Friday, May 11, 2012
Resetting Cardinals' defense with Campbell
By Mike Sando
A few considerations on the Arizona Cardinals' defense after the team reached agreement with franchise player Calais Campbell on a five-year contract:
Line solidified: The Cardinals' starting defensive line is under contract for the next three seasons. Hard as it is to fathom given his youthful exuberance, Darnell Dockett turns 31 later this month. He has missed only one game in eight seasons. Third-year nose tackle Dan Williams becomes the key variable on the line. How well he plays in returning from a broken arm will be critical to the defense.
Key variables at linebacker: The team is mostly going young at this position except for Paris Lenon, who remains the best option at inside linebacker at age 34. Will a full offseason enable Stewart Bradley to overtake Lenon? The odds seem against it based on what we saw from both players last season. Bradley took a pay cut but remains a factor. Re-signing Clark Haggans could provide insurance at outside linebacker, where Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield remain unproven despite showing promise to this point.
Finding another corner: I've listed A.J. Jefferson as the projected starter opposite Patrick Peterson, but that is hardly a given. The team has several candidates, but no clear favorite for the job. Teams use more than two corners in combination frequently, so perhaps it's less important which ones wind up starting in the base defense. William Gay, Greg Toler, Jefferson and Jamell Fleming are options, with 5-foot-8 Michael Adams projecting in more of a rotational role because of his size. Fleming, a third-round pick, will get a chance to play multiple positions in the secondary, according to coordinator Ray Horton.