Perhaps the most disappointing part of Sunday’s home opener loss to the Washington Redskins was the inability of the Cardinals’ defense to stop the running game of Washington. Adrian Peterson, a former Cardinal, turned back the clock once again and had himself a day running over the Cardinals defensive line and, particularly, the linebackers.
The linebacker position was of worry before the season began, but that was more because of depth concerns than starting player talent concerns. Deone Bucannon looked like an absolute liability on the field, unable to cover running backs coming out of the backfield and getting mauled in the running game. Meanwhile, nobody really knows what is going on with Haason Reddick, the first round pick of the team in 2017. It is presumed that he still doesn’t have a grasp on the new defensive scheme.
Either way, something has to be done about this linebacker group. Coach Steve Wilks already announced that they will be bringing in linebackers and tight ends this week to try out, so I figured we would look at some potential names of guys that could come in and make an immediate impact.
This is the name everyone wants to hear because of the monster he was when he played for the San Francisco 49ers. But there is also a reason he is still a free agent through week one of the regular season. Bowman looked out of gas during his stint with the Oakland Raiders, perhaps due to all of the injuries he has accrued over the years.
Still, if Bowman can come in and be a downhill thumper in the run game, perhaps he is worth a look. He is presumably healthy at this point, and since things can’t get much worse than they looked Sunday, he may be worth a tryout.
I know what you’re thinking — again?! Just hear me out.
Yes, Dansby is definitely older and has undoubtedly lost a step between the time he was drafted and what would now be his fourth stint with the Cardinals. But the one thing that he would add that this defense desperately needs is leadership.
Players all along the defense looked out of place and unaware of what their specific roles were on Sunday. Whether that is a lack of preseason action or guys trying to do too much is unknown, but it needs to get cleaned up. Dansby could act as an air traffic controller, shifting the defensive pieces around to get the most out of the talent they do have instead of hoping players can be in the right spot to make a tackle. Dansby doesn’t necessarily know this Wilks defense, but being the savvy veteran he is, it probably wouldn’t take him too long to figure it out.
Cushing was released from the Houston Texans this past offseason after 9 seasons with the team (and two PED suspensions). There is no doubt that he isn’t the same player he once was, but he could still be a good run-stuffing option. The Texans reportedly cut him more for salary cap reasons (he was going to hit their cap for $8.8 million if they kept him) than abilities, so maybe he can still provide something.
Any way you look at it, the outlook is a bit bleak. The options on the open market aren’t great, so it may just need to be that the players they have now just need to step up. But the fact that they are even looking for linebacker help when two of their three starting linebackers in their base defense are former first round picks is a problem all in it’s own...