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April 30, 2019 - 3:26 am
Cardinals’ special teams’ coordinator Jeff Rodgers did a fabulous job this past season in improving the unit’s performance from the worst in the NFL in 2017 to 5th best in 2018.Two of the main reasons why were undrafted rookie free agents Dennis Gardeck (Sioux Falls) and Zeke Turner (Washington) Baby Chandler Jones Jersey , who combined for 23 tackles and punt block TD.Down the stretch last year, I was hoping that the coaches would play Gardeck and Turner as the ILB tandem in their defense—-but it never happened.Gardeck caught my attention in the first pre-season game when at MIKE LB he recorded 5 tackles in the second half versus the Chargers, and his superb TD saving tackle on QB Nik Simonek three yards from the goal line sealed the Cardinals’ 24-17 victory.In the final pre-season game, Zeke Turner pretty much caught every Cardinals’ fan’s attention when he got extensive minutes at WILL LB and cashed in with 10 tackles and 1 sack.In light of that stunning performance, it was mind-boggling, especially in light of the team’s struggles at ILB, that Turner was never tried there during the regular season.For a team that has had its struggles with tackling, Gardeck and Turner are bright lights.Both of them are ballers and both of them relish the art of tackling.Which leads me to the point of this article—-what if?What if the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, gives Dennis Gardeck and Zeke Turner the opportunity to compete for and possibly win the 34 SILB and 34 WILB positions?The UFA inside linebacker that Seth Cox and I and many of you have been coveting is C.J. Mosely of the Ravens. And by all means we hope the Cardinals sign him.But, whether they can sign Mosely or not, when I did a comparison of Gardeck’s and Mosely’s measurables, here is what I discovered:Height: Gardeck (6.04), Mosely (6.16)Weight: Gardeck: 242, Mosely: 23840 Time: Gardeck: 4.57, Mosely: 4.633 Cone: Gardeck: 7.35, Mosely: 7.30225 Bench: Gardeck: 31, Mosely: 21Vertical Jump: Gardeck: 36.5:, Mosely: 35”Broad Jump: Gardeck: 10’ 6”, Mosely: 9’ 10”What the comparison suggests is that Dennis Gardeck and C.J. Mosely are similar athletes in terms of size, speed and explosiveness.Of course, Mosely is an experienced Pro Bowl quality ILB, and Gardeck is now learning to play inside, as he was an edge player in college.But, still…Could the Cardinals already have a diamond in the rough at SILB?There are two main things that excite me about Gardeck’s chances…(1) he loves to to tackle (420 tackles at West Virginia St. and Soiux Falls) and (2) he is adept at getting to the QB (46 career sacks). The question is—-can he make quick reads and hold up well in pass coverage? Gardeck strikes me as the kind of athlete and competitor who can and who will, given the opportunity.When I started wondering whom I should compare Zeke Turner to Best Chandler Jones Jersey , as a candidate for 34 WILB, I asked myself, who was the best Cardinal to play that position? Aha, of course, Daryl Washington. And I immediately thought, no way can Turner measure up with D-Wash.However…check this out:Height: Turner: 6.2, Washington: 6.2Weight: Turner: 214, Washington: 23040 Time: Turner: 4.65, Washington: 4.653 Cone: Turner: 6.95, Washington: 7.07225 Bench: Turner: 19, Washington: 17Vertical Jump: Turner: 30.5”, Washington 31”Broad Jump: Turner: 9’ 5”, Washington: 9’ 6”WAY!The one disparity is D-Wash being 16 pounds heavier—-but Turner can easily put on another 10-14 pounds of muscle weight. After that, we are basically looking at two very similar athletes in terms of height, speed and explosiveness.Interesting too that Turner out bench pressed D-Wash despite being 16 pounds lighter.Quite frankly, when Turner was all over the field, plugging holes and chasing the ball while making his 10 tackles and 1 sack versus the Broncos I had flashbacks to D-Wash. I hadn’t see any Cardinal ILB as explosive in recent years.I think that if Turner is given a fair chance to compete for the 34 WILB position, he can win that job and thrive. Again, as is the case with Gardeck, Turner will have to show that he can make his reads quickly and that he is an asset in pass coverage. Having played in the vaunted secondary at Washington, Turner is well versed in the art and the techniques.What if…?Should the Cardinals and their fans be excited about Gardeck’s and Turner’s prospects?In addition, I would be remiss if I left out Joe Walker—-whose numbers are actually the most impressive of the three.Walker was a high school star in Southern California who was not offered any Division 1 scholarships. His senior year, he tore his labrom and had surgery to repair it.