What is the Cardinals defensive line outlook in 2022?
By: Jake Rajala
The Arizona Cardinals defensive line carries a healthy J.J. Watt, but they still have a couple of question marks at numerous spots entering the 2022 season. Pro Football Focus wasn’t excited about the Cardinals direction at DL – as they ranked their DL unit 27th in the league. It was clear that PFF wasn’t optimistic about the Cardinals replacements in Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders for Chandler Jones, who had 19 sacks in 2019 and 10.5 sacks in 2021.
Thomas is the third-round pick for the Cardinals tasked with being an impact player in his first season. Thomas has expressed how much he respects and imitates the magic from Watt. Per Arizona Sports 98.7, the rook stated, “I modeled a lot of my game after J.J. Watt, especially at San Diego State, how much versatility I had. J.J. was another guy that I was able to learn a lot of inside and outside and just dominate. I’m hoping to do the same”.
Watt may not be a sack machine (9 sacks from 2019 and 2020 combined) at this point in his career, but his presence and versatility have still been phenomenal. PFF labeled him as the 14th best IDL at this point — and he can certainly excel on the edge on occasion.
The Cardinals will also expect Rashard Lawrence and Zach Allen to be key pieces of their IDL. Lawrence missed six games last season and he will look to stay healthy for a strong junior season. Allen is coming off his best season (4 sacks, 14 QB hits, 5 TFLs, and 1 int). He will certainly stride to have his best season next to a healthy Watt. If the Cardinals DL can stay healthy, they can absolutely be a middle-of-the-pack DL unit at the very least.