When linebacker Markus Golden was drafted in the second round, it was a bit of a surprise for many fans. But with the motor he has when he plays and the comparisons Bruce Arians and Steve Keim made of him to LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, you figured he would likely get a chance to make an impact.
He has two sacks on the year and has been around a lot of plays.
Now he is a starter.
LaMarr Woodley saw his season end on Thursday when he was placed on injured reserve. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher told the media Woodley tore a pectoral muscle.
Golden now steps in to play for Woodley, even though Golden himself "hate(s) to be starting like this." But he feels he is "ready" and "prepared.
While the injury isn't how you plan on Golden taking over, it was only a matter of time before Golden was going to surpass him. Golden showed up to practice all year and flashed a few times on the field.
In fact, in terms of analytics, Pro Football Focus has Golden not missing a tackle all season. He grades out well in all phases of his position -- pass rush, playing the run and pass coverage. According to PFF, Golden is one of only six edge defenders to have a 71 grade or higher in all phases.
What is the difference? "I'm more focused," he said to reporters on Thursday. "I'm not thinking as much out there,"
Head coach Bruce Arians mentioned how team traditionally groom rookies hoping they can make an impact by Thanksgiving. Golden was always a little ahead of schedule,
Now the OLB pairing on the field will be Golden and Alex Okafor, with Dwight Freeney rotating in as well. Woodley was not having a great statistical year this year, but he knew the defense and was where he should have been. Can Golden keep that position playing at least at the same level from play to play?