Pass rush remains one of the more pressing concerns facing the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the 2022 NFL draft. Chandler Jones defecting to the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency took away the lone legitimate game-wrecker along the Arizona front seven.
Markus Golden led the Cardinals with 11 sacks in 2021, half a sack ahead of Jones, but it was the latter who struck fear into offenses. The pass-rush department lacks star power without Jones, even with J.J. Watt returning to full health.
It makes sense for the Cardinals to run the rule over the best edge-rushers in this year’s draft class. The team has already met with an edge projected to come off the board in the first round, a player who has been a popular pick for Arizona in mock drafts.
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Cards Met With Popular Mock Draft Choice
The search for Jones’ replacement took shape last week when the Cardinals welcomed one of the top pass-rushers in this class, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
There’s something fitting about George Karlaftis paying the Cardinals a visit. He’s been a familiar pick for the franchise in mock drafts.
Back in March, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso sent “NFL ready” Karlaftis to the Cardinals with the 23rd-overall pick. The same pick was made by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. in January.
Karlaftis makes sense for the Cardinals, even if his overall numbers lack a wow factor. He logged a mere 14 sacks during three seasons with Purdue, but Karlaftis still showed a natural flair for collapsing the pocket and getting to the passer.
This sack, highlighted by NFL on Twitter, showed how effective Karlaftis was winning matchups at the collegiate level:
Aside from raw power and the flexibility to go outside or inside, Karlaftis is versatile enough to attack from both sides of the line. Thats what he did on this play, broken down by Bootleg Football podcast creator EJ Snyder:
There’s so much to like about Karlaftis’ game, especially for a team needing to reload its arsenal for creating pressure.
Cardinals Still Have Room for a Veteran Pass-Rusher
The Cardinals fit the bill as a team in need of pass rush help. Coordinator Vance Joseph’s defense recorded 41 sacks a year ago, but those chiefly responsible for the number are either playing elsewhere or on the wrong side of 30.
Jones is now a Raider, while Golden is 31, two years younger than Watt. The latter is recovering from shoulder surgery and has completed a full season just twice in the last six years.
There’s obviously room for an infusion of young talent like Karlaftis. Yet, there’s also space for another proven commodity.
The veteran market still has names that should interest the Cardinals. Names like Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram III.
Perhaps the marquee addition would be Jadeveon Clowney. The Cardinals have been named a potential fit for the 29-year-old by Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus.
Pairing a dynamic rookie like Karlaftis with an experienced quarterback hunter like Clowney or Houston would surely offset the loss of Jones and give the Cards a pass rush strong enough for a playoff push.