Next Man Up: Cardinals DE
Unfortunately, losing players to injury is commonplace in the NFL, but the best teams have the depth to handle the inevitable losses that come up throughout the season.
The Arizona Cardinals will have their defensive line depth challenged with starting defensive end Darnell Dockett going down for the season. Dockett has been a key cog in Arizona’s pass rush, grading at an impressive +65.7 throughout his career. However, there’s a significant drop-off in the running game as Dockett has posted a -127.5 mark, so it’s clearly a tale of two skillsets for him. Either way, there are 890 snaps of football that must be replaced, and it may take a committee approach to get it done.
Here’s a look at his replacements.
Rucker has been a rotational defensive end since being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round in 2006, however he’s yet to post a positive grade for an entire season (dating back to 2007). Last year was his first in Arizona and he showed some flashes as a pass rusher finishing at +2.8 on 229 rushes, including a sack, 10 QB hits and 14 hurries. If that continues, he may be able to ease some of the pass-rushing burden, but the track record just isn’t there. As for the run game, it’s never been a strong suit either, and Rucker isn’t your prototypical big 3-4 defensive end that you’d expect to see in there on early downs.
The Cardinals’ third-round pick in May’s draft, Martin should be a top candidate to see some playing time in Dockett’s absence, though the rookie has a bit of a transition to make. While he does have some experience lining up inside in college at North Carolina, he did a lot of his work outside the tackles on the edge, so staying strong against the run against NFL guards and tackles will be a challenge. He’s already gotten moved off the ball a few times in the early going here in preseason (-0.7 run defense) and he’s yet to record a pressure on 20 rushes.
Another rookie, Stinson was nabbed in the fifth round as the Cardinals looked to add much-needed defensive line depth. He may be the best fit to replace Dockett on early downs, especially given his experience playing 3-4 defensive end in Alabama’s defensive scheme in college. It’s been a good start for Stinson as he’s grading at +2.4 through two preseason games including a +1.8 grade in the running game. He’s already done some fine work clogging running lanes against guards and tackles while sprinkling in some pressure in his 64 total snaps. A strong early impression along with experience in a similar scheme should give Stinson an opportunity to play a valuable role in Arizona’s defense.
Others to Watch: Undrafted free agent Justin Renfrow (27 snaps, -0.7), Anthony McCloud (19 snaps, +0.6)
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