Positional Analysis: Defensive Tackle

Arizona Cardinals' coaches want more push from the defensive line, specifically the tackle position. Darnell Dockett is a great talent that may see more time at end now that the Cardinals are moving to a 3-4 defense. Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, and Alan Branch are in a battle to earn the starting nose tackle spot. Andy Bishop takes a look at the defensive tackle position

Until coaches decide otherwise, nose tackle Bryan Robinson still holds claim to the starting position he held all of last year. After playing 12 seasons in the league Robinson has surely lost a step, but he is still able to get the job done in the trenches. He can provide that veteran leadership that is essential for a team to make it a run in the playoffs.

Robinson can also play end in a 3-4 alignment, but he is unlikely to find work there with several players already fighting for time.

Hoping to make some noise and find a starting spot is former starter Gabe Watson. In just his second year in the league Watson started all 16 games for Arizona in 2007. He was ready for another big year until a knee injury got in the way. He played in 11 games, but was unable to a significant presence along the line. Watson needs a strong training camp to earn back his job.

Coaches are expecting third-year tackle Alan Branch to improve enough to get regular playing time along the DL rotation. Branch was a second-round pick in 2007, but has failed to materialize his talents at the NFL level. After Watson went down with an injury last year, the Cardinals had to sign Robinson because they had little confidence in Branch.

Weight has always been an issue for Branch, but he reported to training camp under his target weight. Branch must continue to keep his weight down in order to shed the "lazy" label that has always followed him.

The most talented tackle in Arizona is Darnell Dockett, who went on a frenzy in the Super Bowl, piling up six tackles and bringing down QB Ben Roethlisberger three times. This was a nice end to a season in which Dockett had just four sacks in the regular season. Dockett went on a tear in 2007 recording nine sacks, and coaches are hoping for that kind of production in 2009.

It may be a little harder for Dockett to get to the quarterback if the Cardinals use more 3-4 looks. Dockett will move to right end, a position not associated with high sack numbers. Dockett was initially unsure how he would be used in the 3-4, but coaches have ensured they will find ways to make him effective. Dockett is in the middle of his prime, and Arizona fans should expect great things from Dockett.

Second-year pro Keilen Dykes will fight during training camp to earn a spot on the roster. He was on the practice squad in his rookie season last year. Dykes is a versatile option who possesses a similar skill set to that of Dockett. He will likely be Dockett's main backup since he can play as a tackle and a 3-4 end.


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