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Background: Sep 20, 2020; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Haason Reddick (43) during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium Sept. 16, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow/Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK
Per the PFF ratings, the Arizona Cardinals are 16th in the NFL in tackling with a 66.8 team grade.
That’s quite an improvement thus far from last year’s team tackling grade of 44.4 (27th in NFL, per PFF).
When one peruses the top tackling grades among the Cardinals’ defenders and special teams players, an astonishing fact about jersey numbers appears:
Some of the Top Tacklers (Defense and STs):
47—-85.4—-Ezekiel Turner (STs)
43—-79.3—-Haason Reddick (DEF)
48—-77.2—-Isaiah Simmons (DEF)
45—-74.2—-Dennis Gardeck (STs)
49—-73.6—-Kylie Fitts (DEF)
42—-73.4—-Devon Kennard (DEF)
45—-72.4—-Dennis Gardeck DEF)
That’s a whole lot of 40 something!
Ezekiel Turner and Dennis Gardeck have 10 combined tackles on STs, leading the team with 5 each.
As a group Reddick, Simmons, Fitts, Gardeck and Kennard have combined for 21 tackles (all solo tackles), 24 QB pressures, 6 sacks—-and get this—-only 1 missed tackle.
That brings us to OLB Coach Charlie Bullen.
Seth Cox introduced us to Bullen in this February 8, 2019 article—-check out the bio that Seth posted:
Last year, Coach Bullen was the assistant LBers coach to Billy Davis. This year he was promoted to OLB coach:
We have also promoted Charlie Bullen to outside linebackers coach, Don Shumpert to offensive assistant, and Spencer Whipple to assistant wide receivers coach. https://t.co/wWf2ehes7K
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 5, 2020
The highlight of this bio is the job Bullen did with the Dolphins’ edge rushers Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. “DEs Cameron Wake (27.0) and Olivier Vernon (25.5) ranked 10th and tied for 12th, respectively, for the most sacks in the NFL from 2013-15. No other NFL team had multiple players in the top-20 in sacks during that stretch.”
Kudos to Coach Bullen—-obviously he is doing a superb job teaching the fundamentals of tackling and edge rushing.
And while he’s only 36—-he seems to know a little about motivating players in the 40s—-jersey numbers in the 40s, that is.
Note: Cameron Wake is currently a free agent. The Broncos made an effort to sign him five weeks ago, but they and Wake could not agree on a deal. Wake is 38 and only played in 9 games for the Titans last year because of a knee injury. He has 100 1⁄2 career sacks. In his 9 games for the Titans last year, he graded out very well at 83.5, registering an impressive 31 QB pressures and 3 sacks.
Olivier Vernon, 30, signed a 1 year $11M (fully guaranteed) contract to remain this season with the Cleveland Browns, coming off a good season in 2019 (80.4 PFF grade). He is off to a slow start after playing in 3 games this year (48.9) and despite 7 QB pressures, he has yet to register a sack. The Browns have already payed him a $4M signing bonus and if the Cardinals wanted to trade for Vernon by the trading deadline, they would be looking at a remaining salary that would be somewhere in the vicinity of $3.5-$3.8M.
In light of Charlie Bullen’s and Vance Joseph’s familiarity with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon—-do you think it would be a good idea for the Cardinals to pursue one of them?
I am anxious to see how the Cardinals current cache of OLBs does on Monday night in their first game without Chandler Jones. Will the Cardinals be fine with the combination of edge players they already have?