Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden has matched the rookie seasons of the pass rushers picked in front of him.
The Cardinals were always going to take a pass rusher in the draft last spring, and many thought the Cards would be able to nab one of the top guys with the 24th overall pick.
But late attempts at trading up didn't pan out, and the Cardinals saw two possibilities – Bud Dupree (Steelers at No. 22) and Shane Ray (Broncos at No. 23) go right before they could choose. So they took tackle D.J. Humphries in the first round
and then took Markus Golden in round two.
Golden noticed, and wanted to prove he was just as good as those other pass-rush possibilities.
"I went to (junior college) in Hutchinson, Kansas, so I always had something to prove, especially coming from the neighborhood I came from," Golden said. "Not many make it out of St. Louis. So yes, I had something to prove. The Cardinals took me early, second round. I wanted to go in the first round but I went in the second round and I wanted to do everything I could do and be a big part of the team."
Golden did a nice job of it.
Golden finished with four sacks and was consistent in pressuring the quarterback despite not getting regular playing time until a quarter of the way into the season. Those four sacks equaled the total of Dupree and of Ray, as well as No. 8 overall pick Vic Beasley. (Second-round pick Randy Gregory, taken by Dallas and there for the Cards to take, had no sacks.)
Pro Football Focus' grading system gave Golden with the second-best mark of those players, just behind Beasley and well above the other three.
"He plays one of the most complex positions on our defense," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "It's complex because on one down, he's a 4-3 defensive end, on the next down he's an outside linebacker. He's dropping in space, he's rushing the passer."
Golden, who missed the season finale because of a knee bruise -- he said he'd be ready for the Cardinals' playoff opener-- waved off the idea his absence hurt the Cardinals ("I couldn't have made a 30 point difference.") He did say he thought his rookie season was solid, with room for more.
"I learned, and not just rushing the passer, but dropping into coverage," Golden said. "I am happy where I am at and my rookie year. But of course, I could always do better."
BETHEL AND HIS STAMINA
Coach Bruce Arians said even with the expanded cornerback role for Justin Bethel following Tyrann Mathieu's injury, Bethel will continue to have his normal role on special teams. Bethel made the Pro Bowl in that role, Arians said, so it's not going
"I saw (Richard) Sherman out there covering punts and then he turned around and covered us," Arians said. "So, I ain't buying into that (expletive)."
Bethel can't get so tired, Arians said. Bethel is working on that part.
"I'm going to run a little extra this week," Bethel said. "And just get used to playing while I'm tired. That's one thing that's hard at the end of the season – you're trying to save guys' legs, but for me, I feel like I need to get that extra running in.
"Like B.A. said, I did go to the Pro Bowl for special teams, so I am going to play special teams."
CATANZARO KNOWS "HOW GOOD OF A KICKER THAT I AM"
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro, like his teammates, didn't finish the regular season the way he wanted, missing his final extra point attempt and his final field goal try of the season. Catanzaro missed five extra points on the season, in 58 attempts. He made 28-of-31 field goals.
"I know what I've accomplished," Catanzaro said. "I'm trying to think with an old soul here, meaning I'm trying to see the big picture. I think the stats speak for themselves. I've missed the five PATs, but I know how good I can be, I know how good of a kicker that I am. I don't let that define me. Kicking is stressful. That's part of the job. I'm trying to enjoy the moment and help my team win games. I think I've done that."
Arians said "it's not talent. It's just something gets into his head."
To this, Catanzaro agreed, saying he would trust his abilities from now on and try not to think about the process as much.
"I know how good I can be," he said.
NO VANILLA IN THE OFFENSE LAST WEEK
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said the lack of offensive rhythm against the Seahawks left him feeling like it was "the twilight zone," but he added the Cardinals did not go vanilla in their gameplan.
"We took the real approach to the game," Goodwin said. "We just didn't execute. I've been saying all year long, when we execute we're good. When we don't, we stink. We stunk real bad last week."
OFFENSIVE TACKLE SIGNS FOR 2016
The Cardinals signed tackle Edawn Coughman to a 2016 contract Thursday. Coughman spent the season on the Texans practice squad and has spent time with six different NFL teams since 2012.