Arizona Cardinals pass rush showed promise during the preseason opener

The Arizona Cardinals generated an ample amount of pressure from the edge during this past Friday's preseason win over the Denver Broncos.
Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals
Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

When the Arizona Cardinals embarked on the 2023 offseason several months back, a whole bunch of attention was placed on the team's less-than-scary pass rush. The retirement of J.J. Watt, combined with the free-agent departure of Zach Allen, had created a potential problem for the defense. Many Cards fans firmly believed that first-year general manager Monti Ossenfort would address the issue by acquiring replacements for the departed duo.

For the most part, Ossenfort and his cohorts elected to stand pat. Arizona did select LSU edge-rusher BJ Ojulari during the draft's second round, and the underachieving L.J. Collier was acquired during free agency. Those additions aside, the Redbirds seemed to be satisfied to roll with the sack specialists who were already on the roster.

One of the returning pass rushers is Dennis Gardeck, a sixth-year pro who has had the bulk of his success on special teams. The 29-year-old has done very little as an outside linebacker since he was credited with seven sacks back in 2020. What made that tally impressive was the fact that Gardeck posted the number while participating in just 10% of the defensive snaps that fall.

Several individuals contributed to the Arizona Cardinals pass rush during the team's preseason-opening triumph

Throughout the summer, Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon has praised Gardeck for his fiery play. The 6 foot, 232 pounder got off to a fine start this past Friday night, racking up a first-quarter sack during the team's 18-17 triumph over the Denver Broncos. Gardeck is currently listed as a starter on Arizona's first official depth chart, and his preseason-opening performance did nothing to diminish his first-string status.

Several other "Big Red" defenders also flashed their pass-rushing prowess during the victory over Denver. Collier batted a pass back into the face of Broncos signal-caller Russell Wilson, while second-year professional Cameron Thomas registered a sack during the second quarter. Linebacker Jesse Luketa was credited with a pair of pressures, cornerback Nate Hairston tallied a vicious quarterback hit on Wilson, and third-year vet Victor Dimukeje busted through to knock down a Jarrett Stidham pass in the third quarter.

It's starting to look as if Ossenfort was correct in his initial assessment of the Cards pass rushers, some of which were holdovers from the last regime. Maybe the only thing that was needed was the departure of the previous coaching staff. There are indications that the Arizona defense could shine, now that Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis are running the show in the desert.


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