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Cardinals’ defensive line receives low ranking from USA Today

Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (90) breaks free past Denver Broncos offensive tackle Lars Hanson (78) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Losing Calais Campbell in free agency was a huge, if not expected offseason development for the Arizona Cardinals.

The mammoth 6-foot-8 defensive lineman was a stalwart on the Arizona line for nine seasons and had one of his best years in 2016, racking up eight sacks to go along with an interception, three fumble recoveries and his first professional touchdown.

He signed a big-money deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars in March, one that will pay him $60 million over four years with half of that figure guaranteed.

USA Today’s Nate Davis ranked all 32 NFL defensive lines and had the Cardinals 30th, largely due to Campbell’s departure.

After making one tackle as a rookie, Robert Nkemdiche, a first-round pick in 2016, has the unenviable task of replacing Calais Campbell for an otherwise pedestrian bunch.

Nkemdiche and 2015 fourth-round pick Rodney Gunter were both drafted to help offset the expected loss of Campbell in free agency. Nkemdiche only played 89 snaps in his rookie season, while Gunter had 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing in a rotation for defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

The Cardinals didn’t draft a defensive lineman this offseason, nor did they sign one in free agency — a sign that they’re confident in their depth at the position. Corey Peters, Ed Stinson, Xavier Williams, Josh Mauro, Frostee Rucker and Olsen Pierre will all see playing time in 2017 as returning players.

Davis ranked the Los Angeles Chargers’ line as the best in the league, while only the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts came in lower than the Cardinals.

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