The depth of the Cardinals’ defensive line is being tested, after the Cardinals released Darius Philon Saturday following an arrest for aggravated assault.
Suddenly, rookie third-round pick Zach Allen has a starting role.
Earlier Saturday, there were few details about the immediate future of Philon. He had been arrested Friday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for an incident in May.
“We are aware of the situation and the serious allegations,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said prior to Saturday’s practice. “It’s been reported to the league. We will allow that process from the legal perspective and the league’s standpoint to move forward, and we aren’t allowed to comment further at this time.”
Saturday afternoon, following practice, the team cut Philon, who had signed a two-year contract as a free agent in March and was supposed to be a key component on the defensive line. He was starting alongside nose tackle Corey Peters and end Rodney Gunter. The Cardinals now have two open roster spots.
“We’ve had a pretty good room as far as depth is concerned,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said before Philon was released. “We definitely have enough guys that can play, guys we feel comfortable putting in. We’ll be praying and hopeful the best works out for Darius. Whether he is with us or not, we’ll be ready to go.”
Now Allen takes that starting role.
“I always try to prepare like a starter,” Allen said. “Coming from college, where I started my last two years, it’s kind of hard to change habits. You’re in the NFL, so you have to ramp it up a lot, so not a lot has changed.”
Allen has been impressive in camp and was already expected to play a major role in the defensive line rotation.
“I like what Zach Allen has brought, and I’m really excited that we have him here,” said Kingsbury, praising Allen’s coachability, work ethic and motor. “We think he has a heck of a future.”
Allen said being in the NFL is a job, but camp has been enjoyable. Peters can see the potential in Allen – “You can see why he was drafted where he was drafted” – and added that Allen is physically ready for the pro game and now much get his mental game to match.
The Cardinals need that too. The unit has taken some hits since camp started. The team had previously released former first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche, and also waived Vincent Valentine, who had been dealing with injuries.
“That’s an area that with Steve (Keim) we will have to address depth-wise to get through camp, and continue to evaluate players on that D-line,” Kingsbury said.
Images from Saturday's work following the preseason opener against the Chargers