Pair of Arizona Cardinals backups could overtake starters
Olsen Pierre and Gerald Hodges could both work their way into the Arizona Cardinals’ starting lineup sooner rather than later
The first-stringers for the Arizona Cardinals’ season-opener have been announced. Nevertheless, changes can be made if need be. There are a pair of backup defensive players, biding their time, who are talented enough to eventually find their way into the starting lineup.
Olsen Pierre, an undrafted free agent of the Chicago Bears back in 2015, is one of them. The defensive tackle played well last season, registering 30 tackles, five and a half quarterback sacks and two passes defensed in a part-time role for Arizona. Pierre looked like he had done enough to be named a starter on the Cards’ defensive line in 2018, but there’s someone standing in his way.
Robert Nkemdiche has been given the nod over Pierre, but the 2016 first-round draft pick has done very little to earn his status. Pedigree is apparently the only reason that the Ole’ Miss product is at the top of the depth chart. Nkemdiche certainly hasn’t done enough on the playing field to warrant his starting spot.
In his two campaigns as a professional, Nkemdiche has amassed a total of just 12 tackles. There’s been just one highlight for the 6’4″, 296 pounder, a touchdown on a fumble return against the New York Giants last year. Pierre has unquestionably been more productive but, for the time being at least, will play second-fiddle to Nkemdiche.
The other interesting competition among the Cardinals’ defenders is at middle linebacker. Josh Bynes is by no means undeserving of his starting designation. In fact, the 6’1″, 235 pounder was quite impressive as a part-timer for the club in 2017.
In just 14 appearances (one start), Bynes racked up 36 tackles, three pass breakups, an interception and a sack. Arizona liked what they saw, and handed the 29-year old a three-year deal this past March. But another acquisition, made just a month ago, could have a say in who defends the middle of the Cards’ new 4-3 alignment.
Gerald Hodges came to the organization as a replacement for the injured Jeremy Cash. The former Penn State Nittany Lion has had fine campaigns during his time in the NFL, as both a Minnesota Viking and San Francisco 49er. The Cardinals may not have known it at the time, but it appears that they may have acquired quite a bargain with the 27-year old Hodges.
The 6’2″, 236 pounder accumulated 66 tackles, seven passes defensed and a pick for the Vikes’ in 2014. Splitting time between Minnesota and the Niners in 2015, Hodges tallied 70 tackles over 14 appearances, seven of which were starts. The veteran’s best season was in 2016, when he registered 83 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and two pass breakups for San Francisco.
The play of both Nkemdiche and Bynes better be up to par in ’18. If it’s not, there are a couple of more than capable Cards ready and willing to take their jobs. Pierre and Hodges would like nothing more than to get that opportunity.