A closer look at the positions the Arizona Cardinals could target at the NFL combine in Indianapolis:
One common refrain from the Cardinals this offseason has been the need to improve their pass rush. Aside from veteran Dwight Freeney, the Cardinals struggled to get to the quarterback consistently throughout the season. While Arizona has a solid interior with defensive tackles Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker, complemented by the likes of Xavier Williams, Rodney Gunter and Josh Mauro, the Cards need to add another consistent threat inside. They’ll be getting Corey Peters back from injury, but depth is the key to more pressure. But it’s on the outside that the Cardinals will find their way to the quarterback. They need another pass-rusher who can be effective on three downs to help set up the likes of Freeney, Markus Golden and Alex Okafor. Arizona also needs to complement its secondary, with the possibility of both cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Rashad Johnson leaving in free agency.
Three players the Cardinals could focus on at the combine:
Leonard Floyd (OLB), Georgia: Floyd has the explosiveness the Cardinals are looking for off the edge, but he needs some grooming. He can improve against the run and at the point of attack, but he has the kind of athleticism and quickness that suggests the Cardinals can mold him into an effective weapon off the edge. And Arizona is in no rush to play him without the proper preparation, especially with Golden playing as well as he did later in the season.
Victor Ochi (DE), Stony Brook: At 6-foot-1, Ochi could be considered undersized but he’s comparable to Gunter last season -- a player who dominated his level of college football but had questions about his ability to adapt to the speed of the NFL. With Ochi, the Cardinals would be getting a tried-and-true edge rusher. He has the power to barrel through tackles but needs to work on stopping the run. Ochi isn’t the type of player Arizona would draft if it wants its pass-rushers to drop into coverage, however.
Eli Apple (CB), Ohio State: He has the size (6-1) to complement Patrick Peterson at right cornerback. He also has the experience and ability to enter a press-man scheme and succeed at it almost immediately. There are areas where the Cardinals will work with him: bulking up, working on his ball skills and getting to the ball at the top of his jump. But he’s good against the run and has the speed to run with receivers until help gets to him over the top.