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Finally healthy, Alex Okafor looks to fill the void for Arizona Cardinals
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Finally healthy, Alex Okafor looks to fill the void for Arizona Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — One player’s injury is another’s opportunity.

Alex Okafor, you are the next man up.

With Matt Shaughnessy on I.R. due to a knee injury, the second-year pro out of Texas will slide into the starting lineup to help fill the void. Okafor, who has battled his own injury problems since entering the NFL, feels like he’s ready for an expanded role.

“I feel really good about it,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. But more than anything, next man up philosophy. There should be no drop off when I get in there.”

Okafor, however, is still very much unproven.

The Cardinals selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft with the goal of turning the defensive lineman — who finished his college career with 150 tackles, 23 sacks, 34 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and four passes defensed — into a linebacker. That process was stunted when he suffered a torn biceps tendon in the team’s Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Incidentally, Okafor’s first game action of 2014 was Sunday in Denver, where he failed to record a tackle in any of his 10 snaps.

Arians, though, complimented the 23-year-old’s performance, pointing out how he got pressure on the quarterback.

And if there’s one place Okafor may be an improvement over Shaughnessy, it’s rushing the passer. While Shaughnessy is certainly capable of getting to the quarterback, as his 18.5 career sacks would attest, he’s known more for being stout against the run.