Cardinals' Defensive Line Making Strides

Rounding out the unit-by-unit look at the Cardinals is a position that was given a great deal of attention in the draft. GM Rod Graves selected three defensive linemen, although one may spend the bulk of his time standing up.'s James Jones analyzes this integral piece of the Cardinals' defense and where it ranks in the West.

The Cardinals defense allowed a respectable 97.9 rushing yards per game in 2007. This was due in large part to a defensive line that boasted a Pro Bowler in Darnell Dockett and a quick complement in DE Antonio Smith.

Dockett registered 58 tackles and nine sacks last season, while Smith contributed 43 tackles and six sacks. Given these numbers, one might think the team's defensive line wasn't in need of so much attention in the draft.

However, the Cardinals spent three of their seven draft picks on defensive linemen. Arizona selected Miami DE Calais Campbell, Iowa DE Kenny Iwebema and Texas A&M DE/LB Chris Harrington. All three should battle for time in the rotation.

Graves also dug up some veteran blook to reinforce the ranks, signing free agents Travis LaBoy and Bryan Robinson.

Rounding out the defensive line is starting nost tackle Gabe Watson and emerging second-year backup Alan Branch. Joe Tafoya should contribute to the 2008 campaign, as well.

The additions the Cardinals made, coupled with their performance last season, should perch Ron Aiken's unit firmly as the top D-line in the NFC West.

Seattle allowed 102.8 rushing yards per contest last season, the second-lowest total in the division. With Patrick Kerney, Brandon Mebane and behemoth Rocky Bernard all coming back to anchor the line, the Seahawks should be stout against the run and will have no problem generating a pass rush. Seattle also signed away free agent Chris Cooper from Arizona this off-season.

San Francisco ranked dead last in the division last season after giving up 118.5 yards per game to opposing rushers. The retirement of All-Pro tackle Bryant Young isn't going to make this unit any better. However, the addition of DT Kentwan Balmer, whom the team selected with its first pick in the draft, should do Mike Nolan's team plenty of good. The signing of former Cincinnati Bengals franchise player Justin Smith will also go a long way towards solidifying things by the Bay.

St. Louis drafted DE Chris Long with its first pick and the Rams hope he can contribute immediately to a defense that allowed 115.2 rushing yards per game in 2007. The team also brought in free agent DE James Hall, who will help more against the pass than the run. In addition, St. Louis returns speed-rusher Leonard Little and last year's first-round pick, Adam Carriker.

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