With the Cardinals’ return to the base 34 defense---the plan is to come hard, fast and furiously with their “4 on the floor” linebackers.
Here is a look at the Cardinals’ current depth chart at LB (by my estimation):
Chandler Jones is very excited to return to 34 OLB where he can play lighter and faster. He is also very excited to have UFA future Hall of Fame candidate Terrell Suggs rushing the QB from the opposite side. Together, Jones and Suggs are planning on being one of top edge rushing tandems in the NFL. Vance Joseph’s 34 defense is predicated on generating a fierce pass rush in order to create a high volume of turnovers.
Brooks Reed is a valuable addition this off-season, because he thrives at setting the edge as being a consistently reliable run stopper and pass rusher. Because of his run stopping prowess, it would not be a surprise to see Reed play a good deal on running downs. This would allow Terrell Suggs to keep fresh and to focus primarily on rushing the QB.
The depth at OLB beyond Brooks Reed, is unproven, but potentially talented. Cameron Malveaux brings good size and strength as a situational edge rusher. Vontarrius Dora and Pita Taumoepenu bring quickness and tenacity as edge disruptors. However, if Malveaux, Dora and Taumoepenu don’t make enough of an impression during the pre-season, Steve Keim will look to take advantage of having the first claim on the waivers wire.
In key UFA signee Jordan Hicks and 3rd year LB Haason Reddick the Cardinals have two very athletic and versatile three-down inside linebackers who can make their presence felt in stopping the run and in pass coverage. Hicks has battled injuries the past couple of years, thus the Cardinals hope he can stay healthy this year and have a Pro Bowl caliber season. Hicks is very talented and is a strong leader.
Hicks has been very impressed with Haason Reddick who showed improvement as a run stopper and pass defender last year, but has yet to deliver the kind of dominating performances that one would expect from the #13 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The coaches believe that Reddick, because of his speed and range, is very well suited to thrive at the $LB (WILB) position in the 34. Vance Joseph is very excited about employing Reddick in a variety of blitz schemes, where he can attack there QB from a number of different angles. Blitzing should be Reddick’s forte.
The depth at ILB is also largely unproven, but potentially talented. Vance Joseph thinks very highly of Dennis Gardeck and wants to take advantage of his 4.5 speed and physical style of play. Zeke Turner’s shift to ILB is official now in that the Cardinals list him as a LB. Turner has put on some weight and if he plays at ILB like he did in last year’s pre-season game finale and as he did as the teams’ rookie special team’s ace, he could earn himself a role in Joseph’s weekly game plans.
Joe Walker is not only one of the team’s better ST players, he is an old favorite of LB coach Billy Davis who coached Walker when Walker was a rookie with the Eagles. Tanner Vallejo is a very highly regarded ST player who many teams tried to claim when he was waived by the Browns. The $LB position would seem to fit his skills fairly well, so he needs to prove he’s not just a STs player.
The long shots right now are Pete Robertson, a former standout LB for Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech Red Raiders, who is now trying to catch in with his 3rd NFL team. Robertson is a physical player who has some pass rush ability. Billy Davis is also high on UCFA Dante Booker of Ohio St., where Davis was Booker’s LB coach the past couple of years. Booker was a 5 star recruit who never quite made the kind of splash that was expected from him. But the Cardinals are hoping that Booker, with his impressive physical talents, will be a diamond in the rough.
4 on the Floor
I think this phrase fits the Cardinals’ 34 linebacking crew very aptly, particularly when applied to the 4 starters, Jones, Suggs, Hicks and Reddick---because all 4 players are aggressive defenders who can make big plays on all 4 downs.
”4 on the Floor” applies to both the gearshift on a manual transmission and to the 4/4 tempo of disco songs.
Well, the Cardinals want to kick this defense into gear and wind up dancing after big sacks, stops and turnovers.
The Cardinals’ 4 on the Floor will be “Looking For Some Hot Stuff, Baby” and if all goes as Vance Joseph is planning, they “Should Be Dancing, Yeah.”