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Reddick and Isabella

NFL: Player Headshots 2020 Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the persona non grata whom Cardinals fans were railing against on social media was OLB Haasan Reddick. Labelled by such fans ad nauseum for being an epic 1st round draft BUST, there was a concerted effort amongst these Cardinals’ fans for the team to ship out Reddick without finally giving him a chance to play his natural position.

It was as if Haason Reddick was some sort of an abstract curse.

Those same fans felt especially justified when come Game 1, Haason Reddick was not one of the 11 starters on defense. The clamoring for the Cardinals to trade or cut Reddick was loud and relentless.

Not only do the Reddick detractors now know how woefully mistaken they were —- ESPN, through Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders, named Haasan Reddick to their “22 Player NFL All-Value Team of 2021”. Here is what Tanier wrote:

https://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/31999719/nfl-all-value-team-2021-building-full-starting-roster-league-best-contracts-tom-brady-carl-lawson

Edge rusher: Haason Reddick, Carolina Panthers

Contract: One year, $6 million fully guaranteed

Sacks are expensive. So if you get a chance to pick up a dozen of them for $6 million, you leap at the opportunity.

Free-agent suitors must have been skeptical of Reddick’s late-2020 sack surge — 7.5 of his 12.5 sacks came in December, and five of them in one game against the Giants — so Reddick signed a prove-it deal to play for Matt Rhule, one of his former college coaches. His cap-friendly deal even includes four voidable years to minimize Reddick’s 2021 cap hit.

Football Outsiders’ metrics suggest that there’s more to Reddick’s game than just terrorizing the poor Giants. His 28 defeats (essentially the sum of sacks, tackles for a loss and third-/fourth-down stops) last season ranked second only to T.J. Watt among edge rushers. If Reddick builds on his late-2020 success, Rhule will likely have the inside track toward signing him to a bigger contract. If not, the Panthers can move on without financial repercussions.

Commentary:

Some of the same Cardinals fans who never wanted to give Haason Reddick a chance to prove himself at OLB, were quick to accept that the team was willing to move on from him in free agency, claiming that Reddick’s sack stats were nothing special thanks to his 5 sacks versus the Giants.

Well, look at the metrics Mike Tanier provided about Reddick’s overall play on the edge in 2020 —- finishing 2nd in the NFL with “28 defeats” behind only the Steelers’ T.J. Watt.

It’s hard to imagine that the Cardinals would have beaten the Seahawks twice in the last three games had it not been for the outstanding job Haason Reddick did containing and sacking Russell Wilson.

Now that Haason Reddick has left Arizona, this year’s new obsession for Cardinals’ fans to disparage is WR Andy Isabella. There is a daily urgency from these fans to see the Cardinals get rid of Isabella asap —- forget about about seeing what kind of performance he can put together in pre-season game 3, because, according to the detractors, everyone knows by now it is Isabella’s own fault for contracting COVID-19 and it’s his own fault for not finding a way last year to crack into a WR rotation more often, because he should have been able to take snaps and targets away from DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald, right?

According to some of these fans, Isabella was so awful that he grew out of favor with the Cardinals’ coaches, which is why they activated KeeSean Johnson for the last few games instead —- which was a complete reverse of what the coaches did the year before when they made Andy active for the last few weeks while deactivating KeeSean.

It also should be noted that at the time Larry Fitzgerald had returned from his bout with COVID-19 and that one of the WRs the Cardinals always kept active was Trent Sherfield because of his contributions on special teams.

Of course, some fans will never ever forgive Andy Isabella for not being D.K. Metcalf.

College production:

  • Isabella (5-10, 195, 4.31 40): 231 catches, 3,526 yds., 15.3 ave.,32 TDs (no medical red flags)
  • Metcalf (6-4, 225, 4.33 40): 67 catches, 1,228 yds., 18.3 ave., 14 TDs (medical red flag: neck)

Some argue that Isabella’s stats are misleading because he didn’t play in a power conference —- yet Isabella, despite being double teamed as UMass’s as their one and only speed threat, had a number of his best games against SEC and ACC schools. To be fair, at UMass, Isabella did not line up opposite the likes of A.J. Brown or play with any 4 or 5 star QBs.

Yet, as was the case with Haason Reddick being misused by the coaches for three years, one of the man reasons why WR coach David Raih was let go was for not developing the team’s young WRs as well or as quickly as what was hoped, most particularly Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson. Dang, last season, even Larry Legend had the worst, most unproductive year of his career.

The fact is —- the Cardinals have yet to maximize Andy Isabella’s talent. That is one of the main reasons why the Cardinals hired Shawn Jefferson as the new WR coach. Thus far in training camp, when Andy Isabella has been able to practice, he has played well. So has KeeSean Johnson. So has A.J. Green. So has Rondale Moore. And now, so has Greg Dortch. But —- including DeAndre Hopkins, of the WRs mentioned here only Moore (4.29) and Isabella (4.31) have sub 4.4 speed. You know, which is kind of the reason why the Chiefs like to put Mecole Hardman (4.33) opposite Tyreek Hill (4.29).

Yes, Rondale Moore has entered the WR picture as the team’s slot WR, but Kliff Kingsbury was quick to point out he envisions different roles for Moore and Isabella in the offense.

What’s great news for Andy is that having other sub 4.4 WRs on the team, Kyler Murray is apt to get more dialed in throwing to faster, quicker WRs. Of course, Rondale Moore is one, while Andre Baccellia (4.28) and Rico Gafford (4.26) are still on the 85 man roster.

So —- why in the world would the Cardinals give up on a player with Andy Isabella’s physical talents and skills, especially when he has the exemplary work ethic to go with it? Why cut him now with a new WR coach in place in what is only Andy’s 3rd season in the NFL?

Burns and Gambo have been hearing the noise, so they conducted a recent poll:

Whoa...

But, according to Gambo, the Cardinals are keeping Andy Isabella.

For some of the same reasons why they held on to Haason Reddick.

Simply because talent, patience and depth happen to matter.