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As Cardinals Sort Through Defensive Linemen, Dante Stills Seeks Shot

Sixth-round pick has chance to earn rotation time 

Rookie Dante Stills is trying to find a spot in the defensive line rotation.
Rookie Dante Stills is trying to find a spot in the defensive line rotation.

Defensive tackle Dante Stills can't help but crack a smile when talking about the everyday grind of his first training camp.

"You know it's not easy, but I'm excited to be here," Stills said. "I love the energy that the guys bring every day, and the high intensity that our D-line brings."

The sixth-round pick is joining a defensive line room where he could earn regular season snaps as a rookie, given the departures of J.J. Watt and Zach Allen and the unknown beyond that.

"This is the big leagues now," Stills said. "Technique is very important with hand placement, footwork, and having the right approach to practice. The coaching staff has said I should be the player that I am, not to overthink, and have fun being out there."

Throughout the first week of training camp, Stills has occasionally flashed, and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis is pleased with Stills' football character.

"He's got some tools to work with, no doubt," Rallis said. "He's explosive. He can anchor doubles. He can play gap and a half. He's got some acceleration and a good get off where he can add some juice in the pass rush as well."

During his time at West Virginia, Stills played more on the edge. Throughout camp, Rallis has been happy with the work Stills has done on the interior. Still, there's room for growth, with Rallis mentioning that Stills has the ability to elevate every aspect of his game.

The D-Line group enters 2023 missing majority of its production from the previous season with Watt's retirement and Allen leaving as a free agent. The two accumulated half of the Cardinals total sacks.

Behind Watt and Allen, Jonathan Ledbetter had the next highest sack total for defensive lineman -- one.

Despite the question mark surrounding this defensive line, Rallis expressed optimism, especially once the pads came on.

"I thought they did a great job in the run game and had the chance to work some power rushes a little bit more," Rallis said. "It's a good group from top to bottom and there's a really good competition in there right now."

Defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence, who figures to be in the rotation if he can find a way to stay healthy, said the group believes in itself despite the doubts.

"We don't pay attention to it," Lawrence said. "We feel comfortable with the guys we brought in. We think we can be a real solid unit, so we take it a day at a time."

Insert Stills.

As the only rookie playing the position, the veterans have taken him under their collective wing.

"I love these guys and I think they're hilarious," Stills said. "I'm taking their advice that they give me and apply it to practice and the film room. I take what they're saying about my technique and fix it. They'll be there for you regardless, and I'm a young guy, but I have a bunch of older guys on the team and in the D-Line group to lean on."