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Living On The Edge: Haason Reddick Finally Finds His Home 

Former first-round pick excelling after position switch to outside linebacker

Haason Reddick has not looked undersized at outside linebacker, as he leads the Cardinals with four sacks.
Haason Reddick has not looked undersized at outside linebacker, as he leads the Cardinals with four sacks.

Haason Reddick could have complained, asked for a trade, asked to be released, something, to escape the nightmare start to his NFL career.

Instead, he put his head down and went to work. Again.

In his first three seasons as a professional, Reddick, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2017 draft, never came close to reaching his potential, finishing 2019 as a backup edge rusher after a third coaching staff failed to unlock his athleticism at inside linebacker.

First-round picks rarely face that type of adversity prior to the NFL, but Reddick had experience to rely on. In college, he was cut from Temple as a walk-on after his freshman season before serendipitously getting a second chance following a coaching change.

Reddick eventually blossomed into a star with the Owls, which kept hope alive even though his NFL career was floundering.

"If I could overcome it the first time in college, why can't I overcome it at this level?" Reddick said. "So I took the same approach, which is to come in every day, put the work in, go out there on Sunday, try to play my best football, and continue to repeat the cycle every week."

The inside linebacker experiment with Reddick came to an unglamorous end in December of last season, as journeyman Joe Walker took his place full-time in the lineup. While defensive coordinator Vance Joseph spoke optimistically of Reddick’s ability to succeed at outside linebacker, it was no sure thing.

The Cardinals signed free agent Devon Kennard to start opposite Chandler Jones and Reddick entered training camp in relative obscurity.

However, he flashed his natural ability early in the season, and when Jones was lost for the year with a biceps injury in Week 5, Reddick was elevated to the starting lineup. On Monday night against the Cowboys, he was fantastic, compiling five tackles and a pair of sacks.

Through six games, Reddick leads the team and is tied for 12th in the NFL with four sacks.

"He's much more comfortable where he's at now, and you're seeing the results," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "He's able to use his athleticism. He's a tough player, a physical player, very competitive. It's been awesome to see him have that success after battling through what he dealt with."

Reddick was moved to inside linebacker out of college for a couple of reasons. He had elite athletic testing numbers at the combine, which projected him as a great cover guy, and at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds he was smaller than a typical pass-rusher.

But the mental aspect never clicked for Reddick, which is why the Cardinals made the last-ditch effort to put him back on the edge. While he will never be the towering presence of a player like Jones, Reddick has fit in perfectly as a versatile strongside linebacker.

"That's his natural position," Joseph said. "That's where he wanted to play. That's his best fit in this defense, and he's been lights out. … He can rush. He can set an edge. He can drop into space. He is the prototype for our SAM 'backer in this defense."

Even though he had to essentially start from scratch by switching positions so deep into his career, Reddick was never upset. He was actually relieved.

"I'm way more comfortable," Reddick said. "Everyone knows that playing outside linebacker is similar to what I did in college, as far as playing D-end. It allows me to go out there and play think-free football. I can go out there, run around the field and let my talents take over. I think that's when I'm at my best."

After starting Reddick out at cornerback, the Temple coaching staff eventually figured out he should be on the edge. It seems the same story is playing out with the Cardinals.

"It's a beautiful thing to watch," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "Haason has definitely found his home."