.

“It’s just something,” Campbell said, “that I feel like is something has been a long time waiting.”
When Miami Heat star LeBron James went down with a cramp in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the role of hydration in sports was thrust into the headlines.

Take a spin through the countless stories about James' cramps and it's clear that being hydrated doesn't always prevent cramps, and dehydration isn't always a reason for cramps.

Alford
Campbell
Any athlete in Arizona knows this. They also know how important hydration is when temperatures straddle 100 degrees, as they did Wednesday when Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell spoke to a group of kids as part of Gatorade's "Beat the Heat" program.

Before Campbell stood in front of them and told his football story, the sweat began beading on his forehead and soaking through his grey T-shirt. Even out of his uniform, Campbell said he understands the need to stay hydrated.

That becomes even more important during the season or during organized team activities and minicamp, when Arizona is practicing outside as the temperatures reach 100 or higher like it did at times during the last month.

"Me personally, I sweat a lot," Campbell said. "I'm a big sweater. I have to hydrate two, three days before. I just kind of try to stay hydrated all the time. I'm always hydrated. I'm never dehydrated."

Campbell learned about hydration the hard way. He remembers cramping during his time with the Hurricanes to the point he couldn't move. Even his neck was cramping. That experience showed the boy from Colorado staying hydrated is important.

Growing up in the rocky mountains, consuming water or a sports beverage wasn't always a priority like it was for high school football players playing in warm-weather environments. When Campbell got to the University of Miami, he experienced how humidity could make him sweat -- profusely. And in Arizona, Campbell saw how excruciating extreme heat can be, especially on his body.

"In college, you learn that a lot," Campbell said. "I go out there coming from Colorado and didn't know any better. I'm like, 'OK, it's hot out there and I'm just going to keep drinking.' Drink a lot.

"Pulled muscles come from being dehydrated. And the one time I've ever really had a pulled muscle or got hurt was when I tore my calf. I missed a couple games because I was dehydrated. You can't be that way."
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- This week has been all about transitions for Kareem Martin.

The Arizona Cardinals' third-round pick had never been to Arizona or this side of the country before. He’s learning how to play at the speed of the NFL. And the former North Carolina sack specialist is adjusting to playing in a 3-4 defense.

But give Martin a month, he said, and he’ll have the defense “down pat.”

“There's definitely a transition when going from one level to another,” Martin said. “It’s a lot more communication. I've seen that from our first couple of practices.

“Once I learn everything I can get up to speed with the other guys.”

Martin played mainly with his hand in the dirt in North Carolina’s 4-2-5 defense. In three days of practice, the Cardinals have already played him at outside linebacker and on the line. While Martin is more comfortable on the line, he thinks he’ll end up playing both on the line and standing up.

In the Cardinals’ defense, linebackers tend to play more of a defensive end role, Arizona coach Bruce Arians said, which will help Martin transition to a 3-4. Eventually, however, Martin wants to end up in a similar role as Calais Campbell.

The two are most comparable in terms of body type, size and position.

At 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds, Martin is two inches shorter than Campbell and about 10 pounds less than Campbell was as a rookie. But give Martin a couple months, Arians said, and he’ll grow into Campbell's size, which is pushing 300 pounds.

“He said he came in about my weight and in no time he put the weight on,” Martin said of Campbell. “With my frame I feel like I can hold the same or just as much as he can.

“He’s kinda took me under his wing.”

Campbell will be a good asset for Martin to turn to throughout his rookie seasons.

There are parts of Arizona’s defense that Martin has never seen before. On top of that, he’s learning new terminology.

“I don't think that’ll be a tough transition but I think it’ll take some time,” he said.

Martin exploded his senior season with the Tar Heels, thanks to defensive line coach Keith Gilmore refining Martin's long-arm stab. It resulted in Martin getting 11.5 sacks, up from four in each of his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s hoping the upward trend will continue in the NFL, where he can have a career as a pass-rusher.

“With my long arms,” Martin said, “he showed me it can be something that can make me a lot of money someday.”
For the seven days leading up to Thursday's first round of the NFL draft, ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss will rank the team's five best draft picks from each round -- seventh to first -- dating back 1994, when the NFL draft went to its current seven-round format.

1. Jake Plummer, QB, 1997 -- A hometown favorite, Plummer started his pro career in his collegiate stadium all while leading the Cards to the playoffs for the first time in Arizona.

2. Anquan Boldin, WR, 2003 -- One of the most important pieces to the Cardinals' run to Super Bowl XLIII, Boldin established himself as a tough, gritty receiver.

3. Karlos Dansby, LB, 2004 -- Dansby progressively improved throughout his career and was a major cog on the Cards' defense during its Super Bowl run.

4. Calais Campbell, DE, 2008 -- Quickly emerging as the future of the Cardinals' defensive line, Campbell has emerged as one of the elite yet underappreciated run stoppers in the game.

5. Frank Sanders, WR, 1995 -- One of the best receivers in team history, Sanders set the table as the standard for Larry Fitzgerald.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- While the rest of his teammates were learning what life would be like under first-year strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris as offseason workouts began, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell spent Monday on the South Lawn of the White House.

