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NFL Draft

How Cardinals Should Have Implemented Haason Reddick

  • The Draft Network
  • May 12, 2020
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Recently, The Draft Network's Joe Marino discussed what went wrong with Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick, the 2017 first-round pick out of Temple who had a lot of promise. 

Reddick eventually settled on a position up front, playing mostly with his hand down, after starting as a running back and safety. He was considered a tweener, who wasn’t big enough to play as a 4-3 defensive end and didn’t have the ideal length to play outside linebacker in a 3-4.

He tried his hand at inside linebacker during the 2017 Senior Bowl and had a great week of practice. Reddick went on to test well at the NFL Scouting Combine and Arizona made him the first linebacker selected in the 2017 draft. 

It would be challenging for any player taken at the top of the draft to make an immediate impact. Most players selected that high go to teams that have perpetually been bad for a number of years, which is precisely why they are selecting at the top of the draft in the first place. These teams often have systemic challenges that result in cultural issues and make it hard for any player to settle there, handle the pressure and succeed.

During Reddick's four-year career, he has played for three different head coaches and defensive coordinators; each having their own idea of where to play him to maximize his talent. There was never any continuity to the start of his NFL career, and Reddick went to a less than ideal situation. 

The Cardinals seemingly drafted Reddick without a clear, definitive plan for how to use him. From the outset, he was never an ideal fit for Arizona’s odd front scheme. Teams get the most success when they move players forward and not backward. If a player fails at safety, they should be moved forward to linebacker and then to the defensive line. It is extremely difficult to move someone backward; players like journeyman linebacker Lorenzo Alexander are the exception, not the rule. The Cardinals seemingly failed to do extensive homework on their first-round pick. Reddick had instinct issues in college; it was up to Arizona to determine if that was coach-speak, either he doesn’t process well or quickly enough. 

Sometimes the instinct issues are derived from not playing any one position for an extended period of time. But to move him back to inside linebacker, where things happen quickly inside, was doing Reddick a disservice, especially for a defense that had been bad for so long.

This is exacerbated considering the implementation of a misdirectional offense in today’s NFL. Reddick was never an ideal fit for any team that implored an odd front scheme. If a 3-4 team drafted him, in order to maximize his productivity he should have been used as a designated pass rusher in sub-packages. He could play on the left side, or even over the tight end, so he doesn’t have to deal with the length and athleticism of left tackles. Reddick should have only been allowed to rush without any drop responsibilities.

The best fit for him would have been covered up in an even front scheme at inside linebacker. He would have to been matched with another linebacker who can call the defense and get players aligned, shaded correctly up front. Reddick needed to grow in one system for a number of years without having too much on his plate at once and allow him to be a see-ball-get-ball player.

In the end, there is plenty of blame to pass around when determining what went wrong with Reddick. 

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