Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson
In order for a 3-4 defense to excel, it must be strong at nose tackle and with its pass-rushing outside linebackers. Both spots are questionable for the Cardinals.
Arizona has a great offense that can score points in bunches, but the defense allows too many points. Only four defenses gave up more points than the Cardinals last year. Their secondary may end up being one of the best in the league next year and they have playmakers Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby in the front seven. Gerald Hayes is also very solid at inside linebacker. But do they have outside linebackers who frighten opposing pass protectors? And does Arizona have a dominator in the middle of its defense to stuff the inside run and open room for teammates? The answer is no to both questions.
At outside linebacker the Cardinals have veterans Chike Okeafor, Clark Haggans and Bertrand Berry and used their second-round pick on Cody Brown. The three vets have seen better days and combined for 10.5 sacks last year. They have a combined 33 years of NFL experience and also have had plenty of injuries. Brown is a decent prospect, but he doesn't possess any particularly overwhelming traits. And like just about every rookie defender, he will have to adapt to the 3-4 scheme, which Arizona is expected to use with more frequency this season.
Playing nose tackle for Arizona are Gabe Watson, Alan Branch and Bryan Robinson. Branch and Robinson can both play end as well. Robinson is smart and tough. He is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of player at this advanced stage of his career and it wouldn't be surprising if his skills began to diminish in the near future.
Watson is massive and talented, but he has stamina and technique issues. Branch has been an underachiever since joining the league and also is quick to tire. While utilizing a rotation here is helpful, no one in this group is a difference-maker and opponents won't have any reservations about attacking the middle of this defense with the run.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.