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Cardinals turn to rookie DE Allen after statement cut of Philon

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It might’ve been a no-brainer for the Arizona Cardinals to cut waiver-wire pickup Desmond Harrison after a warrant went out for his arrest due to an assault charge in mid-July.

The same could be said for the team’s handling of defensive end Darius Philon, who was cut Saturday after he was booked Friday and charged with assault involving a deadly weapon.

Yet the statement it made was much louder.

Unlike Harrison, who the team took a flier on as a potential backup offensive tackle, Philon was a projected starter. The free agent signed to a $10 million deal that included a hefty signing bonus, a move that expected to help shore up the Cardinals’ poor run defense from a year ago.

Now, Philon is out, and rookie third-round pick Zach Allen is in.

“I’m just here to do whatever the team needs me to do,” Allen said Saturday, before Arizona officially released Philon. “I said that since Day 1, since I got drafted. It hasn’t changed. I’m just here to play football. Whatever my role may be, I’m just excited to do that and take that role as far as I can.”

For now, that means Allen, the 65th overall pick in the draft, is running alongside starting defensive linemen Corey Peters and Rodney Gunter.

Since Allen broke out his junior year at Boston College, the 6-foot-4, 281-pound end amassed 161 tackles, 30.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks and two interceptions.

He also posted eight passes defensed as a senior in 2018, most of which came on batted passes.

“I think his coachability (stands out). You ask him to do it one way, he nails it,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “And if he makes a mistake, he doesn’t make it twice.”

Kingsbury called Allen a “jack-of-all-trades” type of lineman and added that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph could potentially use Allen in a number of ways, in a three-point stance or even standing up.

Allen didn’t record a statistic and felt he didn’t perform well in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday. Peters knows first-hand that the learning curve has and will continue to be steep for the rookie.

“I think you just kind of understand how much more skilled the NFL offensive linemen are than the college level,” Peters said. “It’s not really a physicality thing, especially if you played big-time college ball, but as far as from a technical standpoint, the offensive linemen in this league are much better with their hands, much better with their sets and their technique, their angles.

“(Allen) definitely has a lot of potential,” Peters added. “Has the physical ability to play right away. So now it’s just about speeding up that learning curve, understanding what offenses are trying to do to us.”

Regardless of Allen’s abilities, the defensive line position immediately becomes a top priority for the Cardinals’ front office led by general manager Steve Keim.

Arizona entered the offseason likely hoping 2016 first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche could make a midseason return and produce in a contract year, but he showed up out of shape and was cut.

It’s a good thing Keim didn’t stop after adding Philon this offseason.

He drafted Allen in the third round and fellow rookie Michael Dogbe in the seventh. Keim also signed veteran defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who is listed on the latest depth chart as Allen’s backup. Second-year pro Sterling Bailey is the only other end on the roster.

“I think that’s an area that with Steve that we’ll have to address where we’re at depth-wise to get through camp and continue to evaluate players on that D-line,” Kingsbury said. “But I like what Zach Allen has brought. I’m really excited that we have him here, obviously.”

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