The Arizona Cardinals‘ war room was absolutely ecstatic this past May when they realized defensive end Kareem Martin was still available in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. To no one’s surprise, Cardinals team representatives nearly sprinted to the podium to turn in their draft card with the former University of North Carolina Tar Heels’ name on it. After all, just like the entire ACC, the Cardinals knew of Martin’s playmaking potential and were anxious to land the young man from Chapel Hill.
Martin posted a phenomenal senior season, tallying 11 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles primarily from the defensive end position. At 6-foot-6, 272 pounds, he has the size and length NFL coaches covet in their modern edge-rushers and he actually shares many of the same attributes that Cardinals All-Pro Calais Campbell had as a rookie.
The two are so similar, in fact, that it’s difficult to tell them apart on the field at times. Obviously, this is mostly because of their unbelievable size (Campbell stands 6-foot-8), but it isn’t Campbell who Martin will be trying to replace in the long run. In all likelihood, Arizona is hoping that Martin will step into Darnell Dockett’s role opposite Campbell along their defensive line.
Those are some huge shoes to fill. Dockett has become a fan favorite during his tenure in the desert with his relentless motor and tremendous leverage. Clearly, head coach Bruce Arians is hoping that Martin will help continue the pass-rushing tradition in Arizona as a future bookend.
Of course, just like Campbell’s rookie season, Martin will have to add some strength and weight before he will be able to take over for Dockett. Setting the edge in the NFL is far more difficult than college – especially for 3-4 defensive ends – but Martin will have an amazing supporting cast to learn from for the time being.
Arizona will hope that process happens sooner than later, though. Playing in the rugged NFC West definitely has its disadvantages, and Arizona seems to get the short end of the stick more often than most, particularly when it comes to media exposure.
While no one is doubting the defensive abilities of the San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals’ defense is flat out nasty with the way they fly around on the field. The way they get overlooked on an almost daily basis which borders on insanity.
Regardless of the reasoning, this lack of media attention only seems to add fuel to the Cardinals’ fire. Eventually, however, this team will get their due respect. With another wave of young talent arriving – highlighted by the disruptive Martin – this defense is sure to turn heads in 2014. Sadly, at least for other teams, those heads will likely belong to quarterbacks if Martin has anything to say about it.