Cards' 2009 Tasks: Improve the Pass Rush

After breaking down how the Arizona Cardinals must do a better job running the football, Brad Wilbricht switches gears to the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals' defense made progress a year ago but must continue to improve under first-year coordinator Bill Davis. One of the first items Davis will need to address is improving the team's pass-rushing abilities.

The Arizona Cardinals' offense had been on the verge of greatness over the past several seasons, so their tremendous performance in 2008 was no surprise. The other side of the ball had been Arizona's biggest question mark but during last year's playoff run, it was the Cardinals' defense that propelled the team to its first ever Super Bowl berth.

Arizona must continue to progress in all aspects on defense but upgrading the pass rush could benefit multiple areas simultaneously. Less time in the pocket for opposing quarterbacks will translate to better play in the secondary. Furthermore, as both of those areas get better, the Cardinals will be able to devote more resources towards stopping the run.

Cody Brown

In addition to improving the teams overall pass-rushing abilities, the Cardinals are hoping for a dominate pass rusher to emerge. Last year, Bertrand Berry led the team with just five sacks on the season. Chike Okeafor was second with 4.5 sacks and Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and the now departed Travis LaBoy each totaled four sacks a piece.

Of the potential candidates to break out as a pass-rushing specialist, rookie Cody Brown could be considered the most logical choice. Given the Cardinals' depth and experience, Brown will be able to focus exclusively on rushing the passer. Of the veterans, Okeafor is due to increase his sack total as is Clark Haggans and Berry is still in the mix.

Collaboratively, Arizona has a sufficient group of pass rushers, but at least one player must step forward as a constant threat. Dansby and Dockett have already developed into leaders but are all-around performers that uphold multiple duties on defense. That leaves and handful of veterans and an incoming rookie as the best possibilities for the Cardinals.

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