The Arizona Cardinals pass rush received a booster shot of sort with the return of star rusher Chandler Jones and addition of future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt. These outstanding defenders will justifiably garner the majority of the offense’s attention on passing downs.
It is reasonable to expect the protect to slide in either direction depending on which rusher has the hot hand. This means, another rusher will face single coverage and must capitalize on those opportunities. Dennis Gardeck is coming off a career year with seven sacks in 2020, ranking second on the team.
On the final drive against the Philadelphia Eagles, Gardeck was attempting to chase down Jalen Hurts on a scramble. Gardeck was an integral piece to “NASCAR” packages. He was able to generate pressure from multiple alignments along the defensive front.
Gardeck has moved from sole special teams contributor to a versatile and energizing pass rusher. In the absence of Jones last season, Gardeck teamed up with Hasaan Reddick to create a formidable pass rush for this Cardinals defense.
In 2020, Dennis Gardeck played over 300 snaps on special teams to a lowly 94 snaps on defense. Only 8.48% of his snaps were on the defensive side of the ball. He averaged 6.7 snaps per game.
Despite the low number of snaps, he made the most of his opportunities. As mentioned earlier, he secured seven sacks finishing second on the team. Gardeck assumed the role of a designated pass rusher (DPR) by coming off the bench with one job, pressure the quarterback.
The return of a healthy Gardeck could only benefit the Cardinals' defense. Not only does he offer alignment versatility, but his ability to win with diverse rush plans. I have a few clips that illustrates the versatile rushing prowess Gardeck possesses.
Gardeck is aligned on the offense’s right at OLB. He is singled up against RT George Fant. Gardeck properly executes a speed to power bull rush. He does a great job winning with low pad level, leverage, and lower body explosion to drive Fant into Flacco.
Prior to injuring his knee, Gardeck sacked Jalen Hurts twice. He executes the dip and bend well to force Hurts out of the pocket. Gardeck seems to hit another gear as he pursues Hurts. Incredible burst and closing speed to secure the sack.
Dennis Gardeck has a hot motor that is constantly running. A stunt is called and Gardeck is the looper. His initial attempt was stifled by Will Hernandez, but Gardeck does not stop his pursuit of Daniel Jones. The coverage held up allowing him more time to work his way to the quarterback.
On the final play, the Cardinals run another twist/stunt game. Gardeck is tasked as the looper again. He displays good knockback power to drive the guard backwards and collapsing the pocket. Once Jones is within his reach, Gardeck extends and sheds the blocker to bring Jones down.
ACL injuries are no longer deemed the death knell to professional athletes careers. The team will surely bring Dennis Gardeck along at the proper pace. If he can return to his pre-injury 2020 form, his impact could be felt in a greater reality in 2021.