Departed defensive coordinator Ray Horton‘s brilliance managed to generate quarterback pressure in recent years, despite an Arizona Cardinals defensive unit that has been brutally lacking in effective edge rushers. Horton found creative ways for linebacker Daryl Washington to blitz from the inside backer spot and tally his sacks but over this unit was not bringing it from the edge. O’Brien Schofield, Sam Acho and Quentin Groves and other outside linebackers in recent years just weren’t able to get that job done, with the three combining for 12 sacks in 2012.
This has led to the Cards having a ranking over the past few years that’s been middle-to-bottom-half of the league in pass-rush grade (via Pro Football Focus). Two Arizona players have packed their own punch in this regard at defensive end, with Calais Campbell emerging as one of the league’s truly dominant 3-4 defensive ends and Darnell Dockett showing a very high ceiling in 2011, before a rough 2012 campaign. These two veteran DEs and new Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles should benefit greatly from the franchise’s late-offseason addition, active NFL sacks leader John Abraham.
“Sometimes when you study a 35-year-old on tape, he looks likes a 35-year-old,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said, via USA TODAY Sports. “For whatever reason — I don’t know if they put this guy in wax or what — but this guy can still get off the rock. He had 10 sacks last year, seven forced fumbles and his get-off to this day is still like I remember it back when I scouted him at South Carolina.”
The Cardinals snagged both Abraham and right tackle Eric Winston shortly before the starting of preseason and bolster two areas with their share of question marks. Abraham is quickly providing answers at outside linebacker, having already recorded a sack fumble in the Cards’ first preseason game — adding to resume that has 32.5 sacks in the past three seasons.