Unheralded Arizona Cardinals linebacker stepped up in finale

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)Tanner Vallejo
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)Tanner Vallejo /

Fourth-year pro Tanner Vallejo made plays all over the field during the Arizona Cardinals season-ending loss last weekend

There weren’t a lot of positives to take out of the Arizona Cardinals season-ending defeat last Sunday. In fact, undergoing a root canal at the dentist’s office would’ve likely been more tolerable than sitting through the team’s sorry effort against the Los Angeles Rams. But now that the smoke has cleared, it’s time to heap praise on the small number of players who did show up that day for the Cardinals.

One individual who did give his all for the Cards last weekend was fourth-year linebacker Tanner Vallejo. The 6’1, 230 pounder came up huge for the squad, registering 12 tackles and a sack versus the playoff-bound Rams. Despite the fact that he didn’t start, Vallejo was on the field for 64 plays, or 88% of Arizona’s defensive snaps.

Up until last week’s meeting with Los Angeles, Vallejo had made most of his contributions on special teams for the Cardinals. During the 2020 campaign, the 26-year old made 10 stops for the unit led by coordinator Jeff Rodgers. However, Vallejo offered proof in week 17 that he could be a valuable component for the Cards defense as well.

At the moment, Vallejo is one of five Arizona linebackers who are preparing to enter the unrestricted free agent waters in 2021. The other four on that list include De’Vondre Campbell, Markus Golden, Haason Reddick and Isaiah Irving.

Vallejo entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills back in 2017. A year later, the Boise State University product moved on to the Cleveland Browns, playing in 13 contests for that franchise. In 2019, Vallejo spent time with both the Cardinals (first stint) and the Washington Football Team.

In 55 professional appearances (one start), Vallejo has racked up 66 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. This past year, the California native tallied 26 tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits for the Cards. Vallejo’s most productive campaign was in 2018, when he was credited with 27 tackles and a forced fumble for the Browns.

Next. Cardinals 3 positions of need. dark

The effort turned in by the journeyman defender during Arizona’s season-finale was an impressive one. Whether it was enough to earn Vallejo another contract with the club is a question that will be answered in the coming months.