Myjai Sanders, Cam Thomas give Cardinals options at pass rusher

Apr 29, 2022, 9:33 PM
Myjai Sanders #21 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates after sacking Jordan McCloud #3 of the Sout...
Myjai Sanders #21 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates after sacking Jordan McCloud #3 of the South Florida Bulls in the third quarter of the game at Nippert Stadium on October 3, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati won 28-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

TEMPE — It took until the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but the Arizona Cardinals filled their pass-rushing needs with not one but two prospects Friday night.

After nabbing San Diego State defensive end Cam Thomas with the 87th overall pick, general manager Steve Keim double-dipped in the edge rusher pool by selecting Cincinnati DE Myjai Sanders at pick No. 100.

They may be listed as defensive ends coming out of the draft, but in Arizona, they’ll work the edges primarily as outside linebackers in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s 3-4 scheme.

The jury’s still out as to whether or not they can take over for ex-Cardinals OLB and franchise sack leader Chandler Jones, but it’s at the very least a start in the right direction.

“I think the one thing about these two that’s different from a number of outside guys is the length that both of them have,” Keim said. “They are both 6-foot-4 plus, really long arms and again both of them can run and play hard.”

Thomas brings with him the opportunity to contribute right away following 70 tackles with 11.5 sacks and a forced fumble this past season.

If it weren’t for a hamstring setback this spring, the chance Thomas would have dropped to 87th overall were highly unlikely.

“Interesting thing about Cameron Thomas is his ability to play inside on sub downs,” Keim said. “Great motor, highly intelligent, versatile in a number of ways. You can see his production. … The tape that you watch, his style, the way he plays with his hands, he’s a really, really good player.”

For Thomas, it’s about showing up to work every day and learning from guys like J.J. Watt and Markus Golden.

As for Sanders, the Cincinnati Bearcat brings a ton of upside to the equation.

On top of him bulking from 228 to 248 pounds this offseason, Sanders put up a respectable 41 tackles with 2.5 sacks and six passes defensed this past season.

“He’s continued to get better and better at Cincinnati,” Keim said. “He’s one of the main reasons that college and university has improved so much because they have guys like him. Really long, athletic defender. Plays hard, runs to the football.”

It’s a match made in heaven for Sanders, who feels like this is the best defense for his skillset.

Throw in the veteran leadership Sanders will receive from guys like Watt and Golden, and it can’t get much better for the young OLB.

“I know they want the best for me when I went to their visit,” Sanders said. “I know I can depend on them to put me in the best position to be a great NFL football player.

“Coach Kliff put all his interest in me and that’s what I love about coach Kliff and I just want to thank him for it,” Sanders added.

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Myjai Sanders, Cam Thomas give Cardinals options at pass rusher