LB Haason Reddick upbeat as Cardinals search for pass-rush help
TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s hard to imagine Haason Reddick sounding anything but enthusiastic.
As he enters another uncertain week when it comes to playing time — this after a position change from inside to outside linebacker — the Arizona Cardinals’ 2017 first-round pick is more than used to heading into the unknown with optimism.
“I don’t know if my energy was flowing today, my juice was flowing … felt really good today,” he said after working with the outside linebackers this week. “Felt natural. For the things I didn’t do well today, continue to work on those and get better. I just felt really good today.”
Reddick was a quarterback hunter entering the draft out of Temple, but he’s not played a pass-rushing role since the end of his rookie season under then-head coach Bruce Arians.
Still, the transition from OLB to ILB is easier than vice versa.
There are fewer keys and less decisions to make: He’s just got to get after the quarterback.
Arizona attempted to develop him as a traditional linebacker to begin his career, but four games in, an injury to Markus Golden forced Reddick back to an outside linebacker role.
In 12 games as a true pass-rusher in 2017, Reddick recorded 2.5 sacks with 11 tackles and two forced fumbles while playing in less than half of the team’s packages.
When Arians retired following 2017 and the Cardinals hired Steve Wilks, Reddick again attempted to develop as an off-ball backer. He didn’t play much to begin the year but saw his reps increase as Arizona struggled through a 3-13 season.
This year following a coaching staff switch to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and his 3-4 scheme, Reddick continued working as an inside linebacker.
A preseason injury set his progress back, and after his return, he steadily lost playing time to Joe Walker. Last week, Reddick played just one defensive snap and lost Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee in coverage for a touchdown reception.
Now, Reddick is again changing positions as head coach Kliff Kingsbury attempts to get the most out of one of the team’s most talented athletes.
“He has been a consummate pro,” Kingsbury said. “He just wants to get better, wants to help the team in any manner that he can, and as coaches we all appreciate that.”
And the Cardinals need help, too.
They are tied for 24th in the league in terms of hurry percentage, according to Pro Football Reference, and rank 22nd in pressure percentage. That’s despite Joseph blitzing 40.3% of the time, third-most in the NFL.
Arizona is 18th in the NFL with 30 combined sacks, but even those have been hard to come by lately.
Outside linebacker Chandler Jones ranks third individually with 13 sacks on the year.
Thirty-seven-year-old Terrell Suggs has 5.5 sacks, second on the team, but just 0.5 of those have come in the past five weeks. Last week, he didn’t appear in the box score.
Fellow outside backer Cassius Marsh looked like a huge pickup when he was surprisingly waived by the Seattle Seahawks, who added Jadeveon Clowney in a trade just before the regular season. Yet he’s only recorded a sack this season — that was all the way back in Week 2.
Nose tackle Corey Peters ranks third on the team with 2.5 sacks, an ominous sign for a heavy-blitzing team that also boasts a young secondary.
Now, Reddick could get his chance to make an impact at the most dire moment of the season for him as an individual and the Cardinals as a team.
He’s not sure about how many snaps he’ll receive this week as Arizona hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers, but after last week, it can only get better.
“I’m guessing they don’t put me there for no reason,” he pointed out.
“Hopefully, I can go there and be a guy they can count on, a guy they can say, ‘Hey, go in there and get the quarterback, do what you do,'” Reddick added. “It’s definitely exciting, man.”