Josh Bynes, the Cardinals’ best ILB, was having a very good season (75.8 PFF, #15 LB) until he landed on the IR in late November with a thumb injury.
Bynes should be a full go for OTAs and should be one of the two starters in the middle of the Cardinals’ 34 base defense.
The question is—-who will be the other?
Cardinals’ linebacker coach, Bill Davis, has recently been lauding Haason Reddick as a middle bllitzer from the ILB position—-thus—-perhaps one can assume Reddick is going to be paired with Bynes.
Reddick made some progress as an inside linebacker last year (61.3 PFF, 80 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 6 QB hits, 5 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble)...and he certainly has the speed and size to be very good at WILB, especially if the Cardinals acquire a 34 DE in front of him who will command double teams.
What intrigues me about Reddick is whether Vance Joseph can develop him as both an inside blitz rusher and an edge rusher. Reddick’s combine numbers were very similar to Von Miller’s and Reddick was wreaking havoc on the edge his senior year at Temple (65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks).
The Cardinals have some talented youth at the linebacker position in Dennis Gardeck, Zeke Turner, Joe Walker, Tanner Vallejo and Jeremy Cash (RFA). All of them shine on special teams and all of them have a chance to compete for playing time.
Free agents Gerald Hodges and Deone Bucannon might elect to return on prove it deal type money, but that may not happen if the Cardinals can acquire one of the top UFA ILBs such as Jordan Hicks (PHI), C.J. Mosely (BAL), K.J. Wright (SEA) or Denzel Perryman (SD). Or it could be that Vance Joseph will want Brandon Marshall to take on a leadership in Arizona.
The Cardinals’ boast some quality talent at OLB. In Chandler Jones they have an edge rushing stud, who is more comfortable rushing from a two point stance, as he will this year.
Adding Brooks Reed to the mix was a very good move because Reed is a classic edge setter in the 34 at OLB and he can be a huge plus on running downs, while also providing rotational edge rushing depth on passing downs.
Haason Reddick and Dennis Gardeck were superb edge players in college—-thus they could provide talent and depth here.
Plus, Vontarrius Dora is an up and coming talent on the edge, who made his presence felt every time he was in the lineup. He is quick and has a knack for working his way to the football.
At this point, it looks very likely that the Cardinals will draft OLB/DE Nick Bosa (Ohio St.) with the #1 pick.
If the Cardinals do not spend any real money on the OLB position in free agency (UFA Markus Golden—-who might want more money than what the Cardinals are willing to offer), the chances of drafting Bosa become more probable. Bill Davis has been lobbying hard for Bosa, but at this point the Cardinals haven’t even set up their draft board.
However, Vance Joseph has made it clear that for his defense to be special, he needs two stud edge rushers. The free agent pool for edge rushers is deep and talented. It’s possible the Cardinals could dip into that pool, if they decide they want to trade down from #1, or if they want to address another position at #1.
While DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadaveon Clowney, Trey Flowers and Dee Ford might be out of the Cardinals range, the Cardinals may have a shot at Shaq Barrett (played for Joseph in DEN) Brandon Graham (played as a rookie for Bill Davis in Philly), Preston Smith (WAS), Za’Darius Smith (BAL), Shane Ray (DEN), Terrell Suggs (BAL) or Alex Okafor (NO).