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Pro Football Focus ranks Cardinals defensive line in bottom half of NFL

Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) celebrates a defensive stop against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Arizona Cardinals were top 10 in rushing defense last season under former coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher. With new faces on the team and coaching staff, questions surround this upcoming season on the defensive front seven, which didn’t replace two key losses.

Pro Football Focus has the Cardinals going into the 2018 season having the No. 23 ranked run defense. It also ranks the Cardinals 20th in pass rush.

Arizona is transitioning defensive schemes under former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator and new head coach of the Cardinals Steve Wilks, along with first-year defensive coordinator Al Holcomb, who followed Wilks from Carolina.

The Cardinals ran a base 3-4 scheme for the past 10 years under Ken Whisenhunt and Arians. In Carolina, Wilks and Holcomb used the 4-3.

Arizona lost only two key interior defenders in Karlos Dansby and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker in free agency. First round pick Robert Nkemdiche is entering his third season and will have a chance to step up and be a key part of the defensive line. He is yet to record a sack, has four tackles and eight assisted tackles in 17 games played total.

The team is counting on linebacker Deone Bucannon to call plays for the defense while the roles of fellow backers Josh Bynes and Haason Reddick will greatly increase.

Last year’s sack leader (17) Chandler Jones is returning and Markus Golden is still recovering from an ACL injury from last year. A return at full strength could make an impact on both the rushing and passing defense.

The Cardinals were ranked 12th in missed tackle percentage on run plays last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Tracking missed opportunities is a key focus of Holcomb during this year’s training camp. He keeps a tally on plays missed by the players, and rewards plays made.

Arizona will kick off their preseason Aug. 11 at home against play the Los Angeles Chargers.

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