Second-year pro Gunter ‘ready to handle anything they want to throw at me’
TEMPE, Ariz. — Many a kind word was said about Rodney Gunter last year shortly after the Cardinals chose him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, but while there was talk about the former Delaware State product having a bright future, it was expected that he would need a little bit of time before making an impact.
Then defensive tackle Corey Peters was lost for the season with an Achilles injury, leading the team to turn to Gunter sooner and more often than originally anticipated.
The defensive lineman appeared in every game for the Cardinals — starting 11 of them — and finished his first season with 34 tackles, one sack and five tackles for loss. He also added 12 QB pressures and two QB hits.
Now entering his second season, Gunter — who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds — is finding life a lot easier.
“It’s like a head step, I’ve got a head step because I know what to expect now,” he said Wednesday after the Cardinals’ final mini-camp practice. “I know how training camp, how the season goes, I know how to take care of my body; I know what to eat. Everything. Simple things.”
As a rookie, Gunter seemed to improve as the season went on. His sack came in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and of his 34 tackles, 20 came over the season’s final eight games, while he added another six tackles and four QB pressures in Arizona’s two playoff matchups.
The biggest change he would like to see from himself is, not surprisingly, staying consistent. Gunter said he needs to stay grounded because while he may have had a good rookie year, he needs to “have another great year in my second year.”
His production aside, part of the reason why the Cardinals are so excited about Gunter’s future is that he can help them all over the defensive line.
“Rodney’s got great flexibility,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He can play either end; he can play a six-technique, he can play the nose. So he’s in great shape that way, he played them all last year.”
Given the depth the Cardinals have built along the defensive line, being able to do more should lead to more opportunities for the 24-year-old.
“The more you do, the more you get on the field, you’ll be able to play,” Gunter said. “In college I played all three positions (on the defensive line) and that really helped my stock coming into the draft.
“Versatile, if they need me on third down I’ll go out there and rush; if they need me at nose guard I’ll go out there and play the three, between the three and the five. Inside, out — it doesn’t matter, I’ll play.”
Gunter does not seem to have a preference for where he lines up as long as he is on the field. And whether he is at end or tackle, or some combination of both, Gunter is confident he will play well whenever and wherever he is called upon.
“Oh yeah, definitely, definitely,” he said. “I’m ready to handle anything they want to throw at me.”