He was one of a handful of NFL players who joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for the White House's Easter Egg Roll as part of the First Lady's Let's Move initiative. Washington's Robert Griffin III was also in attendance as was Indianapolis' Dwayne Allen, among other players.

Campbell's experience at the White House, which included a run-in with Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner, was captured via Twitter and Instagram.

 
Monday marks the start of the Arizona Cardinals' offseason conditioning program under new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.

They’ll see two new faces in the weight room this year in Morris, who has a long history with Bruce Arians from their days together in Cleveland and sharing a facility in Pittsburgh, and Roger Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, who was hired as the Cards’ speed coach.

But for 17 players, the start of conditioning doesn’t just mark the first organized activity for the Cardinals since they lost to San Francisco, 23-20, on Dec. 29. It means they can start earning their offseason workout bonuses. While 100 percent participation usually isn’t required, teams typically mandate that players participate in 80-90 percent of the team’s offseason workouts.

The largest workout bonus that can be earned this offseason is $250,000 each by quarterback Drew Stanton, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.

The list of potential workout bonuses:

 
With the Arizona Cardinals' remaining cap space steady the last couple of weeks, it’s a good time to look at who’s taking up the largest portion of the Cardinals’ cap space. According to the most recent numbers by ESPN Stats & Information, Arizona’s cap space this week is $4,522,983, which changed slightly from last week because of the release of LaRon Byrd and Dan Giordano.

Two weeks ago, free agency kicked off with a flurry of moves. The Arizona Cardinals joined the frenzy almost immediately. During the last 14 days, the Cardinals have been steadily active and made improvements to their lineup -- some significant, some not so much.

Only two positions are truly open at the moment: right tackle and strong safety. The Cardinals will try to fill both of those in the draft if they can’t find other options through a trade or the rest of free agency.

Here’s an updated look at Arizona’s 2014 lineup as of today (new starters in bold):

OFFENSE

QB: Carson Palmer

RB: Andre Ellington (Rashard Mendenhall retired)

TE: Rob Housler

TE: Jake Ballard (Jim Dray signed with Cleveland)

WR: Larry Fitzgerald

WR: Michael Floyd

RT: (Eric Winston -- free agent)

RG: Paul Fanaika

C: Lyle Sendlein

LG: Jonathan Cooper (Daryn Colledge released)

LT: Jared Veldheer (Bradley Sowell)

DEFENSE

DE: Calais Campbell

NT: Dan Williams

DT: Darnell Dockett

OLB: John Abraham

ILB: Kevin Minter (Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland)

ILB: Daryl Washington

OLB: Matt Shaughnessy (re-signed)

CB: Patrick Peterson

CB: Antonio Cromartie (Jerraud Powers)

FS: Rashad Johnson/Tyrann Mathieu

SS: (Yeremiah Bell -- free agent)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jay Feely (re-signed)

P: Dave Zastudil

LS: Mike Leach

KR: Ted Ginn Jr. (Javier Arenas signed with Atlanta)

PR: Patrick Peterson
TEMPE, Ariz. -- While he spent 10 minutes Thursday talking about his latest free-agent addition to the Arizona Cardinals’ defense, Antonio Cromartie, general manager Steve Keim shed some light on where he may focus his draft picks in early May.

Keim identified depth and length across the defense as the team's primary needs, specifically at defensive end, outside linebacker, safety and inside linebacker.

“I think we’ve made some improvements,” Keim said. “I don’t want to step out on a limb and say we’re there yet. As a perfectionist, I think we all look at things and would like to be a little deeper in certain positions.”

Stocking up at those positions is planning for the future. The Cardinals will be on the lookout for Darnell Dockett’s replacement this draft, as well as a formidable backup to Calais Campbell. Trying to add depth to outside linebacker will be done because John Abraham and Lorenzo Alexander are getting close to the end of their careers and Arizona could be thin there after this season.

Safety has been a top priority since the season ended, especially since 17 of the 29 touchdowns thrown by other teams went to tight ends. Arizona would prefer a taller, more athletic safety it can match up with the likes of San Francisco’s Vernon Davis and St. Louis’ Jared Cook.

And with Karlos Dansby vacating one of the two starting inside linebacker jobs and Kevin Minter assuming that role in an “audition,” Keim said, the Cardinals are in need of relief behind Minter and Daryl Washington.

The Cardinals have the 20th pick in the first three rounds of May’s NFL draft (20th, 52nd and 84th) and the rest will be officially determined during next week’s league meetings. Arizona doesn't have a seventh-round choice, which was traded to Oakland as part of the Carson Palmer deal.

In his second season, Keim doesn’t want free agency to be as frenzied for the Cardinals as it has been the past two seasons. He’d prefer improving through the draft, but admitted that free agency is a great way to fill immediate needs.

“My whole goal and our whole goal as [an] organization is to be able to go in … [and] that we can sit there and look in the mirror and say we’re taking the best player available and the guy who helps the Cardinals the most,” Keim said. “I think through free agency we’ve afforded ourselves to do that.”
Starters: Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett

Backup: Ronald Talley, Alameda Ta’amu, Frostee Rucker

Under contract in 2014: Campbell, Williams, Dockett, Ta’amu.

