ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals GM Steve Keim proud of surging OLB Haason Reddick

Dec 18, 2020, 9:58 AM
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick (43) celebrates sacking Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy...

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick (43) celebrates sacking Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Steve Keim has his share of swings and misses in the draft, as does every NFL general manager. It now appears safe to say that Haason Reddick isn’t one of them.

The 2017 first-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals did not have the most clean path to eventual success, and it’s true that Reddick’s 2020 season is the extent of evidence that he will be a long-time NFL pass-rusher.

Yet, months after the Cardinals opted not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, it’s fully expected that Reddick has earned himself at least a reasonably lucrative second professional contract after his five-sack performance against the New York Giants on Sunday.

It was important and loud enough of an arrival performance that the linebacker broke down in tears following the game before embracing Keim.

“I think I just know how tough this business can be and how it can eat away at your soul,” Keim told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Friday about what that moment meant to him. “The stress, you know, is unbearable at times.

“I told him a couple months ago at practice I was proud of him then. It was just because he never complained, he never made excuses and he just went out and he worked everyday.”

Reddick, who Arizona tried to convert to inside linebacker under three different defensive coordinators, entered the season for the first time in his career as an outside linebacker. It’s a position that fits his natural pass-rushing abilities.

He’s thrived with a set role and the opportunity. With the performance against New York, Reddick is one of six players this season with double-digit sacks heading into Week 15.

The outside linebacker is also fifth in the NFL with 13 tackles for loss.

“The fact that he battled through all that, kept his head up, his chin up and just kept working, says a lot about him,” Keim added. “I was just really proud he never got in the dumps and never made excuses like a lot of players could do.”

Isabella still in the mix?

For a week, it was Johnson who lined up as Arizona’s fourth receiver. Meanwhile, 2019 second-round pick Andy Isabella earned his first healthy scratch of the year.

While Kingsbury said that Johnson’s strong play had something to do with Isabella’s stint on the inactives list, Keim suggested that the move was more about personnel packages.

“There’s no doubt we’d like to see him active,” Keim said of Isabella. “I think last week it had to do with some of the packages Kliff was going to use. I do think Andy’s made some strides this year, but again, want to continue to see him grow and develop as a player.

“It’s the little things, it’s not one thing that you say that he’s lacking. It’s just the fact that he’s got to continue to play more football, coming from a smaller school,” Keim added. “Look for big things from him moving forward. I know he’s practicing hard and he’s working. Hopefully he’ll have some opportunities this week.”

Extra points

— Keim downplayed the fact that DeAndre Hopkins appeared on the injury report for the second day in a row. While he is listed with a “not-injury related” designation, the Cardinals GM said it is about maintaining health.

“Every player’s different, how their body responds throughout the season,” Keim said. “They know how to practice and how not to practice, I should say. We lean on our medical staff … that’s where we’re at, is trying to make sure that he’s ready to go on Sundays. Again, everybody’s different in their preparation. Certainly excited about Hop and, as you can see in the statistical books, pretty excited about what he’s brought to his team.”

— No new news regarding the health of kicker Zane Gonzalez, who has been out of practice with a back injury since the end of last week. Keim was asked about the kicker’s struggles before his injury.

“I think Zane is banged up a little bit right now. He does have a tremendous amount of talent,” Keim said. “I sort of equate it to the game of golf. Guys who can sort of get out of rhythm or sort of get a little funky with their swing. Just takes a few things to dial back in and get the focus back and the consistency. It is a funny position. Most kickers do go through a period of that in their career when you look at the big picture.”

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