TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals don’t just have one option to replace injured outside linebacker Markus Golden.
They have two.
Both Haason Reddick and Kareem Martin had packages built for them this week to take snaps at outside linebacker. And both find themselves thrust into major roles after playing mostly supportive roles through the first four games.
Yet, both say they’re ready.
“It’s part of the job,” Reddick said. “Learning on the fly is part of the job. This is the task that I was handed this week and it’s my job to be able to know everything and what I have to do come Sunday.”
Haason Reddick will see some time at outside linebacker with Markus Golden out. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File
Martin, who moved from defensive end to outside linebacker before the 2015 season, entered this season with as much praise from coach Bruce Arians as anyone after a productive training camp. He feels, in his fourth season, “100 percent confident” that he can slide into Golden’s old role.
Over the last couple of the seasons, everything clicked for Martin. He’s now “more comfortable with everything.” And the timing couldn’t have been better.
“This is a tough defense, especially being an outside linebacker,” Martin said. “That transition from defensive end to the outside backer position took a little while, but now I feel like I’ve grasped the role and know the ins and outs to make me be successful.”
Like Martin, Reddick has changed positions recently.
The move to outside linebacker this weekend will be his third since January.
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Reddick left Temple University as hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. He transitioned to inside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, the position where the Cardinals drafted him. And now, another move.
But Reddick, who had 10.5 sacks as a senior last season, said moving to outside linebacker won’t be much different than playing defensive end.
“Just basically rushing the passer,” he said. “Rushing the passer will always be the same. It’s some differences, but nothing’s too different. I did some dropping (in coverage) in college. I’ll be doing the same at outside linebacker and still rushing the passer.”
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher hopes the move back near the line of scrimmage will help Reddick play faster.
Reddick had to adjust his sight lines when he moved to inside linebacker, where he was about four and a half yards off the line of scrimmage. Instead of being focused on one player, as he was as a defensive end, Reddick spent OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the first four weeks of the season training his eyes to see broader picture of the entire offensive line.
The plan this week is to give Reddick a limited number of packages this week and increase them as he grows into them, Bettcher said, just like Arizona did with Golden as a rookie two years ago.
Reddick may not look like the prototypical edge rusher — unlike Martin, whose 6-foot-6 and 275-pound frame fits the mold — at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, but he has other tangibles that could make him a productive pass rusher in the NFL, Arians said.
“Speed,” Arians said. “And he has unbelievable power for his size.”
But size doesn’t matter, Bettcher said. Which means Reddick could compete to be Golden’s full-time replacement.
Bettcher coached Robert Mathis, the former great Indianapolis Colts’ pass rusher, in 2012. Mathis, Bettcher remembered, was 212 pounds during that season.
“But no one could block him,” Bettcher said. “He could power and bull anyone. That doesn’t matter. When you got speed and you have power, you can rush off the edge. Learning how to use the speed and how to use the power will be the next thing for him.”