Cardinals get 1st look at former LB Haason Reddick in Panthers defense

Nov 11, 2021, 4:30 PM

TEMPE — After being a part of the Cardinals defense since his arrival in 2017, linebacker Haason Reddick was among a handful of players Arizona let walk in free agency.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday he would loved to have the linebacker back on the team in 2021, but when considering the salary cap and everything that comes with it, the writing was on the wall.

It marked the end of a roller coaster career in the desert for Reddick, who struggled at inside linebacker for the first few years before flourishing on the outside in 2020 to the tune of 12.5 sacks.

With a return to Arizona not in the cards, Reddick tested the free agency waters before finally landing with the Carolina Panthers. He’s made sure to show people last season wasn’t a fluke, too.

Since leaving Arizona, Reddick has become of the Carolina’s biggest pieces defensively, amassing eight sacks, 12 tackles for losses and a forced fumble. He’s tied for first leaguewide in TFLs and sixth in sacks.

And as luck would have it, he’ll get a return trip back to the Valley than he probably expected, with the Cardinals taking on the Panthers in Week 10.

“We take a lot of pride in how he’s playing,” Kingsbury said Monday. “They tried him as an inside linebacker for two-and-a-half years, and it just wasn’t his natural position. The guy never complained. He never said anything. He just tried to figure it out and tried to learn in three different systems, so I have a ton of respect for him.

“When we made that move, you just saw the light turn on, and he just got better and better. You’re seeing it in Carolina. He’s one of the best players on the field when you turn on the tape each and every week. We all cheer for him when he’s not playing against us — great person, one of the toughest football players I’ve been around. So yeah, I think the world of Haason, and I’m really happy for what he’s accomplishing.”

The 13th overall pick in 2017 has helped resurrect a Panthers pass rush that was near the bottom of the league in sacks last season with 29. Entering play Thursday, Carolina has 23 sacks on the year, good enough for eighth in the NFL.

That type of pressure on opposing quarterbacks has thrust the Panthers into the No. 2 spot in the league in yards allowed per game with 293.1 and have allowed the third-fewest passing yards with 1,633.

“Haason, once we moved him to outside linebacker, he was a beast. You can see it, he was gonna be special,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “His two or three years at inside backer, helped him play outside backer at a high level, because that learning from the inside backer room carried over to the outside backer room.

“Once he got a chance to rush off the edge and be violent, it obviously showed that he’s gonna be a top 10 rusher in this league in due time. He’s always been a tough player, a raw rusher, always hustling. But now you can see the football IQ and the knowledge of rushing on tape every single week. He’s winning at a high rate and it’s fun to watch him when he hits the quarterback, but not this week hopefully.”

For as much praise as Reddick gets from his former coaches, the Cardinals have to feel good about where they stand at outside linebacker, especially when looking at Markus Golden.

Golden is having a career year, posting nine sacks over the first nine games of the season (third in the NFL).

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