Cardinals want a repeat performance out of backup linebacker in 2021

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Dennis Gardeck
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Dennis Gardeck /

Dennis Gardeck is looking to pick up where he left off for the Arizona Cardinals before a knee injury ended his 2020 campaign.

When the great Chandler Jones was sidelined with a biceps injury last year, the Arizona Cardinals must’ve been wondering where the defense’s pass-rush would come from. As the 2020 campaign rolled along, the squad would end up getting quarterback sacks from a most unlikeliest source.

Up until last season, outside linebacker Dennis Gardeck contributed primarily on special teams for the Cardinals. But just when they needed it, the 6-foot, 232-pounder made life miserable for the opposition’s signal-callers. In the limited action he saw for coordinator Vance Joseph‘s defensive unit, Gardeck managed to produce an impressive seven sacks for the Cards.

In 14 appearances (zero starts) for Arizona, “The Barbarian” also tallied 16 tackles and 10 quarterback hits. Why didn’t this aspect of Gardeck’s game ever surface before?

Backup linebacker had a coming-out party with the Arizona Cardinals last fall

As mentioned, Gardeck was kept around by the Redbirds almost exclusively due to his prowess on the kickoff and punt coverage units. Since he entered the NFL back in 2018, the undrafted free agent established himself as one of pro football’s most successful wedge-busters. Gardeck’s recently discovered ability to rush the passer, however, could be viewed as a huge bonus for the Cardinals franchise.

Unfortunately, Gardeck suffered a season-ending injury during a week 15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last fall. As expected, the 27-year old treated his rehab with the same intensity and spirit that he shows on the playing field for the Cards. Most recently, Gardeck suffered a hand injury on Thursday that will keep him out of Sunday’s clash with the Tennesse Titans, but the setback does not appear to be a serious one.

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Now that the coaching staff knows what they have, it would be reasonable to suspect that Gardeck will have an increased role with Arizona going forward. Watch as Joseph unleashes his energetic new toy on opposing offenses in 2021.