Okafor, Acho, Alexander and OLBs

Posted by Darren Urban on April 1, 2014 – 10:03 am

The Cardinals got 11.5 sacks out of starting linebacker John Abraham and excellent edge-setting run defense from fellow starting linebacker Matt Shaughnessy last season. With both coming back in 2014, it’s hard to believe those won’t be your starters at the position. It’s also hard to believe neither were starters when 2013 opened — instead, it was Sam Acho starting over Shaughnessy, and Lorenzo Alexander instead of Abraham.

That changed early in the season, when both Acho (broken leg) and Alexander (foot) suffered season-ending injuries Week 3 in New Orleans. Oh, and that was the same day rookie outside linebacker Alex Okafor (biceps) also was lost for the season. It opened the door for Abraham — who hadn’t been thrilled with his playing time — and Shaughnessy to play a lot and ultimately play well. But it also leaves in question the roles of Acho and Alexander going forward, as well as the spot for Okafor.

It would be an upset if the Cardinals do not take a pass rusher/outside linebacker in the draft. As well as Abraham played last season, he is 35 and in the last year of his deal and the team needs to find a longer-term solution as a dynamic pass rusher. Acho and Alexander have their strengths, but neither figure to fit that bill. Okafor (who said late last week he has been officially cleared to work post-rehab) still could become that guy, although missing his rookie year set him back in his development. Acho did have seven sacks as a rookie in 2011 but only four in 2012. Alexander, meanwhile, might not end up outside. Coach Bruce Arians has talked about Alexander’s ability to move inside and right now, the Cards could use the depth there after cutting Jasper Brinkley and losing Karlos Dansby to free agency.

Like cornerback, outside linebacker (and more specifically, pass rusher) is a position at which a team will constantly throw numbers. You always need multiples, and you can never have too many. Where Acho, Alexander and Okafor fit in Year 2 of the Arians/Steve Keim era will be something to watch. The landscape is definitely different from the last time they stepped on the field.



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Posted in Blog | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “Okafor, Acho, Alexander and OLBs”

  1. By carlo milano on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    I think a fast pass rusher is a priority
    Alexande outside of inujry was very 31 i dont see him becoming an edge rusher
    Okafor lack quickness,he need to add weight and playing 3-4 defensive end.
    Acho is a wonderfull person but i dont see him a starter,is a good depth guy,maybe is better suited to play middle linebacker.

  2. By All day on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    Sad to think about acho leaving… But we should’ve waited to cut Brinkley depending on the Dansby situation. I’d give them opportunities this year and cut, trade or whatever next year… We have an ugly cap number gong flrward

  3. By carlo milano on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    A list of college prospects invited from cardinals for a visit:
    Dri archer rb/ wr kent state 4.26. just 170lb but could make 20 reps bench press..1 less then clowney
    Larry webster De/olb bloomsburg 4..58 visit
    Walt aikens cb Liberty visit
    Shaquille Richardson cb Arizona
    Lonnie ballantine safety (work out)6’3 218 4.38 24 bench press 38vertical
    Laurent Duvernay Tardif (OL) McGill U. to visit AZ in early April.
    Howard Jones Lb Shepard

  4. By br on Apr 2, 2014 | Reply

    Carlo —

    I had mentioned!! I had mentioned Archer along with a RB from Townsend ( his names slips my memory right now) but they were a couple of small school diamonds in the rough/sleepers that I was very impressed with, should be at least on a short list to sign as UDFA.Laurent Tardif will most likely be #1 overall pick for the CFL Draft, if not #1 for sure top3 pick in CFL.
    The comment to cut Acho seems kind of drstic he had what…7 or 9 saxks rookie year and like 4 last yr but was gone for season very early, no telling how many sacks he would have finished with, most likely double digits, besides his cap hit cant be that large, can it? ( thinking less than a million, but that is just a “swag” or scientific wild azz guess on my part”!)

  5. By Andy Kw on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    I say we do this:
    -Sam Acho should be converted to an Inside Linebacker. He is 6’3” 250lbs and runs a 40yd dash at a 4.65 speed. Sam Acho should challenge Kevin Minter for the Starting ILB role. He has the qualities but he just needs to adjust.

    -Lorenzo Alexander should be in rotation with OLB John Abraham. Alex Okafor should backup Matt Shaughnessy.

