Cardinals Seek to Fortify Defensive Line

The Cardinals' woes along the D-line were magnified last season when Chike Okeafor and Bert Berry went down with season-ending injuries. Okeafor and Berry are under contract for 2008 but both are on the wrong side of 30. D-line coach Ron Aiken was at the Senior Bowl eyeballing a prospect who could fortify Arizona's defensive front.

DE Chris Ellis (6'5", 260 pounds) is blessed with a quick first step and a high tolerance for pain. He tore his labrum as a junior at Virginia Tech, yet managed to play in 12 games, registering 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

He had his best season as a senior, posting 8.5 sacks and being named an All-ACC first team selection. He also recorded a career-high 53 total tackles and nine tackles for a loss.

He boasts an innate ability to "be where the ball is," as he recovered three fumbles, returned an interception 5 yards for a touchdown and registered 38 quarterback pressures.

"I'm a player who will do anything for the team," he said. "I stay around the ball. Whether its special teams, defense...anything I can do to help the team that's what I'm willing to do."

Ellis would be an excellent fit for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's defense, which places a premium on fast and agile defensive ends. Pendergast hopes to use a true 3-4 scheme in 2008 and the former Hokie could be a significant piece in achieving that goal.

Ellis' combination of size and speed has drawn favorable comparisons to Darnell Dockett. Given that Dockett ended his last season in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, the Cardinals could certainly use another player of his ilk.

At the Senior Bowl, Ellis spoke openly about what he needs to improve on to make a Dockett-like impact.

"Strength has been the biggest issue with me, so I'm just going out there and being aggressive and making the plays when they come to me," he said.

Ellis also spoke of his experience working with a professional coaching staff, specifically that of the Oakland Raiders.

"The terminology has been the biggest thing. It's been the same plays, but what they call one (play) you might call another."

Ellis seemed to assimilate just fine. He looked sharp throughout the week and played well during the game, netting a pair of tackles.

The Cardinals coaches spoke highly of Ellis during their time in Mobile, Ala. With Chike Okeafor and Bert Berry in question and the rest of the defensive line in flux, spending a third-round pick on a guy like Ellis would make a lot of sense.


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