Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller plays in the Senior Bowl.
INDIANAPOLIS – Von Miller said the obvious, but in the case of most pass rushers, the obvious was the most inviting trait.
"My God-given ability is speed off the edge, just rushing," the Texas A&M linebacker said Saturday at the Scouting combine. "I can drop back into coverage and do all that other stuff, too, but what God has blessed me with is pass rushing off the edge."
That's also what the Cardinals hope to be blessed with by the time April's draft comes around. Without a single dominant edge rusher since Bertrand Berry began suffering serious injuries a few years ago, the Cardinals could use a game-changer at the position.
Miller, regarded by many as the top pass rusher in the draft and the top prospect for the 3-4 defensive alignment the Cardinals use, could be that guy at No. 5. There are other options later, too. Generally, though, their ability in that one facet of the game is well known.
"You have to have certain physical ability, but to some degree, stats usually follow a good pass rusher throughout his career," Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim said. "Rarely do you see a guy who wasn't an elite pass rusher on the college level somehow transcend that and become one in the NFL."
The Cardinals did take a player like that last season with O'Brien Schofield, whose résumé parallels Miller to a point – huge sack numbers in college, and impressive Senior Bowl practices. Of course, Schofield ended up blowing out his knee at one such practice, rehabbing in time to return for the second half of the Cards' season.
Schofield got significant playing time late after veteran Joey Porter got hurt, and notched two sacks. He is confident – and the Cards still hopeful – he can be a dominant pass rusher. But with Porter nearing the end of his career (coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week Porter's struggles were in part because he had to play too much last season), the Cards need more than the five sacks Porter provided.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton talked a lot about being an aggressive defense that was going to pressure the quarterback. Last season, defensive end Calais Campbell led the Cards with six sacks. The last time a Card had 10 in a season was when Berry had 14½ during his 2004 Pro Bowl year.
The Cards have others linebackers on the roster like Will Davis and Cyril Obiozor, but they haven't had a history of pass-rush impact.
"That's a great a question and a constant debate," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "There are certain guys that can rush the passer since they've been playing Pop Warner ball, and then there's also guys that have certain qualities athletically that if you have a good teaching staff like we do, that can help those guys develop into good pass rushers.
"A guy like (Seahawks defensive end and Arizona State product) Dexter Davis has been undersized, and he has been hearing that he's an undersized guy his whole career and all he does is he just has a natural feel, a God-given ability to rush the passer."
Just like Miller.
Part of the reluctance on Miller – who had 27 ½ sacks his final two years of college -- is his weight, but he weighed in at 246 pounds at the combine, or right about where Schofield plans to play. He also, as a college defensive end, will have to make the transition to standing up.
Weight can be gained. Playing standing up can be taught. Can the ability to rush the quarterback? Or does that take someone special?
"Sort of like the cornerback that has the natural ability to drive on routes and anticipate and break up passes," Keim said, "that's the equivalent of the knack of getting to the quarterback."
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