The Arizona Cardinals’ chances of following up the success of a 10-win season and becoming a contender in the juggernaut NFC West lied with their pass rush. The same pass rush that finished sixth in the league last year with 47 sacks, and made life generally terrible for opposing quarterbacks.
Now it’s also the same pass rush that will have to exist and get pressure this season without defensive end Darnell Dockett.
The preseason claimed another victim yesterday when Dockett crumbled during practice, tearing his ACL and MCL. Although at 33 years old Dockett may not bring the same hurt he once did, the loss is still devastating.
Look at the Cardinals’ total sack number from last year again, and then look at how many have evaporated. When Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland, he took 6.5 sacks with him. Then with Daryl Washington sitting out due to a year-long suspension and now Dockett’s absence, there’s another 7.5 sacks gone. The grand total: 14 sacks missing. Send help.
In any other division that would be rather unpleasant, but not daunting. But in the NFC West, finding 14 sacks could quickly be crippling. Of the top 10 team sack totals last year, two other slots were occupied by NFC West teams, led by St. Louis in third with 53 quarterback takedowns. After adding Aaron Donald the Rams might not allow a single pass attempt, and San Francisco finished with 38 sacks even while Aldon Smith missed five games.
It’s a division fuelled by pocket disruption, and Ideally that fire is matched with an inferno of your own. To do that now the Cardinals are left leaning heavily on John Abraham, who could quickly hit a steep regression slope at age 36 after 11.5 sacks last year, and Calais Campbell.
Dockett’s injury on its own isn’t a deathblow, as the Cardinals still have a strong secondary that’s added Antonio Cromartie and rookie safety Deone Bucannon. But the strain on that defensive backfield could be far too much with Washington, Dansby, and now Dockett gone.