The Arizona Cardinals went through many ups and downs last season, and at their peak looked like one of the most formidable teams in the league. To get to where they were this season just two years removed from having the worst record in the NFL, they had to go through a lot of roster turnover.
In the sixth part of this series, we will be looking back at each outside linebacker who recorded a snap for Arizona this season and grade their performance.
This is the grading scale used:
A: Player Exceeded Expectations
B: Player Met Expectations
C: Player Did Not Meet Expectations
D: Player’s Poor Play Creates A Problem
F: Player Is A Liability
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
2020 Grade: A Reddick, the former first-round pick who was labeled as a bust by many, enjoyed a nice closing stretch to his contract season (17 tackles, 7.5 sacks, six forced fumbles in the last four games) to earn him a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers worth up to $8 million. Consistency was an issue throughout the season for him, but if he can come anywhere near to replicating the play he displayed at different points, he will be a valuable asset for Carolina.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
2020 Grade : C The 2019 All Pro got off to a slow start in 2020 before tearing his bicep in Week 5. After recording 19 sacks the year prior, Jones was only able to post 1 before his injury. There is great reason to believe he can return to his elite form, but the 2020 season was the low point of his career.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
2020 Grade: B Markus Golden was traded to the Cardinals 11 days before the deadline to provide complimentary pass rush after Chandler Jones’s injury. He provided that need, and the Reddick/Golden pass rush duo was a formidable unit at the end of the season. He resigned with the team on a two-year deal early in free agency.
2020 Grade: A+ Gardeck is the first defensive player of the series to receive an A+ grade, as he exceeded expectations with seven sacks on only 93 defensive snaps. That is just insane productions from the special teams ace, and it has made him a fan favorite and earned him a second-round RFA tender which will in all likelihood keep him with the team in 2021. He tore his ACL in Week 15 and will miss the beginning of the regular season, but he has carved out a role as a rotational pass rusher. Gardeck will look to duplicate his efforts in 2021 with the addition of J.J. Watt and the return of Chandler Jones and Jordan Phillips.
2020 Grade : D- Kennard was signed last year to a three-year, $20 million contract as a hopeful complementary pass rusher to Chandler Jones. After a good start, injuries and a COVID-19 diagnosis derailed his season. He is now considered a cap liability by many, and will likely at least see his contract restructured in order to make money for other players.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
2020 Grade: B Fitts has worked his way up from a practice squad role into a solid depth player at the edge since being signed by the team in 2019. This season, he was a key contributor on special teams (51% snaps played) and made a few big plays on defense. He looks to increase his role in 2021.
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
2020 Grade: B- Walker was one of the teams few undrafted free agents to take the field, and appeared in two games as a rotational player. He recorded just one tackle, but it was enough for the team to sign him to a future contract. Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Latest show: