There’s a very good chance that the Arizona Cardinals could start the third-round selection at outside linebacker in 2022.
Fans of the Arizona Cardinals were far from shocked when Chandler Jones left the club back in March. General manager Steve Keim was working with limited funds this offseason, so there was a fairly good chance that the star edge-rusher would be offered more money by another team.
After completely ignoring the position during free agency, the Cards looked to the 2022 draft to find a replacement for Jones. Keim treated the issue with very little urgency, choosing to wait until the third round to add a reinforcement.
With the 87th-overall pick, Arizona selected Cameron Thomas, a 22-year-old out of San Diego State University. Based on the squad’s current makeup, it certainly appears that the team is expecting the first-year defender to hit the ground running when the regular season gets underway in September.
Arizona Cardinals could be expecting big things out of rookie Cameron Thomas
At the moment, the top two outside linebackers on the Cardinals depth chart are Markus Golden and Devon Kennard. Golden will retain his first-string status, being that the 31-year-old is coming off of an impressive 11-sack performance in 2021. Kennard, on the other hand, could be in danger of losing his starting gig to Thomas during a training camp battle this summer.
Thomas was an absolute beast for the Aztecs last fall. The young pass-rusher racked up 71 tackles (including 20.5 for a loss) and 10.5 sacks in his 14 games as a junior. Thomas lined up at defensive end in college, but Keim told the youngster during a phone conversation last week that a position change could be in order.
"“The first thing we would like you to do is to play some 34 ‘backer for us. And then in some sub-fronts we’ll have you play some ‘5’, and that sort of thing. Your ability to move around is a real strength. The one thing that we really need some help at is outside linebacker and rushing the passer, and obviously that’s one of your strengths.”"
Besides Kennard, the other competition that Thomas will face at outside linebacker includes Dennis Gardeck and Victor Dimukeje. As a trio, Kennard, Gardeck, and Dimukeje combined for zero sacks in limited playing time for the squad last season. With that uninspiring threesome standing in his way, it would not be outlandish to think that Thomas could be starting for the Redbirds in 2022.
Replacing Jones was going to be a difficult, if not impossible, task for Keim and his cohorts. The Cards would be downright ecstatic if Thomas proceeded to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest pass-rushers in NFL history.