Finally, football is back and the preseason is just about ready to kick off.
Thursday night, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals will open the 2017 NFL preseason in the annual Hall of Fame Game. Though the Cardinals are sitting most, if not all, of their starters and it is likely the Cowboys will do some of the same, it still feels great to get a taste of football back in our lives.
During the long offseason, I spent time scouting tons of college football players in preparation for the NFL Draft. Once the preseason hits, you once again become reminded of your “draft crushes” and get to see how they play in the league. Two players I absolutely loved going into the draft were linebacker Haason Reddick and safety Budda Baker.
Ironically, both were drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.
Thursday night will be the first test for both Reddick and Baker, so I decided to go back and re-visit my pre-draft scouting reports of the players to get a sense of what to expect when the game kicks off.
Haason Reddick, Linebacker/EDGE
After turning heads during the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, Reddick became a popular name amongst draft Twitter. After watching his game film from Temple, I knew Reddick was a first round caliber player.
To me, what Reddick does best as a football player is rush the passer. However, teams don't believe he will be an effective full time EDGE rusher at the next level. In response, Reddick has moved off the ball, and is reportedly filling in for Deone Bucannon Thursday night at linebacker.
Reddick is an elite and balanced athlete, bringing even more versatility to an already solid Cardinals defense. Arizona could use some help in their front seven, and Reddick should be just the guy to make a difference.
Budda Baker, Safety
I loved so many of the safeties that went in this draft, and Budda Baker was towards the top of that list to me.
On a Washington defense loaded with NFL talent, Baker flashed on film and made his presence known. Though he is undersized as a safety, Baker has the ability to play the middle of the field in a centerfield role, as well as to be utilized as a nickel corner.
Baker is able to play in man out of the slot, can be used as a blitzer, and is a true deep single high safety as well. This versatility fits exactly what the Cardinals are trying to do.
Fellow Staff Writer Sean Martin wrote up a full scouting report on Baker for Slant Sports, and made some interesting conclusions.
Baker can carry receivers out of the slot, which may intrigue some scouts to grade him as a mostly full-time cornerback in the NFL. As a deep safety, Baker displays an above average understanding of the route concepts in front of him, and can burst to the ball better than most safeties in this draft.
Sure, Thursday night is just a preseason game, and is the Hall of Fame Game at that. But there will still be a lot to watch for when the Cowboys and Cardinals take the field. The odds are you already know who much of the new-faces in Dallas are. Hopefully learning about these two potential studs in Arizona will help your viewing experience a little more.