Arizona Cardinals pass rush is better than you think for 2023

Arizona Cardinals v Cincinnati Bengals
Arizona Cardinals v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Arizona Cardinals lost J.J. Watt and Zach Allen to retirement and free agency, respectively. But you shouldn’t see a drop-off in their pass rush this year.

Going into the 2023 NFL Draft, we knew the Arizona Cardinals needed to address a pass rush that lost their top two guys in J.J. Watt and Zach Allen. They also lost Markus Golden, who was still effective at pressuring the opposing quarterback, even if his sack totals dropped. 

Therefore, the consensus was that the Redbirds would have a weak pass rush in 2023, with two young players in Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas heading things up. Then we received news Zaven Collins could eventually switch to edge before the Cards drafted B.J. Ojulari 41st overall. 

Arizona Cardinals pass rush could be better than advertised

While Collins has mainly played linebacker, Thomas and Sanders have only one year of part-time playing experience under their respective belts, and Ojulari has yet to play a down of professional football, this is a young group that could form a formidable unit once they build chemistry playing among each other and what will be a young defense. Once they get some experience as the year wears on, then you can expect them to churn out more productivity. 

Further, all four players can line up at outside linebacker if in a 3-4, or at end if in a 4-3, given their respective size. No, none of them are (yet) blue-chip edge rushers that J.J. Watt proved he still was last season, but given their sheer youth with a new outlook on defense that head coach Jonathan Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis could tailor to their respective strengths, I will not be shocked if this group overachieves in 2023. 

I’m not expecting any of the above to be rockstars right away. But Collins has already adjusted well to the NFL game and would be just fine if he played edge or defensive end. Thomas and Sanders made serious strides during their respective rookie seasons, while Ojulari showed traits of dominance at the collegiate level. 

Overall, many might write this group off because none are proven pass rushers. But they’ve all shown more than a few flashes of what they are capable of accomplishing. And that should give fans plenty of reasons to believe in them. 

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