Plugging the holes: NFC West

Biggest remaining questions for the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks

Originally Published: August 9, 2011
By Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders
Frank GoreCary Edmondson/US PresswireThe San Francisco 49ers desperately need Frank Gore to stay healthy.

Note: This is the sixth of an eight-part series, going division by division through the NFL.

One effect of the lockout is that teams don't have as good a feel for their roster as they would in normal years. No one has conducted OTAs; rookies haven't had a chance to study the playbooks or meet with position coaches; and, because free agency was pushed back until after the lockout, many teams don't know what their rosters will look like even as they begin training camp. So without further ado, let's look at the biggest remaining question for all four teams in the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals: Who will rush the passer?

The Cardinals had 33 sacks last season, tied with the Saints for 18th in the league. However, they didn't have any dominant individual pass-rushers. Team leader Calais Campbell was just 39th with 6.0 sacks. As a result, the Cardinals were forced to blitz to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and that left their defense vulnerable to big plays. Only six teams gave up more 20-yard pass plays, and only the Denver Broncos gave up more 20-yard runs.

The second-leading sacker on the Cardinals was Darnell Dockett, making Arizona the very rare 3-4 team that gets more sacks from its ends than from its outside linebackers. The Cardinals need to get more pressure from the outside. Joey Porter and Clark Haggans will be a combined 68 years old this year, and they had only five sacks apiece last year. There's nothing behind them but inexperienced late-round draftees such as O'Brien Schofield and Will Davis.