Linebackers weakened by Arizona Cardinals’ defensive changes
The transition to a 4-3 defensive alignment has left the 2018 Arizona Cardinals painfully thin at the linebacker position
The Arizona Cardinals organization has put their faith into a brand new leader. Offensive and defensive philosophies of the previous regime are now a thing of the past. The hiring of their latest head coach, Steve Wilks, has brought drastic change, particularly to the defense.
Wilks, fresh off of a stint as the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, is transitioning the Cardinals to a new alignment. The 3-4 setup that was so successful for the squad during the past three campaigns will no longer be used. Al Holcomb, Arizona’s new defensive boss, brings with him the 4-3 scheme that both he and Wilks were a proponent of with the Panthers.
Some would argue that the current Cards’ defenders are better-equipped to stick with a 3-4. One particular area of the defense that has taken a hit because of the change is the linebackers group. While the starting three ‘backers appear to be up to the task, their backups leave a lot to be desired.
Both of the team’s starting outside linebackers of the past two years, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, are now lining up at defensive end. That pair’s position switch has left Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick as the new starters on the edge, while Josh Bynes will man the middle. Behind the first-stringers sit nothing but question marks, however.
Scooby Wright has seven career tackles, and zero starts on his resume. Edmond Robinson started two games for the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, but has just 13 career tackles to his credit. Jeremy Cash is familiar to Wilks and Holcomb from their time together with Carolina (2016-17), but has made just six tackles as a pro.
The remainder of the depth chart consists of two rookie free agents. Both Dennis Gardeck and Matthew Oplinger were signed following this past April’s draft.
General manager Steve Keim could look to add a body or two to the position before the regular season gets underway. Luckily for the club, there’s a bit of free agent help available if management agrees that reinforcements could be useful.
An old nemesis of the Cardinals, former San Francisco 49er Navorro Bowman, remains unsigned. But the three-time Pro Bowler is more than likely looking for a starting gig. Some other names still seeking employment include Gerald Hodges, Michael Wilhoite, Akeem Ayers and Keenan Robinson.
Next: Markus Golden ready to return to dominance
According to Spotrac.com, Arizona has roughly $13.4 million in salary cap space left to play with. Having solid depth is of utmost importance in the NFL. Linebacker is one area of the Cards that could certainly use some attention before the 2018 opener arrives.