The Arizona Cardinals' D-Line in Transition: Darnell Dockett Wants Out

Sean MorrisContributor IMay 17, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 10:  Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers is stopped by Darnell Dockett #90 and Travis LaBoy #55 of the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium on November, 10 2008 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The boys are not back in town.

Three key players most likely will not be returning to the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals' defensive line.

Darnell Dockett has demanded a trade after the Cardinals refused to give him more money. Nothing is certain at this point, but it looks like he's gone.

Antonio Smith is already gone to the Texans. He left quickly. The Texans signed him on February 28th, just 27 days after the Cardinals' Super Bowl let down. He got paid. Smith should be good for them.

Travis LaBoy, a little known hybrid defensive end, will undergo ankle surgery this month and could miss the entire season. For those of you who don't know him, he's the white guy with long hair coming out the back of his helmet a la Pat Tillman.

It has been said that the defense wins championships. The Cardinals almost disproved that last year. They played inspired defense in the playoffs, but that's not what got them there.

They fired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast shortly after their loss on the world's biggest stage when the Pittsburgh Steelers came back to win with a long, methodical drive orchestrated by "Big Ben" Roethlisberger.

That drive was truly amazing, but the NFL (like all professional sports) is about the bottom line. The Arizona Cardinals' defense failed them when it mattered most.

They were a lot better than in years past, but the Cards' defense gave up over 30 points five times last season. Three of those games were over 40, and one was over 50.

The Cardinals were 16th in the league in rush defense, giving up 110 rush yards a game. They tied for 14th overall in sacks with 31 on the season.

The point is their defensive line was middle of the pack. Let’s not forget they're in the NFC West, which, aside from the Cardinals, was the weakest offensive division.

So, the Cardinals' defensive line has room for improvement. It looks like they'll have to rebuild, but it could work out for the best.

The Cardinals drafted four defensive players including outside linebacker Cody Brown from the University of Connecticut and defensive end Will Davis from Illinois. Scouts weren't talking them up too much, but maybe the Cards see something they don't.

They still have Bertrand Berry, a 12 year veteran on a one year contract who will get a lot more playing time than last year. This could be his last season.

Since the Cardinals' defensive line was middle of the pack they have room to improve, but they also have room to regress. How they promote and develop their players will determine their success or failure.

Former linebacking coach Bill Davis is now the defensive coordinator. The linebacking core for the Cardinals has been solid since Davis has been coaching, so it will be interesting to see if his promotion translates to overall defensive improvement.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.