Cardinals consider Haason Reddick at OLB, want look at young CBs
TEMPE, Ariz. — The most embarrassing defeat of the Arizona Cardinals’ season triggered a series of roster moves and hard looks in the mirror less than 24 hours later.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he’s watched enough tape and led enough practices to remain confident in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph after the Cardinals allowed 549 yards of total offense to the Los Angeles Rams. Does he and boss Steve Keim have confidence in the players?
Not so much.
Arizona released cornerback Tramaine Brock and running back Zach Zenner on Monday morning after a 27-point defeat at the hands of the Rams. The latter was a matter of using a roster spot on a position of need, while the former was about performance.
Releasing Brock, who played as the third cornerback as well as nickelback, was about getting youngsters Kevin Peterson and Chris Jones more playing time, Kingsbury said.
It was not, however, a sign the Cardinals are going all-in on giving younger players more snaps. They believe it will make them better.
“He gave us some good games and was injured (for part of the year) and we’re going to play some younger players,” Kingsbury said of Brock. “We’re always looking to turn over the roster and improve.
“That position is more what younger guys have done in practice and shown and how they’ve performed, and (we) wanted to give them more opportunity,” Kingsbury said, adding, “that’s not a wholesale thing.”
Peterson has played in the slot and as a true corner, and Byron Murphy’s shift inside in nickel packages on Sunday against the Rams showed the Cardinals need a look at where he fits best. Jones, who was cut midseason and picked up later on, looked competitive as a starting cornerback early on while Brock was injured this season.
Even if Arizona doesn’t have a youth movement beyond the defensive backfield, the sense of urgency for the 3-8-1 team portends more uncertainty moving forward.
More changes could come at linebacker.
Haason Reddick could be moved from inside to outside as the Cardinals search for a pass-rushing threat beyond Chandler Jones.
The edge rusher who went 13th overall to Arizona in the 2017 NFL Draft has been searching for a true position from the very start of his career, something that meddled with his development in his first full season under then-head coach Bruce Arians.
It then led to lost playing time early last season when he converted to a true linebacker role under the 4-3 defense led by head coach Steve Wilks. Now, it’s back to hoping Reddick can convert back to a pass-rushing threat to help salvage the Cardinals’ 2019 season.
“He was great in college at that and that’s an area we’re going to look at and see if he can help us,” Kingsbury said.
Joe Walker had earned a slim majority of snaps at inside linebacker over Reddick in the four games prior to Sunday, but he played 100% of the snaps Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Reddick appeared on one defensive possession and slipped and fell in coverage of tight end Tyler Higbee, who caught a touchdown pass putting Los Angeles ahead 10-0 early in the second quarter.
“We wanted to reward Joe,” Kingsbury said Sunday after the game. “We feel like he’s played better, understanding our system, and the last few weeks has made big strides.”
— Kingsbury, on how he’s evaluated cornerback Patrick Peterson after another below-average outing: “Still a work-in-process. Some flashes here you like and then some things we got to get better at.”
— On linebacker Jordan Hicks’ assertion that players are having communication problems and failing to apply what’s been practiced to games: “It’s a combination of things,” Kingsbury said. “Jordan is doing a good job of getting guys lined up but at times you can tell he’s getting himself in trouble trying to line everyone up. We have to do a better job defensively of taking that off him.”
— Among injury updates, Kingsbury said defensive end Jonathan Bullard, who split a half-sack with Chandler Jones against Los Angeles, will be out for at least a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
— Safety Jalen Thompson was replaced by fellow rookie Deionte Thompson mid-game because of a head injury that will make him day-to-day.