The Cardinals have a good deal of young talent to develop on defense.
Take a look at this developmental team:
LOLB Kylie Fitts—-in limited action, Fitts has a 73.2 PFF grade—-brings good size at 604, 260.
LDE Zach Allen—-made to order as 34 DE, good size, athletic playmaker, who needs a great off-season in S&C to return on a mission to shine in 2020.
NT Miles Brown—-has moved up from PS, has POA strength and lateral movement.
RDE Michael Dogbe—-aggressive young talent with pass rushing potential.
ROLB Haason Reddick—-finally playing at his most natural position of OLB/edge, could be huge surprise as edge rusher given that he now has the off-season to train for it—-offers edge athleticism in 34 which the Cardinals need.
ILB Dennis Gardeck—-one of the most aggressive tacklers on the team, Pro Bowl alt. on STs in 2nd year is quite a feather in his cap—-was a superb pass rusher in college—-one must wonder if and when Gardeck gets a chance to contribute on the defense.
ILB Tanner Vallejo—-came on strong upon his return before injury, has instincts and quickness to be a factor at WILB, both forcing the run and making plays in pass coverage.
LCB Byron Murphy—-off the ball CB who could develop into a star, given that the coaches take advantage of his strengths and help him improve his press and mirror techniques.
SS Jalen Thompson—-versatile, big hitting, quick to react safety who can play SS, FS and slot S. Is a very good compliment to Pro Bowl S Budda Baker (see pictured with JT above).
FS Deionte Thompson—-has size and speed to cover TEs and RBs, needs to improve his read and react skills at FS, but, like Jalen, can be used as SS, FS and slot S.
RCB Chris Jones—-physical, competitive player who had his best game in the win versus the Seahawks. He and Budda Baker combined on that excellent deep pass breakup on T.J. Lockett.
OLB Vontarrious Dora—-athletic 34 OLB who needs game experience after flashing disruptive pass rush ability the last two pre-seasons.
WILB Zeke Turner—-not quite having the kind of year many of us hoped—-still flashes big-time on STs, but has been penalty prone, and has not made a strong enough push to garner playing time at WILB. If the light bulb goes on—-Turner could be a tackling dynamo.
CB Kevin Peterson—-feisty in coverage and run support, but needs to get physically stronger and to improve his cover techniques. If he does, he could be a nice 2020 surprise.
S Charles Washington—-a standout on STs, he needs to show he can contribute on defense at SS where his speed and tackling ability could be an asset.
2020 Free Agents (with 3-6 years of NFL experience—-so still on the young side):
OLB Cassius Marsh—-he has made solid contributions as a situational pass rusher and steady cog on STs. Marsh is disruptive and plays with a passion. There could be mutual interest in keeping him in his current role for 2020.
DT Rodney Gunter—-got stronger with each game throughout the season and was starting to emerge as one of the best interior pass rushers before being placed on the IR for a toe injury. It would be good if the Cardinals can re-sign him to a 2-3 deal and keep him in the DT rotation. The kid flashes. And the salary should be reasonable.
DT Jonathan Bullard—-gave the team a boost early in the season as a run stuffer, then faded a little (ankle injury) and then was placed on the IR for a lingering hamstring injury.
DT Zach Kerr—-just as Bullard started to fade, Kerr came on strong. If the Cardinals can re-sign him and get him in shape for the get-go, he could have a big year. This kid is a baller.
LB Joe Walker—-he’s a restricted free agent, who is coming off his best season as a pro. He gave the team a boost at WILB and at the very least, he provides good depth and STs production.
CB Brandon Williams—-has spent the season on the IR. Not sure whether the Cardinals will give him another try on a minimum contract, or whether they will decide to move on from their 2016 3rd round pick who—-through 3 coaching staffs was never developed.
And that’s the whole point—-player development.
Which players here do you have high hopes for?