ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona Cardinals coaches have their hands full shaping defensive line

Jun 18, 2023, 8:58 AM

Zaven Collins works on pass-rushing...

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

One of the biggest challenges that face Arizona Cardinals coaches Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis will be molding the defensive line.

In a reversal of the script they managed last season, the Cardinals defensive front was ranked the worst in the league compared to the Philadelphia Eagles, which was ranked No. 1.

The rankings were calculated by Pro Football Focus, noting that starters J.J. Watt, Zach Allen and Markus Golden would all have to be replaced on Arizona’s front line from last year.

Arizona has only one defensive lineman who played more than 350 snaps last season, and that was interior defender Leki Fotu, who ranked 125th out of 127 players at his position in PFF grade.

Although we highlighted edge defender Cameron Thomas as a potential breakout candidate for the Cardinals, this unit might struggle mightily during the 2023 season.

The position group was lightly addressed during the NFL Draft with the selection of EDGE B.J. Ojulari in the second round and defensive tackle Dante Stills in the sixth round.

There have also been sightings of 2021 first round pick Zaven Collins contributing to the defensive line in offseason workouts.

Rushing the passer hasn’t been a pillar of strength for the Cardinals defense since the 2020 regular season when they finished fourth as a team in sacks with 48.

Over the last two seasons the Cardinals finished No. 14 and 24 in the league in sacks while Gannon’s Eagles led the NFL last season with 70 as a team.

The good news is the Cardinals can only improve from their lowly projections.

However, more talent might be needed to solidify the group.

Alongside Fotu and Thomas, Carlos Watkins and L.J. Collier bring an influx of experience to the position along with EDGE rushers Victor Dimukeje, Dennis Gardeck, Jesse Luketa and Myjai Sanders who are all expected to compete for snaps.

Don’t be surprised if GM Monti Ossenfort addresses this position when roster cuts begin after training camp.

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