Just two weeks ago, Quentin Groves was looking for a new football team to call home. His time with the Oakland Raiders had come to an end and he was searching for an organization that he could finally stick with. Since being drafted in 2008, Groves has played for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Raiders -- both of which run 4-3 defensive schemes.
Now, on the Cardinals, his role as an outside linebacker will completely change. Instead of consistently dropping into coverage, Groves will be asked to rush the opposing quarterback and create havoc in the backfield. This change may bode well for him, as sacking the QB just so happens to be his specialty.
In the Arizona Cardinals' 3-4 scheme, the outside linebackers are predominantly asked to rush the opposing quarterback. Rarely are they required to drop into coverage. The big guys on the defensive line swallow up offensive linemen while the linebackers create plays. That's how Ray Horton and the old Steelers defense have it set up and if the players don't abide by the rules, then massive breakdowns will inevitably occur. When the defense finally started to buy into the system, players had career years.
As an outside linebacker for the Raiders, Quentin Groves' tasks were much different. According to Pro Football Focus, Groves rushed the opposing passer just 19 times in 208 total defensive snaps. Instead, he was asked to excel in run support and to drop into coverage while the defensive line created pressure on the QB.
Unfortunately for Groves, this was not his strong suit. In pass coverage, PFF graded him out at a -6.2, which put him in 83rd out of 115 total 4-3 outside linebackers.
Rushing the passer is his forte. When he played his college ball at Auburn, he left the school tied for the all-time lead in sacks with 26. Ever since then, it has been a struggle for Groves to stay on the field, mainly because both the Raiders and the Jaguars run 4-3 schemes.
That is why as a 3-4 backer with the Cardinals, Groves could be headed for a career year and possibly, a big role with this franchise. He will be required to rush the passer most of the time, which is his strength, but he now brings with him the ability to play in space and help against the run as well. Through these trials and tribulations, Groves has learned to become a better all-around player, something that many defensive end converts struggle with when entering the NFL.
Not only do I believe Groves will make the 53 man roster, but I think he could possibly seek to take a starting role as well. We know that Sam Acho has one side pretty much locked up after his tremendous play as a rookie in 2011. On the other side, things are much more uncertain. Clark Haggans could still come back, but as of now, he is still an unrestricted free agent. That leaves O'Brien Schofield as the presumed starter across from Acho.
Schofield has shown great flashes of potential and may get the nod as a starter heading into week one, but he will have to work hard in order to stay in front of Groves on the depth chart. Schofield is also an accomplished pass rusher, finishing his 2011 campaign with five sacks of his own, but he is not nearly as polished in run support or coverage as Groves is.
If Groves can retain his skills as a 4-3 linebacker, all while dominating as a pass rusher, this could be the season that he finally breaks out and shows himself worthy of his second round pick status. For the Arizona Cardinals, that is exactly what they are hoping for.