For the Arizona Cardinals, there will be an open window of opportunity for anyone at the defensive tackle position with Corey Peters still in free agency and Jordan Phillips being released.
That someone can be third-year defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence.
PHNX Cardinals reporter Bo Brack named Lawrence as a breakout player to watch for the 2022 season.
“I think Rashard Lawrence is going to be a big player for this defense,” Brack said. “I think he’s going to play a ton of snaps. I love what I was hearing from his teammates when he was running the drills at minicamp — including guys like J.J. Watt. When Lawrence was running drills, he (Watt) was like “damn”. He liked the pace that he was playing at. He liked the strength at. Lawrence looked like he was in great shape.”
Lawerence was drafted in the fourth round by the Cardinals in 2020. He went to college in LSU and was part of the team’s championship team in 2019 and was named second-team All-SEC in the same year.
“If his development is right, he can help slow down opposing rushing attacks and open up rush lanes for those edge guys,” Brack said. “I think it’s his year . . . He was one of the team captains for the star-studded LSU team.”
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Injuries Have Plagued Lawrence
Calf issues have been the main issue for both seasons of Lawrence’s missed time. He’s appeared in 20 games in two seasons with the Cardinals.
The 315-pound nose tackle has been a depth and rotational piece during his first two seasons. It’s not expected that Lawrence will become a Pro Bowl talent overnight.
However, barring a free-agent signing, he has just fellow 2020 draftee Leki Fotu to compete with. There should be room to grow for the LSU product.
In order for Lawrence to be a capable starter, he needs to be on the field. The 23-year-old told Arizona Sports 98.7 that playing every game will be his number one goal for the 2022 season.
“Number one thing for me is health,” Lawrence said to Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke in May. “The first two years I’ve missed some games and that’s kind of hurt the team. So for me, it’s be there every game, be available every game and that’s the number one thing.”
Signs of Lawrence Breaking Out
There was promise from Lawrence at the end of last season. Over the last four 2021 regular-season games, Lawrence had three games with a Pro Football Focus grade over 69.
With two years of experience, Lawrence expects more from himself and the team after getting a taste of the playoffs last season.
“I think that we’ve had growing pains the first couple of years but we’ve also had some bright spots that we can build off of,” he said. “Going into Year 3, we know what’s expected. We got to sniff the playoffs last year and see a little bit about what playoff football is all about but now there are no excuses. Because we know the ropes, we know what (Vance Joseph) is asking us to do and preparing for that. I definitely think going into Year 3 it’ll will be a lot of good things going on.”