Cardinals review/preview: Defensive line

With the Arizona Cardinals' loss in the playoffs still fresh in their memories, it’s time to review the 2014 season while previewing 2015. Over the next 11 installments, I’ll look back, and then ahead, at every position for the Cardinals.

2014 Review: It didn’t take long for the Cardinals to want to hit the rewind button on the defensive line this season. They lost veteran defensive tackle Darnell Dockett for the season with an ACL injury during training camp, igniting a season-long, team-wide battle with injuries. As Dockett’s replacement, Frostee Rucker was the first "next man up" on the defensive line. That line combined for 15 of Arizona’s 35 sacks in 2014, led by Calais Campbell’s seven and Rucker’s five. While Campbell, Rucker and nose tackle Dan Williams were Arizona’s base line, the signing of Tommy Kelly on Aug. 27 proved to be one of Arizona’s best of the season. Kelly found a role as a nickel and dime lineman and was effective a year after playing in just five games because of an ACL injury. The rotation generally consisted of those four plus two rookies, Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson, and Josh Mauro, who was signed in mid-November. Martin underperformed all season, peaking against Denver with three tackles in 65 snaps. But he was a healthy scratch the final four games of the season and Arizona’s wild-card game against Carolina. Stinson, who started finding a role in the middle of the season, was hampered by a toe injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve.

2015 Preview: The Cardinals will be faced with two defensive-line changing decisions during the offseason. Dockett, 33, I sscheduled to earn $6.8 million in 2015, the last year of his contract, which comes with a $9.8 million cap hit. The Cardinals might not want to keep that type of cap hit on the books considering he’ll be 34 by time next season kicks off and he’s coming off a missed season because of an ACL injury. He’s been posting about his rehab progress on social media and claims he’s in the best shape of his life. Williams is scheduled to be a free agent in March after earning $1.04 million in 2014, the final year of his rookie contract. He had 32 tackles in the regular season, including his second career sack, and six more in the wild-card loss to Carolina. He might be too expensive for the Cardinals to consider re-signing, however, considering he’s on the field for an average of 24.3 plays per game. The Cardinals kept another nose tackle on the roster, Alameda Ta'amu, despite him only playing 23 snaps all season for $570,000. He’s a restricted free agent this season. Another free-agent decision the Cardinals will face in the next couple of months is Kelly, who was signed to a one-year deal.

Coming next: Wide receivers