Returning From Injury: Defense

The Cardinals defense was devastated by injuries in 2007 and struggled throughout most of the season. With multiple key contributors back in action this year, the Arizona defense is poised to be much improved. Brad Wilbricht dissects which defenders returning from injury will make the biggest impact in 2008.

The loss of SS Adrian Wilson was a major cause for the Cardinals poor defensive effort last season. Wilson fell victim to an Achilles injury in Week 10 and missed the team's remaining seven games. Wilson is a fierce hitter and a consistent playmaker in the secondary. Prior to last season, he had been extremely durable missing only two games throughout his seven-year career.

Although backup SS Aaron Francisco filled in admirably, Wilson's return will provide the Cardinals defense with a much needed boost. Wilson has been extremely productive during his career, racking up 544 tackles along with 16 interceptions and 16 sacks. Wilson's veteran leadership and presence was sorely missed last year and his return will immediately upgrade the team's defense.

The Cardinals secondary suffered another blow when starting CB Eric Green went down with a groin injury in Week 13. With the team's depth very thin at the cornerback position, Green's services were severely missed for the remainder of the season. Although Green has no career interceptions, he's poised for a breakout year. Green boasts excellent size and possesses the ability to turn and run with most NFL receivers.

Heading into 2008, the Cardinals are again thin on depth at cornerback. The team can't afford multiple injuries in the secondary if they hope to improve on last years sub par performance. However, Green's return to the starting lineup along with the addition of first-round draft pick CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has helped solidify the Cardinals secondary.

Chike Okeafor
(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)

The Cardinals transition to the 3-4 defense was slowed last season when both DE/OLB Bertrand Berry and OLB Chike Okeafor were lost due to injuries. Berry was sidelined for the year in Week 10 with a triceps tear. Since totaling 14.5 sacks in 2004, Berry has managed to only match that number of sacks over the last three seasons combined. Berry accepted a pay cut this offseason to avoid becoming a cap casualty and will look to return to his old form.

Okeafor received rave reviews from the Cardinals coaching staff as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Okeafor features the ideal body style and frame to thrive as an edge pass rusher. Although the Cardinals acquired former Tennessee Titans DE/OLB Travis LaBoy this offseason, Okeafor will be given the first opportunity to replace the departed Calvin Pace.

Okeafor had 16 total sacks during his first two seasons in the desert, before a preseason triceps injury cut his 2007 season short. Okeafor will look to recapture the success he experienced during 2005-2006. If he's unable to do so, LaBoy and OLB Clark Haggans will be counted on to help fill the void.

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