Cardinals LBs Bucannon, Reddick continue to work as snaps dwindle
TEMPE, Ariz. — No position group has undergone as many changes through an 0-3 start for the Arizona Cardinals as their linebackers.
It got to the point during a 16-14 home loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday that nickel corner Bene Benwikere was earning a heavy dose of snaps in a dime package of six defensive backs for Arizona. That meant only one true linebacker was on the field.
Maybe that was a matchup package as Chicago used speedy pass-catching back Tarik Cohen. Nonetheless, the linebacking rotation has continued to see playing time dwindle for two of the Cardinals’ recent first-round picks, Deone Bucannon (2014) and Haason Reddick (2017).
Head coach Steve Wilks has repeatedly said there’s no entitlement in the linebacking group, but the fact remains that with a team already going to a rookie quarterback, questions loom about how Arizona will handle the rotation at linebacker.
The positive news is both Bucannon and Reddick remain committed to the team and ready for when their number is called.
“Course it’s tough. People know the passion I got for this game, you know what I’m saying? It’s hard,” Bucannon said Wednesday. “Ain’t nothing about myself at the end of the day. I want us to win. If you had them put an option out there for me … (to) not get one snap on this team but we go undefeated here on out, I’m taking me sitting my butt down on the bench and us winning every game.”
Bucannon played a single defensive snap against Chicago after starting the year as the first-team WILL linebacker, but he’s been pushed out with Arizona using heavy doses of defensive back Budda Baker.
Veteran Gerald Hodges has meanwhile taken the SAM linebacker role that listed Reddick as the starter to begin 2018, while MIKE linebacker Gerald Hodges came out of nowhere to earn significant playing time.
Reddick, who played four defensive snaps against Chicago, has gone through this before. At Temple, he recorded 38 tackles in just 15 games through his first two seasons before his game clicked as a junior.
“I just take the same approach that I did back then. Keep my head down, continue to work and when my time comes, make the best of that opportunity,” said Reddick.
“I don’t want to use the learning curve thing as an excuse because I’m not an excuse guy. I just wanted to be out on the field and playing and making plays.”
As Arizona prepares to face the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium on Sunday, the players having the toughest transitions from the Bruce Arians era to the Wilks-led Cardinals know they’ve simply got to put in the work.
If and when their time comes, they said they’ll be more ready than they were in Week 1.
“I’m one person. I’m here to get better and help the team the best way I can. I’m happy each and every time that I step into this building because it’s not guaranteed,” Bucannon said. “Putting in extra work, working out longer, being here, studying harder. The answer ain’t hidden. You just got to do it.
“You want to improve every week,” he added. “That’s what I look to do within any situation, within life. Each and every day, I’m getting more coaching, I’m understand what’s expected out of not only me, but what’s expected from the team and the team aspect. I’m looking forward to the Seahawks.”