The preseason may not count for much, but Sunday night's win in Dallas had to mean something to Deone Bucannon.
The Cardinals' fifth-year linebacker lives and breathes football, and the past year-plus has been tough. Bucannon dealt with an ankle injury throughout 2017, which limited his availability and ability. He was healthy and playing well early in training camp until his knee collided with wide receiver Brice Butler's helmet, which sidelined him for a few weeks.
Bucannon made his preseason debut against the Cowboys and once again looked like the player of old. He had a team-high eight tackles and added a sack, showing off his combination of speed and physicality.
Bucannon was given 90.8 overall grade by Pro Football Focus, earning solid marks in coverage, pass rush and run defense. He finished tied for the third-highest mark on the team, which is particularly impressive considering the Cardinals forced eight turnovers and summarily dominated Dallas from start to finish.
The Cardinals are counting on players like cornerback Patrick Peterson, defensive end Chandler Jones and safety Budda Baker to have Pro Bowl-caliber seasons, and if Bucannon can join them, it gives the defense a bevy of playmakers across the field.
"He's going to be a major part of our success this year," coach Steve Wilks said.