Arizona Cardinals depending on a group of young pass-rushers in 2023

The Arizona Cardinals are hoping that a collection of young edge-rushers can get to the opposition's quarterbacks this coming season.
New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Just one year ago, five-time Pro Bowler J.J. Watt racked up 12.5 sacks for the Arizona Cardinals. Zach Allen, Watt's partner-in-crime on the squad's defensive line, added another 5.5 quarterback takedowns to the mix for the Redbirds. Not many would argue with the fact that the team's pass-rush would've been virtually nonexistent without the dynamic duo's contributions in 2022.

Cards followers may find it incredibly scary to think about, but both players have since moved on from the desert. Watt decided to hang up the cleats, while Allen inked a lucrative free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos. Who's going to be putting pressure on the opposition's quarterbacks for Arizona, now that Watt and Allen are no longer around?

Apologies to any Dennis Gardeck fans, but the Cardinals are going to have to depend on an unproven crew of youngsters to register sacks in 2023. Granted, the potential is there. Even so, the club's management has placed a whole bunch on the shoulders of several individuals who have yet to find success in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals pass rush will be based mostly on potential this coming season

Zaven Collins entered the league back in 2021 as first-round draft pick of the Cards. After two campaigns spent at inside linebacker, Collins has been moved to the edge by head coach Jonathan Gannon and his cohorts. As a starter, the 24-year-old will get the first crack at showing off his pass-rushing prowess to Arizona's first-year coaching staff.

As a rookie last season, former third-round choice Cameron Thomas recorded three sacks for the Cardinals defense. The 6 foot 5, 270 pounder posted that number while being on the field for just 21% of the squad's defensive snaps. With an increase in playing time, there's no reason to think that the 23-year-old Thomas can't flirt with double-digit sacks this coming fall.

Myjai Sanders, the Cards' other third-round selection from a year ago, is another member of the team's pass-rushing contingent. Like Thomas, the 6 foot 5, 255 pounder was also credited with three sacks last season. Sanders was on the field with Arizona's defensive unit for just 30% of the snaps, so a more-productive stat line in '23 is certainly possible if the 25-year-old spends less time on the bench.

Back in April, the Cardinals used a second-round pick on 21-year-old edge-rusher BJ Ojulari. Injuries have slowed the progress of the 6 foot 2, 247 pounder this offseason, but the franchise is still expecting big things out of the former LSU Tiger. Ojulari totaled 16.5 sacks in 31 career appearances for the school, and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis will be hoping for more of the same from the youngster at the professional level.


(Statistics provided by Pro and College Football Reference)