  6. By Dynosoar on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    Andy KW,

    I figured you may already have something worked up, no need to go to extra effort on my behalf as it’s mostly wishful thinking anyway.


    We used to mock that we were Steelers West, with our pickups last year and this are we becoming Raiders East? Haha!

    Looking at that photo, we definitely have the most striking uniform in the NFL. On the color wheel, green contrasts perfectly with red, purple with yellow and orange with blue. The Vikings and the Broncos have two of those in their uniform…

    but we’ve got that perfect contrast between our uniform and the green grass. I’d love to see red pants with our white jerseys this year. We’ve done it in the past, it’s a striking combination.

  7. By Coach K on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    I agree that pass rusher is a priority in regards for Abrahams age, but if an elite guy is not there at pick #20, then I think it’s in our best interest to move down a few picks and get an extra two picks in round 2 and 3, and take the highest graded player next on Keims board. Could be offensive tackle, cornerback, or even a quarterback.

    On the latter, I expect all the quarterbacks to drop dramatically just like last year when only one quarterback was selected in round one. I only see one quarterback taken in round one. That’s Bortles. And I would not be surprised if the Cardinals take him if he slides to pick #20.

    When all this quarterback HYPE has cooled down, I think we will all see the quarterbacks sliding into round two.

  8. By D on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    Acho appears to be a quality person, but this defense didn’t miss him this past year and they resigned Shaughnessy, so I would see if the Cards could get a 4-5th round pick for him pre-draft. Cards plan on taking a OLB by round 3 this year, they should try…

  9. By Rich on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    gotta draft an ILB middle rounds.

  10. By Rich on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    I said it a few weeks ago and will say again…….I think Keim will trade down out of the first round.

  11. By br on Apr 2, 2014 | Reply

    Rich —

    I secomd that! Been preaching that the whole yr, only way we stay is if Martn/ND is still on board.
    Coach, sorry but i have to disagree with your QB analysis, Bortles & Bridgewater will be gone top10 or by 15 at the absolute latest. Was on the fence wit “Johnny football” Manziel but after his extremely sold pro day some team is going to jump on him as well ( not to mention his personality will sell tickets by itself, I believe he is gone by #15 as well, as for Carr, i never saw him as a first rounder in my opinion and still dont I only hope the Cards see it like that as well, and pass right on by him at #20! Z. Matin/ ND or trade out of 1st rd if he is gone…..(for abut the mllionth time i have posted that, but gotta stick to my guns on this!!)

  12. By georgiebird on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    Linebacker has been the “achilles heel” for the Cardinals’ organization in what seems like forever.
    As a matter of fact, the two best linebackers I have seen with the Cardinals, Ken Harvey and Jamir Miller, played their best football after the Cardinals let them go.
    I hope the Cardinals can conquer this long term jinx at linebacker.

  13. By rio on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    hey that linebacker for ASU is great, he is just like the guy from Boston college last year,only led NFL in tackles. i cant recall names but the eyeball test works .

  14. By Big Ken on Apr 1, 2014 | Reply

    The possibilities make me dizzy of trading back or ‘out’ of the first round. Again people, we gotta a very good team already!

  15. By Eazy E on Apr 2, 2014 | Reply

    Acho, Alexander, and Okafor will probably be situational pass rushers because our starters are 2 Bible Names(John Abraham) and my boy Matt Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy ain’t just a great run defender, as the season went on, he was getting pressures and sacking the QB. He got robbed of one sack I remember vividly vs. Philly. I can see us drafting a guy but those are the starters. I always thought Alexander is more natural inside with that speed. #Take Minter’s Job #That’s Real

  16. By PhxTomG on Apr 2, 2014 | Reply

    I keep seeing mocks with the Cardinals drafting a safety or a RT, but I can’t get past the fact that this team doesn’t have a long term answer at OLB on the roster right now. Or at least one that has a strong edge rusher pedigree. I’d like to see the Cardinals take one in round one, with Ford, Ealy, and if he slips, Barr in consideration.

  17. By Patrick Eagan on Apr 2, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Darren, Whatever happened to Dontay Moch? is he still on the team?

  18. By Darren Urban on Apr 2, 2014 | Reply

    Patrick —

    RE: Moch

    Moch was cut.

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