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ESPN’s Schlereth: Arizona Cardinals still playoff-caliber team, but defensive losses concerning

LISTEN: Mark Schlereth - ESPN NFL Analyst

Even with the possible extended loss of Andre Ellington, the Arizona Cardinals are still capable of making the playoffs, according to ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth.

Ellington was limited in practice on Thursday and did not participate in practice on Friday.

“Andre Ellington is one of those guys who’s just got great quickness,” Schlereth told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “He’s just one of those guys that is going to be difficult to deal with, and they’re going to definitely miss that.”

However, Schlereth said the Cardinals have enough talent to overcome the loss of their top running back.

“I think they’ve really just helped themselves become a little bit more balanced and a little bit tougher football team on the offense,” Schlereth said, citing specifically the addition of left tackle Jared Veldheer, as well as Carson Palmer’s performance at the end of last season.

Schlereth’s apprehension about the team lies with its losses on the defensive side, especially Darnell Dockett — whom he calls a “difference maker” — and Daryl Washington, who was suspended for the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s substance policy.

He also brings up Tyrann Mathieu’s return from the ACL and LCL injuries he sustained last season, and what level he will be able to play at in extended time.

“All three levels of that defense have been fractured a little bit, and that’s the thing that concerns me,” Schlereth said. “The number one run defense in the National Football League was the Arizona Cardinals…. To end up the number one defense in football as far as defending the run, when you’re talking about that division, that’s quite an accomplishment.

“That scares me a little bit about all three levels, like I said, of that defense taking a hit. That’s never a good thing.”