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How Will The Cardinals compensate on Defense while Deone Bucannon is out?

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With the news of Bucannon’s surgery, what could we see Arizona do in the short-term at the inside linebacker position?

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s unusual for player surgery announcements to be announced in May, much less when they feature a major piece on a team such as Deone Bucannon has been to the Arizona Cardinals since he moved from safety to inside linebacker his rookie year. He’s been a staple of their defense and even created a new position to combat the spread called the “dollar” linebacker.

After Bucannon was shut down for the season with an ankle injury in 2016, the assumption was that he would get healthy and be ready to participate in OTA’s. Instead, it seems more serious as he is heading for Surgery and the PUP list.

So what will Arizona do in the meantime at the inside linebacker spot?

The simple answer: more Haason Reddick.

Reddick was drafted to be an impact player who could slide in and see time on third down as a pass-rusher and even sometimes in coverage.

Below is a quick video sample of what you might have expected to see from Reddick this year as a situational pass-rusher. Watch him drop out of coverage and split the tackle and guard to pressure the QB into an incompletion:

With Reddick, the plan was for him to learn from Karlos Dansby and become his protegè while Deone Bucannon manned the other spot and gave Arizona a plethora of options on third down.

Dansby and Reddick could both blitz the A-Gap up the middle while Bucannon slid out to cover, or all two could drop into coverage while Reddick and the Honey Badger fired off overwhelming a side. Options were a-plenty.

Now? They’re still there, but Reddick’s role should definitely increase, especially in coverage.

Here’s a quick example of Reddick dropping back, diagnosing the play and using his explosiveness to make the tackle.

Reddick’s athleticism and explosiveness will allow him to make plays in the run and pass-rush game instantly. His coverage? We will have to see.

Arians doesn’t play rookies often unless he has to and, as it seems now, he has to. But Reddick is still making a transition and might struggle in coverage.

Fortunately, the Cardinals drafted a player who has the chance to be a second Honey Badger in the round just after Reddick in Budda Baker. Baker and Mathieu’s versatility will help Arizona cover some of the loss of Bucannon on third down.

But there’s another option that’s sitting out on the free market who could be an instant fix for Arizona.

His name is Sio Moore.

While Moore hasn’t lived up to his potential and has bounced around, he was awfully impressive in his short stint with Arizona at the end of the season filling in for Deone Bucannon.

Moore’s stats versus Seattle in Week 16?

14 tackles (2 for loss) with a QB hit and Seattle was held to under 100 yards rushing on the day. He basically plugged right into Arizona’s defense and allowed Arizona to force the Seahawks into 3rd and long early in the game.

With Bucannon now out, it’s possible that Arizona could begin looking for a veteran to add to their linebacker room on a small one-year veteran minimum deal, and Moore’s upside is higher than say an Alani Fua or a Gabe Martin. (No, I’m not mentioning Scooby Wright here, sorry U of A fans).

Even if he ends up not making the 53 in the end, bringing him into camp and giving him a shot could ease the development of Haason Reddick, especially as Arizona is in a “must-win” season.

What are your thoughts? Is the answer to the Cardinals replacing Bucannon for the time being on the roster or do they need to bring in a veteran?

Sound off in the comments section!

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