Over the past few years, the Cardinals have collected defensive linemen in the draft like a child hoards seashells on the beach.
But while Arizona has grabbed eight over the past three drafts (not including one-time undrafted end Fred Wakefield, a starter for now), none have become any kind of difference-maker.
Coach Dennis Green wants to put a halt to that.
“We have guys that have potential,” Green said, “and potential is not a bad word to me.”
Green already has a boatload of linemen — he named Calvin Pace, Wendell Bryant, Marcus Bell, Dennis Johnson and Kyle Vanden Bosch specifically — he needs to develop. “If you then bring in one or two more guys like that, then you have seven to develop and I don’t think that is going to work,” Green said. “We don’t want to just add to that because we have enough guys like that.”
That might be good because the defensive linemen this year, even the top candidates, all have flaws. Many carry the tag of big talent, but less work ethic, and for the Cardinals, that is a red flag.
The Cardinals could conceivably pick up a tackle like Florida State's Darnell Dockett or Texas’ Marcus Tubbs with their early second-round pick. A defensive tackle, especially, is probable somewhere during the first day.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise,” said Kenny King, currently a starting tackle. “That’s what everyone says our weakness is.”
But the Cardinals would also like to turn to one of their past picks — Wendell Bryant.
Bryant is one of Green’s pet projects, and the Cards are at once trying to mold both his attitude and his play on the field. After the initial minicamp practice in March, Bryant was asked by a reporter if he felt pressured to improve his play.
“I’m always under the gun — is there anything (expletive) new around here?” Bryant said at the time.
The quote rubbed Green the wrong way, and the coach chastised Bryant in front of the team the next morning. Since then, Bryant has been wary of the media, but in a recent interview with the team’s Web site, admitted, “I need to do what I was brought here to do for this franchise.
“I have to be able to take constructive criticism instead of just going in the tank,” Bryant also said.
The Cards used free agency to improve the ends, signing pass rusher Bertrand Berry. Arizona also tried to sign Eric Hicks to start at end on the other side, not exactly good news to current ends like Vanden Bosch, Johnson and Pace. But Pace was a first-rounder just last year, and the defensive ends in the draft are particularly weak this season.
That’s why tackle would be a more likely target.
“There is no question we believe we have some guys at the position that we feel can get the job done,” vice president Rod Graves said. “But if the opportunity comes where we can get a young defensive tackle that will make us better, we will certainly consider taking one.”
EXTRA POINT: Despite much speculation nationally about the Cardinals and soon-to-be-released quarterback Kurt Warner, vice president of football operations Rod Graves said Thursday the team has no interest in Warner.