The Arizona Cardinals look a lot different than they did this time a year ago.
And with a reset in the culture, coaching staff and front office comes a reset on the roster.
Every position group has seen changes this offseason, from quarterback to special teams.
There is still plenty of time for personnel changes between now and training camp. But until then, let’s take a deeper dive into how the Cardinals roster is currently constructed.
From the trenches to the edge, it’s time to take a look at Arizona’s outside linebackers.
Arizona Cardinals big roster questions: OLB
1. Can Zaven Collins produce as a pass rusher?
Among the biggest changes hitting Arizona’s defense is Collins’ shift from primarily MIKE backer to edge rusher.
Collins has been seen during offseason workouts running with the outside linebackers group in addition to playing 1-on-1 with new OLBs coach Robert Rodriguez.
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) June 5, 2023
It’s a change in how Collins has operated since arriving in the Valley as a 2021 first-round draft pick, though you wouldn’t know how the linebacker approached the new challenge.
“It’s definitely different than the preparation for last season, but also the defensive philosophies have changed, the defensive schemes have changed,” Collins said during minicamp.
“I definitely want to get after the quarterback a little more than I did last year,” he added. “A lot of sacks would be nice. Dumping Q is always a good thing defensively.”
It’s also not an entirely new position for Collins, with the linebacker seeing 182 of his 1,076 snaps coming from the outside.
And since the room is without any concrete starters, other than Collins being one of Arizona’s best backs, the linebacker has a real chance to earn a starting pass rushing role.
2. Who makes the biggest jump of Year 2, Cameron Thomas or Myjai Sanders?
With Collins on the inside track to landing a starting gig, that leaves just one more starting spot to fill.
Two players competing for that role are second-year pros Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders.
Despite seeing 30% or less of the available defensive snaps last season, the two linebackers still came away with a trio of sacks and 11 combined QB hits.
Of the two, Thomas looks markedly different, bulking up this offseason while coming into practice much leaner than in past practices.
“This year, with the time we had off, I used it. I got my weight up and my body fat down,” Thomas said during organized team activities in May. “I think I’ve gotten faster and I think I’ve gotten stronger.
“I’m really, really excited to see what I’m going to be able to do this year and just get into the playbook and work with JG and the rest of the staff.”
The wild card
2023 third-round pick BJ Ojulari makes the cut because of how little we’ve seen of the rookie so far this offseason and the potential he has to make an impact early.
Ever since Arizona pulled the linebacker from LSU, defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and Gannon have done nothing but rave about Ojular’s football character and ability as a player.
Racking up 128 tackles and 16.5 sacks over three seasons at LSU and earning the coveted jersey no. 18 will have this effect.
But for all the talk of Ojular’s skills, he was largely a non-participant for nearly all of Arizona’s offseason work outside of rookie minicamp.
The linebacker is also the last remaining rookie from the 2023 draft class still unsigned.
Gannon said in June that the decision to limit Ojular’s field work was due to an undisclosed injury and not his contract situation.