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A breakout season unfolding for Cardinals’ pass rusher Victor Dimukeje

Former sixth-round pick realizing potential under new coaching staff

Arizona Cardinals v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The NFL is all about opportunity.

No matter where you get drafted or what team you play for, every player has the chance to be special.

Tom Brady is a prime example of a player that defied the odds as a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft that went on to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history as a seven-time Super Bowl champion.

Drew Bledsoe’s injury in 2001 opened the door for Brady to start. He made the most of the opportunity and the rest became history.

Case and point, draft status does not dictate success.

Victor Dimukeje, the Cardinals’ 2021 sixth-round pick out of Duke University, is blossoming before our very eyes in his third season in the NFL.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Chick-fil-A Kickoff - Duke v Alabama Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Prior to the draft, Dimukeje formed a formidable pass rush duo at Duke with Chris Rumph II as they had a combined 15.5 sacks in 2020.

In his rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals, opportunities for him was hard to come by. He played behind fan favorite Markus Golden and Chandler Jones, who is the Cardinals’ franchise record holder in sacks (71.5). Both had double-digit sacks that year.

The following season, Dimukeje made two starts through 14 games but was limited to 98 pass rush snaps for the year as was buried on the depth chart.

New Orleans Saints v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Dimukeje had a slow start in his first two years in the NFL with barely any opportunities to showcase his talents in Vance Joseph’s defense.

Fast forward to year three, Steve Keim, Kliff Kingsbury, Joseph and most of the previous coaching staff were relieved of their duties.

Playing under first-year Cardinals’ head coach Jonathan Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis, Dimukeje is starting to realize his potential.

Arizona Cardinals v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Gannon made it pretty clear to his players before the start of the regular season to “be who you are” but “understand [he’s] looking for f***ing killers.”

Dimukeje clearly got the memo because in the last three games (two starts) this season, he has eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Pro Football Focus credited him with nine quarterback pressures so far and gave him an 81.0 overall grade.

He played in a career-high 45 defensive snaps last week in the biggest upset victory of the week against the heavily-favored Dallas Cowboys. His 41 pass rush snaps right now is almost half of what he had all of last year and this is only three weeks into the 2023 season.

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Dimukeje is on pace to have double-digit sacks by season’s end and considering he is only 23 years old, the Cardinals might have found a long-term pass rusher if he can continue his productiveness.

“Do you have fire in your gut?”

Seems like it for Victor Dimukeje.