Heading into New York on Sunday, Arizona Cardinals fans might’ve been reminiscing about Chandler Jones’ four sack performance against the New York Giants last season. Without their star pass rusher, the Cardinals still managed to have a day in East Rutherford, putting on their best defensive showing this season. None shone brighter, however, than outside linebacker Haason Reddick, who turned in a career performance, setting a new Cardinals franchise sack record with five in one game.
Haason Reddick Sets Franchise Sack Record Against the Giants
Path to the Franchise Sack Record
Pictured having an emotional moment following the game, those familiar with Reddick’s NFL career will understand the arduous road to his historic performance. Indeed, Reddick was considered a bust by many. Through his first three seasons, Reddick endured as difficult a start to life in the NFL as any. Three defensive coordinators in that period and three new defensive systems led to Reddick failing to nail down a single position. Despite playing outside linebacker in college, Reddick’s first season saw him moved to inside linebacker by Bruce Arians. Then, Reddick’s 2018 season encapsulated the short-lived era as he struggled in Wilks’ 4-3 scheme.
Fast forward to this year. Reddick entered the 2020 season having had his fifth-year option declined by the Cardinals. Beginning the season as a rotational linebacker, Chandler Jones’ season-ending injury thrust Reddick into a starting role, replacing Jones’ production a lofty task. Across the season, Reddick has done his part, garnering five sacks before Sunday as part of a commendable group effort from the Cardinals defense. However, Reddick’s performance on Sunday was undoubtedly both the best of the season and the best of his young career.
The New Jersey native made himself right at home at Metlife Stadium, where the Cardinals had already ripped off a big win this season against the New York Jets. Credit is due to Vance Joseph, whose blitz packages helped to free up Reddick and the other Cardinals pass rushers. Reddick, in particular, found early success on stunt plays, generating inside pressure after poor rotation from veteran duo Kevin Zeitler and Cameron Fleming.
The Cardinals continuously wrecked the Giants with the one particular blitz scheme. Stunts from the outside, often the left, tie up the guard and tackle, with the stunt man generating pressure. On the opposite side, a B-Gap blitz from the defensive end forces a combination block from the center and guard. Collectively, this leaves the tackle opposite the stunt 0ne-on-one with the edge rusher. Since the Cardinals ran this stunt largely from the left, rookie Andrew Thomas was often the isolated tackle.
Reddick took advantage of the matchup, picking up two sacks and two forced fumbles against the former Georgia standout. Reddick’s speed and elusiveness were on full display throughout the day, showcasing his pass rush ability. Considered undersized for outside linebacker at 6’1, Reddick’s speed is an integral facet of his game; his 4.52 40 speed impressed at the combine and continues to do so on the field.
In an special day for the much-maligned Cardinal, Haason Reddick finished the day with five sacks. This set a new Cardinals franchise record for sacks in a single game. In addition, Reddick also caused three forced fumbles. It is important to note too, that several of Reddick’s sacks came in the fourth quarter of the game. With the Cardinals holding a commanding lead, the spirit and desire shown suitably delivered Reddick with a historic moment.
What’s next for Reddick?
Haason Reddick knelt in tears before being met with a comforting hug from Cardinals GM Steve Keim. However, questions now swirl about whether Keim should be meeting Reddick with a new contract in the upcoming months. Reddick, who was set to make $10 million in 2021, had his fifth-year option declined by the Cardinals prior to the 2020 season. This makes Reddick an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the conclusion of the current season.
The Cardinals depth at outside linebacker is notable. Chandler Jones is expected to make a full recovery for next season and will return as the team’s focal point in pass rushing. 2020 free agent addition Devon Kennard is locked into a three year deal in Arizona. This leaves Haason Reddick and Markus Golden, both of whom are UFAs this year. Ultimately, Keim may have to make a choice between the two, especially given that Patrick Peterson is also set to hit free agency.
Reddick is useful as a situational linebacker. His size does present a significant barrier to his deployment as a three-down linebacker. However, Reddick’s skill set as both as a pass rusher and an assured tackler makes him effective on various downs and distances. Despite struggling in other positions, Reddick’s versatility gives Vance Joseph wider options from the outside. Although primarily a pass rusher, his athleticism allows for occasional pass coverage deployment. The quality that the Cardinals have assembled at inside linebacker ensure that Reddick can remain on the outside. If Reddick is to be resigned, he will return entrenched as an outside linebacker, rather than the utility player he has been in recent years.
With free agency on the horizon, Reddick’s remaining performances this season could be career defining; perhaps an audition for another team, or presenting his case for a longer stay in the desert. If Reddick’s time in Arizona is coming to an end, then he will enter free agency as a record-setting linebacker with his franchise sack record. However, Haason Reddick finally shown Cardinals fans just why he was taken in the first round. Some will be hoping that Steve Keim is able to secure the Cardinals another versatile asset before what looks to be a tricky free agency period for the front office in Arizona.