Cardinals believe Haason Reddick finally found a home at OLB
Preseason predictions of the Arizona Cardinals’ 53-man roster may have counted 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick out.
It made sense.
Last season, he went through a position change for the umpteenth time in his career. Arizona moved him from inside to outside linebacker and signed outside linebacker Devon Kennard to join Chandler Jones as an edge rusher. They then drafted another hybrid type of player in Isaiah Simmons with their 2020 first-round pick.
Even Kylie Fitts’ rise at outside backer indicated the Cardinals might part ways with Reddick at the 53-man cutdown, allowing him to get a fresh start elsewhere. If he’d wanted to leave, it’d be fair.
Reddick admitted he didn’t mind not being the center of attention while fighting for starter reps this offseason.
“I was tired of all the talking, tired of all the questions, everybody wondering what was going to happen with me, what was going on, what would my role be,” he said after the Cardinals’ Week 1 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Since his rookie year, position changes and scheme changes due to staff turnover jerked him every which way.
There’s a reason, though, that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph throughout the offseason made sure to bring up Reddick as a key contributor. The Cardinals had a unique role carved out for him.
Maybe more importantly: Heading into a contract year after Arizona didn’t pick up the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, Reddick didn’t want to turn the page from his Cardinals chapter.
“We had to try him at inside linebacker because of the need of our defense (in 2019) and it didn’t take,” Joseph said. “To his credit, he didn’t complain, he never pouted. He just kept working in trying to get better.
“He’s been through so much as far as changing positions and obviously being critiqued in a negative manner. He’s never complained, he’s never asked out. He wanted more.”
Reddick played almost half the snaps Sunday against the 49ers, dropping into coverage 12 times and rushing the quarterback on eight other pass plays, according to Pro Football Focus.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Reddick made three tackles, plus a pass breakup on third down to end a San Francisco drive.
He’s using his athleticism and skillset from his attempt at playing inside linebacker to provide a confusing look to offensive coordinators. While the pass-rushing is something that made Reddick the 13th overall pick out of Temple in 2017, the combination with his drop-back ability is something that Jones and Kennard can’t replicate.
“It creates versatility,” inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said of the Reddick personnel package. “You could be rushing, you could be covering. That’s what the NFL’s all about nowadays is being able to do multiple jobs at a high level.
“It’s great to be able to show that versatility, but it’s tough, man,” Campbell added of Reddick’s position switch. “When you’re off the ball, you can see everything, but when you’re on the ball, your keys are right in front of you so you have to be able to react a lot quicker. A lot of people don’t understand how difficult that can be on somebody … to have to move back and forth. I think Haas has been doing a great job of it.”
Reddick said his relationship with Joseph helped him navigate another position change. In the offseason, he went back to work to refine his outside linebacker skills not knowing what his exact place on the defense.
Even in a shortened offseason, the Cardinals found him enough reps to carve out a unique hybrid role. Joseph’s creativity came into play, too.
“The goal is to find ways to (make an) impact on defense. I think we found those ways,” Reddick said. “Done a bunch of different things during camp, things that we think will work. I think Vance is going to implement them into the game plans.
“He’s always been positive. He’s always complemented me on whatever it is I was doing. And that’s what you want out of your DC, your coaches. This business is a hard business. Making mistakes is a part of it but performing is also a part of it. To see a guy like that be positive and keep trying to bring you along and help develop you is awesome to see. I think that’s something he has with all of the players.”
Reddick said the transition to outside backer reminds him of his Temple days. It’s “natural” and he feels “comfortable” in it.
His coaches see a new confidence in him.
They believe they’ve finally found a niche for Reddick, a place where he can make a difference.
“He’d been competitive and making plays all camp at a high level, and that’s what we saw yesterday,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We’re just excited for him. The transition to inside backer wasn’t for him, and he had to bounce around there for a couple of years. I know he was really frustrated about it, but to see him playing loose and free and finding a good role, it’s exciting to see.”