Before the draft, it seemed — at least, in my opinion — the Cards had three areas that most warranted help: offensive line, pass rusher and receiver. The Cards took care of the latter right away with the Michael Floyd pick. They obviously hit the line hard with three choices, including potential right tackle starter Bobby Massie. But, sticking to their board — and perhaps revealing just how much they think of their young players — the Cardinals didn’t take a pass rusher. Didn’t take a linebacker at all.
Right now, the Cards have 14 linebackers on the roster. Six could be classified as outside linebackers, seven as inside guys and Stewart Bradley as a swing guy (although obviously guys can always move around.) Three of the inside linebackers are undrafted rookies (Marcus McGraw, Colin Parker and Paul Vassallo) and one is definitely untested (Quan Sturdivant.) But one the inside, Darryl Washington is established, Paris Lenon continues to outperform everyone’s expectations and both Bradley and Reggie Walker have shown they can fill in.
But it’s on the outside that will always get the attention. Young players usually have a ton of confidence that they will do the job as long as they get the opportunity, and that’s certainly the vibe you get from O’Brien Schofield when you talk to him. Sam Acho had seven sacks after barely playing the first five games, so he seems to be a potential game-changer. Both must up their games. And then what? Will Brandon Williams, signed late last season on to the practice squad after not finding a place with the Cowboys, surprise some people? Can the Cards find a diamond among free agent Antonio Coleman or undrafted rookies Zach Nash and Broderick Binns? (Clark Haggans could also still return.)
It’s not like the Cards didn’t sack opposing quarterbacks last year. As a team, they had 42, tied for seventh in the NFL. The Cards had an NFL-best nine different guys with at least two sacks. The way defensive coordinator Ray Horton does things, pressure by committee works and is much harder for which to handle. But developing those linebackers, especially the rushers on the outside, is one of the keys to any 3-4 scheme. After passing in the draft, development will be one of the things to watch at the position.
Tags: Antonio Coleman, Brandon Williams, Broderick Binns, Colin Parker, Darryl Washington, draft, linebackers, Marcus McGraw, O'Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Paul Vassallo, Quan Sturdivant, Ray Horton, Reggie Walker, Sam Acho, Stewart Bradley, Zach Nash
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There was plenty of pre-draft talk about Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and where he might land (and for those who don’t know, Burfict was the one-time first-round candidate who ended up going undrafted and signing with the Bengals.) But for all of Burfict’s hype, many thought he wasn’t even the best linebacker at ASU. That nod usually went to Colin Parker, who was one of 17 undrafted rookie free agents the Cards came to terms with:
- WR Stanley Arukwe, Troy
- LB Broderick Binns, Iowa
- WR LaRon Byrd, Miami
- G Braeden Clayson, Idaho State
- FB Jared Crank, Purdue
- G Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech
- DE Tevita Finau, Utah
- S Blake Gideon, Texas
- WR Tre Gray, Richmond
- LB Marcus McGraw, Houston
- LB Zach Nash, Sacramento State
- CB James Nixon, California (Pa.)
- DE Conrad Obi, Colorado
- LB Paul Vassallo, Arizona
- C Scott Wedige, Northern Illinois
- WR Marc Wilson, St. Anselm
And, of course, Parker from ASU.
The list is heavy on linebackers, not a shock after the team did not draft one this past weekend. The number brings the roster total to
85 86 (since apparently I can’t add 69 and 17), leaving five four spots still open for additions, whether they are veterans or otherwise. Because of the rookie minicamp in two weeks, the Cards will also be bringing in a handful of other young players for tryouts, making sure they have enough bodies to run the practices and taking a looksee at some guys.
Tags: Blake DeChristopher, Blake Gideon, Braeden Clayson, Broderick Binns, Colin Parker, Conrad Obi, draft, James Nixon, Jared Crank, LaRon Byrd, Marc Wilson, Marcus McGraw, Paul Vassallo, Scott Wedige, Stanley Arukwe, Tevita Finau, Tre Gray, undrafted rookie free agents, Zach Nash
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