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Playin’ Nice: Revenge of the Birds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Fiesta Bowl - LSU v UCF Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today we’re going out west to catch up with our sister site Revenge of the Birds, the Arizona Cardinals SB Nation page. Arizona, like the Cleveland Browns, has been a pretty popular place for NFLSU. Over the last decade, Arizona drafted Patrick Peterson, Kevin Minter and Tyrann Mathieu. In April, the Cardinals dipped into the LSU pipeline again and took Rashard Lawrence in the fourth round. Site editor Seth Cox previews Lawrence’s fit with LSU West.

1. Arizona has sort of turned into LSU West. The Cardinals took Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Kevin Minter. Now comes Rashard Lawrence. What is it about these former Tigers catching Arizona’s eye?

I think when you look at the best programs and defenses you see a commonality of players that are successful in the NFL coming from those programs. LSU has been a perennial powerhouse and produces NFL prospects on the defensive side of the ball yearly. So, it would make sense that NFL teams would like to get in on those types of players.

They’re well coached and disciplined, they understand that the defense is a whole unit not a bunch of individuals.

I think drafting players that are successful and understand that coming into the pros makes the transition a bit easier.

2. Lawrence played some defensive end in LSU’s 3-4 scheme, but the his combine bio listed him as a defensive tackle? Where’s Lawrence more likely to be lined up in Arizona?

I think he’ll be playing the defensive tackle role in the Arizona Cardinals 34 defense. So he’s technically a defensive end, but the Cardinals list that as a tackle. He’ll likely come in as third on the depth chart of that position but has a good chance if healthy to move into the primary backup role, behind newly signed Jordan Phillips.

If he impresses even more you could see Lawrence pass up last year’s third round pick Zach Allen for the starting spot at the other defensive end spot for the Cardinals. The Cardinals defensive line has had quite a few changes, so Lawrence will have a chance.

3. Lawrence had ankle problems at LSU, is that a concern for Arizona? Especially not being able to meet with him?

Without knowing Lawrence personally I did a bit of hypothesizing on my own with his lower leg injury history. One of the big knocks on Lawrence from most draft pundits coming out was he played too high, didn’t anchor enough, seemed to lack a consistent power in his game.

Now, unless you are Superman, or Aaron Donald or prime J.J. Watt, most people use their legs to generate consistent power. If you are a player with multiple ankle issues and a knee surgery in your background, you may not be someone who uses their legs as consistently and effectively as they should. The Cardinals have an excellent positional coach in Brentson Buckner and having Buck get a chance to work with Lawrence they may feel like they can get him back to his junior season type of dominance. If not, it was a risk worth taking on day three as you know Lawrence can be a good rotational guy and contribute on defense.

4. Is Lawrence a lock to make the roster? If not, what will he need to show in camp to earn a spot?

Lock as much as any late fourth rounder can be. The Cardinals defense lacked players who helped make others around them better. Lawrence is that type of player and he’s a leader. When you talk about a three-year captain at a place like LSU that means something.

So, unless his leg injuries derail his career I think Lawrence will be a guy who makes the roster in a backup role in year one with the expectation he is a contributor and role player early.