Calais Campbell sees road to Pro Bowl easier as DT than DE

Calais Campbell has played 70.8 percent of his snaps this season as a defensive tackle. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Calais Campbell makes his second-straight Pro Bowl this season, it won't be as a defensive end.

The eight-year veteran had his position reclassified as a defensive tackle. He spent the first seven years of his career -- including his 2014 Pro Bowl campaign -- as a defensive end. The change appeared on the Arizona Cardinals weekly depth chart this week.

The decision to officially enter the world of interior lineman wasn't a surprise to Campbell because of how his role in Arizona's defense this season has him playing primarily inside. Campbell gave his permission to change his position when the Cardinals asked.

But the difference to Campbell is just a matter of letters.

"My position hasn't changed," Campbell said. "I still do the same thing I've been doing every year of my career, so it's kind of like a hybrid. At times, I play D-end but most times I play D-tackle. In passing situations, I'm inside. There are a few blitzes I play outside but 85 percent of my work is done in the interior so it makes sense to be a D-tackle."

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Campbell has played 70.8 percent of his snaps this season as a defensive tackle -- with the large majority coming at right defensive tackle. That number has skyrocketed from the past two seasons, when Campbell played 14.7 percent of his snaps at defensive tackle in 2014 and 8.4 percent in 2013.

While it's a matter of changing one letter, becoming a defensive tackle puts Campbell in a new Pro Bowl category -- from which it may be easier for him to earn the annual accolade.

Last season's Pro Bowl interior defensive lineman included Buffalo's Marcell Dareus, St. Louis' Aaron Donald, Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, Kansas City's Dontari Poe, former Lion Ndamukong Suh and Buffalo's Kyle Williams.

If Campbell was listed as a defensive tackle last year, he would've been a clear-cut Pro Bowler, leading that group in tackles, finishing fourth in sacks with seven, and was one of four with a forced fumble and one of two with an interception.

Thus far this season, Campbell has the most tackles with 32 and his 1.5 sacks are third most among that group of interior offensive linemen. As a defensive tackle, Campbell won't have to compete against the likes of Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, DeMarcus Ware, J.J. Watt and Mario Williams to earn his annual trip to the NFL's all-star game.

"I do think it's a lot easier to get to the Pro bowl from a D-tackle than it is as a D-end, especially for a guy that's a 3-4 kind of hybrid D-end but really line up in the three technique most of the time, where mostly tackles play," Campbell said. "I think it'll be a lot easier."

But saying goodbye to his days as a defensive end wasn't completely easy.

He knows how defensive tackles are perceived compared to defensive ends, but he's out to prove he can be a new breed of interior linemen.

"People consider D-ends a little more fast and athletic so there is an emotional connection," he said. "I'm just fast and athletic. I'm just a very athletic D-tackle."