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Echoes Of DWash In Versatile Haason Reddick

Posted Jul 28, 2017

Rookie linebacker gives Cardinals options in coverage, pass rush and on all three downs

Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick rolls in coverage at a recent practice.

Technically, Haason Reddick and Daryl Washington were Cardinals teammates for about two weeks.

Reddick was the team’s No. 1 draft choice in late April, a couple of days after Washington was reinstated from suspension. The two linebackers never met before Washington was released May 11, and frankly, Reddick doesn’t know much about him.

When told that coach Bruce Arians drew a parallel between Reddick and Washington, the rookie could only smile.

“Yeah, that’s a little lost on me,” Reddick acknowledged. “Hopefully it’s a great compliment.”

While Washington’s career was derailed by off-field issues, Reddick is just getting started. As harsh as it was for the Cardinals to have lost Washington – a Pro Bowler and rising star when he was suspended in 2014 – to have potentially found someone as dynamic at the position could be a boon to the future.

For now, Reddick is an inside linebacker, similar to the spot Washington played, likely used a little differently than the man he’s currently replacing in the starting lineup, the injured Deone Bucannon. (Arians said “we’ll see” when asked how Reddick, Bucannon and Karlos Dansby will all be used when Bucannon returns.)

Reddick has been in an inside-linebacker crash course since the summer, once Bucannon’s camp was placed in doubt after ankle surgery. He’s lined up as a starter next to Dansby, who not only can mentor Reddick about the defense on the field but also what it’s like to play significant snaps as a rookie. Dansby did so as a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2004.

“You tell him, ‘Just find your role,’ ” Dansby said of his advice to Reddick. “He gets a couple years under his belt, he might be right there with (Washington).”

Dansby was a three-down, blitz-and-cover guy himself. But even in arguably Dansby’s best year as a pro – 2013 in his second Cardinals stint – it was playing next to the talented Washington that helped.

Like Washington, there is little Reddick shouldn’t be able to do. He played safety in high school and when he first got to college, which helped hone cover skills. He played defensive end in college, cultivating pass rush ability. He’s athletic enough to range sideline to sideline on running plays.

“I don’t like comparing people (but) he should have as much if not more impact as Daryl Washington had, because they are similar-type players,” Arians said. “We’re not even using him yet at what he does best.”

That’s in the pass rush, which is how Reddick’s game exploded at the end of his college career. At some point, especially when Bucannon returns, Reddick can be a wild card on defense, moving around to blitz or at least make the offense consider the possibility. Arians already said Reddick is probably the best coverage linebacker the Cardinals have had since Arians arrived.

Reddick’s problem now is typical for a rookie: He has, in his own words, “throttled back” when he plays, worried about making mistakes. That’s something that should eventually pass.

“He’s extremely serious about it,” Arians said. ”Over-serious about it as a matter of fact. Too conscientious. When he turns it loose, it’s extremely impressive to watch.”

Reddick knows this, anxious to learn the playbook and find his comfort level.

“When you’re a ballplayer and you know what you are doing, you feel comfortable,” he said.

Whether he’s another Daryl Washington on the field, the Cardinals wait to see. Reddick doesn’t look at it that way anyway. He’s got the confidence that Haason Reddick can be a unique property.

“Do you believe in yourself or don’t you?” Reddick said.

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