Cardinals Draft Primer: Defensive Line

The Cardinals have used their offseason wisely by picking up defensive depth to offset the departures of Calvin Pace and Darryl Blackstock. However, Rod Graves still has work to do and a limited budget to follow. If the Cardinals are going to fortify their defensive line, it will have to happen through the draft. Which players will the Cardinals swoop in on?

One of the Cardinals top needs in this year's draft is a punishing pass-rusher. The major players of that group, Chris Long and Vernon Gholston, will be calling their third-grade teacher by the time the Cardinals are on the clock, but Florida's Derrick Harvey and Clemson's Phillip Merling could be there with the right amount of luck.

The addition of Merling or Harvey could help Darnell Dockett take on less of a burden-bearer role. It would also provide insurance in case Dockett continues to hold out in pursuit of a new contract.

Chike Okeafor could be the answer at defensive end, but all signs point to him switching to linebacker in Clancy Pendergast's 3-4 defense. Either way, the Cardinals need a defensive end who can play a hybrid role to give Pendergast options, as Bert Berry's position could also be due for some change.

Second-round defensive ends who could contribute immediately and give Antonio Smith a run for his money are USC's Lawrence Jackson and Purdue's Cliff Avril.

Purdue has a history of turning defensive ends into outside linebackers, but in Avril's case, he went the opposite direction. He's already dropped back in coverage and is ready to do either one in the NFL.

All the teams that run 3-4 defenses spoke with Avril at the NFL Combine. With his quickness off the edge, it's not difficult to understand why.

If the Cardinals wait until the later rounds, Jeremy Geathers (UNLV) should be their guy. Geathers (6'3", 256) is the son of James Allen "Jumpy" Geathers and the first cousin of Cincinatti Bengals lineman Robert Geathers.

Geathers' father is known for the "forklift rush." Jumpy Geathers manhandled blockers by going under their pads and carrying them back to the quarterback.

While Jeremy is still perfecting the maneuver, he has a lot to offer.

"I think I bring a lot more speed off the edge," he said. "As far as technique, I'm a great pass-rusher. You know, my skills have been taught by my father and my cousin. So my pass-rushing skills are probably a little ahead of [the other guys in the draft class]. Other than that, I've got great knowledge of the game from my family."

With his 6'3", 256-pound frame, Geathers could be the late-round pass-rusher the Cardinals are looking for.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.


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