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NFL Draft

What Went Wrong With Cardinals LB Haason Reddick

  • The Draft Network
  • May 11, 2020
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After joining Temple University’s football team as a walk-on in 2012, finding the right position for Haason Reddick has been a challenge. 

He was a safety and running back in high school and originally played those positions for the Owls. Reddick eventually found a home at defensive end, becoming an impact playmaker for Temple. As a senior in 2016, Reddick racked up 65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 9 1/2 sacks.

While his pass-rushing productivity was exciting in college, measuring 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, his path to success in the NFL was unlikely to come as a defensive end.

Reddick’s transition to an off-ball linebacker began at the Senior Bowl, where he stole the show. His range and physicality shined in practices and Reddick logged a game-high nine tackles at the all-star event. Suddenly, Reddick was in the first-round discussion and his explosive athletic testing results at the NFL Scouting Combine affirmed he was going early in the 2017 draft. 

Arizona made Reddick the first linebacker drafted at 13th overall, and he was expected to reinvigorate the Cardinals’ defense. But that has not happened; and Arizona opted to decline the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, paving the way for him to become a free agent in 2021. 

During Reddick’s first training camp he was in competition for the starting inside linebacker role where many projected him to fit best in the NFL despite not played that position previously. It wasn’t long before Reddick was tasked with the responsibilities of a hybrid linebacker, learning both the inside and outside spots. Reddick shifted fully to an outside role for the final 12 games of his rookie season when Markus Golden went down with an injury. 

In 2018, Reddick still got some chances to play on the edge and rush the passer, demonstrating promise while doing so but was primarily used as an inside linebacker where signs of life were present. While inconsistency was a problem, that should have been expected for a player who had just a few months of experience at the position prior to 2018. 

Last season, Reddick started at inside linebacker in Weeks 2-6 but was replaced by Joe Walker and relegated to subpackage duties. 

When asked why the move was made, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph cited Walker’s experience. 

“Joe Walker has played inside backer longer than Haason Reddick has, so in the base downs we’re playing Joe more because of his experience with seeing the jets and the motions and the crosses and those things,” Joseph said. “We’re just doing the best for both guys and help our team.”

The Cardinals knew what they were signing up for when drafting Reddick. His physical traits indicated he would need to transition to inside linebacker, a role he never played before. Arizona never gave him chances to truly learn the spot and grow into the position. He didn’t have the experience largely because Arizona mismanaged his development and never allowed him to remain on the inside and evolve. 

Instability at head coach and defensive coordinator has also been a challenging obstacle for a player like Reddick. Since 2017, the Cardinals have had three different coaches and defensive coordinators. While Reddick was learning an entirely new position, for each of the first three seasons of his career he’s been tasked with learning a new scheme. It’s no surprise that Reddick hasn’t reached his ceiling. From the constant coaching and schematic changes to not remaining committed to Reddick at inside linebacker and allowing him a chance to develop, Reddick hasn’t been given a fair shake. 

When players like Reddick are drafted, there has to be a clear plan for their development. That has never happened in Arizona, and the Cardinals aren’t enjoying positive returns on their top pick from 2017.

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The Draft Network