—-same thing that happened to TE Jace Amaro, his 2nd season with the Jets. Walker enrolled in a junior college, sat out a year doing rehab, then was a 1st team Junior College All-American at ILB Adult Chandler Jones Jersey , which prompted the Oregon Ducks to offer him a scholarship.Walker had a very good career at Oregon leading the Ducks in tackles his senior year with 87.He was not, however, invited to the Combine—-but here were his pro day numbers and how they would have compared to the linebackers’ numbers at the Combine:At 6-2, 23640 Time: 4.56 (5th)3 Cone: 6.81 (2nd)225 Bench: 23 (3rd)Vertical Jump: 37.5” (3rd)Broad Jump: 10’ 4” (4th)Top 5 in all categories. Notice the 4.56 speed and 6.81 3 cone quickness.Interestingly, Walker was drafted by the Eagles with the 251st pick of the 2016 NFL Draft…a pick the Eagles obtained from the Cardinals in the Matt Barkley trade.Walker was meant to be a Cardinal all along.What Walker’s numbers suggest to me is that he could be a factor at both inside LB spots in the 34. He played in the 43 in Philly and last year in Arizona, where he was better suited to play WOLB. The switch to the 34 should be a boon for Joe Walker, as the 34 suits his skills very well working in a tandem on the inside. Yes, the Cardinals have Dennis the Menace and Zeke the Freak…But, let’s not forget about Joe the Pato.Add Walker’s 9 combined special teams’ tackles (7 solo) to Gardeck’s 7 (7 solo) and Turner’s 16 (13 solos) and this is one of the main reasons why the Cardinals kick coverages were in the top 5 of the NFL. Now—-can the Cardinals integrate them into their 34 defense? They say tackling is contagious…and the Cardinals have the 32nd worst run defense to turn around in 2019. Time to get busy ballin’ like the Menace, the Freak and the Pato. In the first two games for Steve Wilks as an NFL head coach, his Arizona Cardinals have been outscored 58-6.In Sunday’s 34-0 drubbing by the Rams in Los Angeles, the Cardinals offense didn’t manage to cross midfield until the next-to-last play of the game.Arizona had five first downs and 137 total yards. That follows 213 yards the previous week against the Redskins.The Cardinals (0-2) are averaging 175 yards per game, dead last in the NFL and it’s not even close.”There’s a lot of self-inflicted stuff going on,” Wilks said Monday.The problems on offense are pretty much everywhere, he said. The offensive playbook will be scaled back and simplified for next Sunday’s home game against Chicago and the Cardinals must get David Johnson in open space to be his dynamic self.”Talking to (offensive coordinator) Mike (McCoy) this morning, talking to the staff, it’s some of the things that we’re going to try to do,” Wilks said, “Again, early on in the season, to me, guys are making mistakes, and this is throughout the league in the history because they’re overthinking. They’re trying to think too much and not execute, and I want the guys to go out there and play fast. So, we’re going to scale back, and we’re going to make sure we get these guys in the best position to be successful.”Sam Bradford remains the quarterback. Rookie Josh Rosen’s time has not yet come Limited Christian Kirk Jersey , Wilks said.”If I thought it was just that one position, I would be more than willing to say, ‘You know what? We need to make a change. We need a spark. We need something to happen,'” Wilks said. “But it’s just not Sam. There are numerous things, as I just mentioned, that collectively, we’ve got to get better and try to find a way to rectify these problems and be a little bit more productive on the offensive side of the ball and still try to get off the field on the defensive side of the ball to give these guys more opportunities.”So, it’s just not that one position.”Bradford, who is coming off another significant knee injury, completed 17 of 27 passes against Los Angeles but for only 90 yards. The team’s longest play was a 15-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona had just three plays of 10 yards or more. Bradford has 243 yards passing combined in two games.”Frustrating, to say the least,” Bradford said after the game. “I think to put so much work and so much effort into getting back on to the field and then to play the way we have in the past two weeks, I think it’s just really disappointing.”Wilks called Bradford’s play “inconsistent.””Does he need to be a little more accurate? Yes,” Wilks said. “But that’s just not Sam. We need to get a little bit more protection. He needs to have a little bit more time to go through his progression.”Fitzgerald aggravated a sore hamstring in the Rams game and watched from the sidelines through much of the second half. He has missed just six games in his 15-year career.”Larry, we all know 鈥?you guys have been around here for a while 鈥?it’s going to be tough to keep Larry off the field,” Wilks said. “I’ve got to help Larry help himself, and that’s what I did yesterday. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that he is ready to go on Sunday with the treatment and amount of reps that he gets in practice.”David Johnson, the talented running back who is supposed to be at the center of the offensive attack, has been limited mostly to runs up the middle. He carried 13 times for 48 yards against Los Angeles and caught one pass for three yards.”You look at some of his runs, and a lot of it is just David himself, just second effort kind of things,” Wilks said. “We’ve got to do a better job sustaining blocks, allowing David to get to that second level to where he’s so effective and making the guy miss. It starts upfront with the offensive line and again, with us just being more creative with the things that we’re doing with him.”Notes: Wilks was optimistic that the team would have DE Markus Golden (knee) and TE Jermaine Gresham (Achilles) back for the Bears game. Both are coming off surgery and neither has played this season.
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