Cash committed in ‘13: $20.85 million

Cap committed in ‘13: $20.21 million

Recap: Coming into 2013, the Cardinals’ front three were trying to avoid another embarrassment of a season. They were ranked 28th in the league against the run and wanted things to change. Well, they sure did. With the same three starters as in 2012, Arizona changed its gap scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, giving the front three more freedom to attack. The result was the top-ranked defense against the run. Dockett came back last season focused and rejuvenated after an emotionally and mentally exhausting final couple of seasons under Ken Whisenhunt. Campbell’s re-dedication to getting in shape during the past offseason paid dividends. He had nine sacks and two fumble recoveries, and was being considered a star around the league. The defense also was bolstered by the early-season addition of Ta’amu, who was signed on Sept. 1 and started seeing significant action in Week 3 when Williams left the team to attend to the death of his father. For the rest of the season, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians used Williams and Ta’amu as a tandem at defensive tackle, saving their legs throughout the season which made them both more effective.
With free agency approaching in less than a month, teams are in crunch time when it comes to figuring out who is worth keeping for 2014 and who isn’t. And it all comes down cap room.

The Arizona Cardinals got some breathing room last week when star receiver Larry Fitzgerald restructured his mega deal, giving Arizona about $10 million in cap space to work with during free agency, which officially begins at 2 p.m. MT on March 11.

Until then, Arizona will be working around the clock to determine if players still under contract in 2014 are worth keeping.

Here’s a look at the all the Cardinals’ cap numbers for 2014 that are more than $2 million:

QB Carson Palmer - $12 million

DE Calais Campbell - $11.25 million

DE Darnell Dockett - $8.75 million

WR Larry Fitzgerald - $8.6 million

G Daryn Colledge - $7.275 million

LB Daryl Washington - $6 million

CB Patrick Peterson - $5.864 million

CB Jerraud Powers - $4.75 million

C Lyle Sendlein - $4.125 million

DE John Abraham - $3.375 million

LG Jonathan Cooper - $3.3 million

WR Michael Floyd - $2.72 million

QB Drew Stanton - $2.67 million

LB Jasper Brinkley - $2.2 million

NT Dan Williams - $2.185 million

S Rashad Johnson - $2.133 million
The Arizona Cardinals won’t draft Missouri defensive end Michael Sam in May.

And it has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

The Cardinals are stocked, if not overstocked, at outside linebacker, the position Sam will most likely have to transition to if he gets drafted in a 3-4 scheme, which the Cardinals run. At about 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, he’s too short to play off the edge for Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles – especially when Arizona’s starting defensive end is 6-8, 300-pound Calais Campbell.

Sam would be better fit as an OLB, but during their mad dash through free agency last year, the Cardinals made the position a point of emphasis. Already with Sam Acho, Arizona added Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham through free agency and drafted Alex Okafor. During the season, the Cardinals signed Dontay Moch and Marcus Benard, who also contributed this past season.

Sam’s spot on the Cardinals' roster is essentially filled by Acho, who at 6-3, 257, has the most similar body type to Sam. And Acho, most likely, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Arizona was able to fight through a decimated OLB corps last season to still register the top-ranked run defense in the league and the sixth-best defense overall. In Week 3 against New Orleans, the Cardinals lost Acho, Alexander and Okafor in a freak series of injuries within one game. In their place, Abraham became an every-down linebacker and Shaughnessy stepped up and proved worthy of his one-year deal.

Sam came out publicly Sunday night, making him the first openly gay college prospect in the history of the NFL. By now, less than 24 hours after his story was aired on ESPN and printed in The New York Times, it’s well known. He came out to his Missouri teammates back in August and proceeded to have a stellar season.

If the Cardinals pass on Sam, it’s not because he’s gay. It’s because they don’t need him. It’s a football decision.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Late last week, Pro Football Focus unveiled its All-NFC West team, very similar to what we at ESPN.com’s NFL Nation did a few weeks back.

But one selection stood out.

Ellington
Not surprising, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch was named one of the two running backs chosen. The other? Arizona rookie Andre Ellington. PFF chose him because he “is a special weapon and that’s how this team fit him in.” Ellington led the NFL with 5.5 yards per carry, almost a full yard more than the next best rookie back. His versatility caught PFF’s attention because of his ability to gain positive yards.

“Capable of lining up all over the formation he added an element of unpredictability that has been sorely missing from recent Arizona offenses,” PFF wrote about Ellington.

Joining him on the All-NFC West team was wide receiver Michael Floyd, who had his first 1,000-yard season. Calais Campbell was honored as a defensive tackle, despite lining up out wide most of the season.

Karlos Dansby was named one of three linebackers, joining a pair of 49ers.

PFF said Dansby had something to prove after Miami let him go and what he did with a career season.

And in the not-shocking department, Patrick Peterson was named one of two cornerbacks while Justin Bethel was named the West’s special teamer.

“There isn’t another special teamer in the league like Bethel,” PFF wrote.

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