Cardinals already have someone who can replace Chandler Jones
By Sion Fawkes
The Arizona Cardinals already have someone on the roster to replace pass rusher Chandler Jones in linebacker Dennis Gardeck.
In 2020, Chandler Jones missed 11 games with a biceps injury, leaving the Arizona Cardinals scrambling for a replacement. Haason Reddick filled the void, but unfortunately, he just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and won’t be returning to the desert.
But not to worry, as another linebacker stepped up during that 2020 season when Jones was unavailable. That edge rusher is the undersized, but tenacious, Dennis Gardeck.
In 2020, Gardeck showed his worth with the Cardinals when he recorded seven sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and of his 16 combined tackles, seven went for losses. And Gardeck did all of this playing in just 10 percent of Arizona’s defensive snaps in 2020.
Dennis Gardeck should be able to make a bigger impact for the Arizona Cardinals in 2022
While Gardeck seemingly took a step back in 2021, Pro Football Focus told a different story, handing Gardeck a solid 67.9 overall grade. PFF grades players via a “credit-based system,” individualizing each play in terms of difficulty. Some measuring factors for pass rushers include how far a quarterback drops back and their distance from the pass rusher.
If the pass-rusher wins the battle at the line or creates an impact, based on the above criteria, they’re given a positive credit. If not, they’re given a negative credit.
So just because Gardeck did not post the same numbers in 2021 that he did in 2020 despite playing in just 19 percent of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps does not mean he actually took a step back. PFF‘s grade shows he was still a disruptive player.
This isn’t to say Gardeck should be a starter, but instead, he can split the role with Devon Kennard. While Kennard also failed to record a sack, PFF gave the eight-year veteran a spectacular 77.0 grade for 2021, indicating, he too, performed better than his stats indicated.
Last season, Gardeck also finished with a career-high 23 combined tackles, and he tied a career-high with 14 solo tackles. He also logged three starts in 2021 and he saw action in 14 games.
And while neither he nor Kennard will boast the same impact as Jones, their performances last season have proven they can each hold the fort down for at least one season.