The Arizona Cardinals badly need a pass rusher.
They tried to lure just such a player, linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, through free agency, only to have Colvin shun them. So when the pieces of Saturday’s NFL draft are put together — the Cardinals own the sixth pick, the best pass rusher in the draft is local boy Terrell Suggs, a defensive end from ASU — the jump in logic isn’t hard to make.
“While we are taking a good look at Terrell, I don’t want anybody to get too focused on, ‘This is our selection,’ ” said Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves. “We would love to have him, but we would love to have a lot of other players too.”
The upcoming draft is considered to have a bounty of quality defensive linemen. Some have speculated that as many as 10 of the 32 first-round picks could be spent on either defensive ends or defensive tackles. Two players expected to go in the top 10 are Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson and Penn State defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, both of whom could be impact players in the middle.
Robertson, whose stock has jumped since the end of the college season, was compared by one NFC coach to a young Warren Sapp.
The Cardinals have interest in both, even after drafting defensive tackle Wendell Bryant with their top pick a year ago.
“The trenches is where the game is won,” Kennedy said.
But Graves admitted that in terms of pass rushers, the group is not as deep. For a team that has 19 and 21 sacks the past two seasons — by far the lowest in the NFL both seasons — finding some immediate pass-rush help is a must.
“The great pass rusher can obviously make your secondary a lot better,” said Chicago coach Dick Jauron, whose Bears own the No. 4 overall pick and are the other likely team to nab Suggs. “Offenses, in my opinion, will game plan a little differently if you have a great cover guy but not any pass rusher. I’m not sure they are fearful — they will get the guy open eventually. But if you have a great pass rush and average defensive backs, (an offense) can have a long day, because you have to give that guy time to throw the ball.”
Suggs doesn’t have ideal size for a defensive end, weighing only 258 pounds. He'll benefit, though, from the success of Dwight Freeney, a smaller end who had a big rookie year for Indianapolis last season. Two workouts that put Suggs’ 40-yard-dash times in the 4.85 neighborhood rather than the expected 4.65 put Suggs’ stock in flux. Houston was seriously considering him at No. 3 as a rush linebacker, but the lack of speed scared the Texans off.
But many teams point to Suggs’ 24 sacks this season with the Sun Devils as the proof they need that Suggs will succeed in the NFL.
“He’ll be somebody’s dominant pass rusher,” Buffalo coach Gregg Williams said. “Soon.”
Said Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis, “This year, he made a quantum leap.”
The Cardinals could trade down and pick up additional picks, which would probably put Suggs out of reach. But if he is on the board when Arizona is ready to choose, he will be difficult to pass up considering how much his talent could help the Cards.
“You never know,” Suggs said, “until the draft.”