When the Cardinals were in desperate need of some young pass rushing ability, many were disappointed that they waited until the fourth round of the 2011 draft to address that concern. What people didn't know is that Sam Acho would become one of the biggest key pieces to the defensive puzzle, raking in seven sacks in his rookie season with only ten games started.
Now, coming into his sophomore season, where many players are often found slumping, Acho plans on avoiding that cliche by improving himself on the field during training camp. I caught up with him after practice on Wednesday to talk about his comfort with the defense, his running mate O'Brien Schofield and what he has done to make himself a better player going into 2012.
While watching practice, it becomes quite clear that Acho is one of the hardest workers on the field. He works with the first team on defense and in certain special teams packages, going 100% the entire way. But he knows that's his job and he tends to do it well. To improve upon what he has already built, Acho is working on getting the playbook down pat and improving his technique as a pass rusher.
"Each year you've got to work, you've got to work hard. So now I'm just working on different techniques as far as rushing the passer and just getting off the ball fast and working with the guys on the inside like Calais [Campbell] and [Darnell] Dockett."
Make no mistake, Acho knows where his bread is buttered. The front three are the ones that create the gaps for him to rush through, so it is important that he knows what their mindset is and what type of stunts they are going to perform. Being that he is such a smart football player, it makes it much easier for Acho to do well. It also helps quite a bit when the opposing offensive line is focused on his fellow edge rusher, O'Brien Schofield.
"I love watching O'Brien's style of play and he likes watching my style of play. We're both out there on the edge trying to make things happen. A lot of times we'll say to each other, 'hey I'll see you in the backfield'. We both try to get to the quarterback."
If everything pans out the way it should, these two young talents should not only have great seasons in 2012, but for many years to come. Acho will turn 24 this season, so he obviously has quite a bit of football in front of him. So as the years go by and he continues to grow within the defense, his comfort with the playbook will grow as well. For now, he told me that is the biggest area he needs to improve on.
"Understanding the playbook more to a point where there's no second guessing," Acho said of where he wants to diversify. "It's all full speed everything."
Speed, smarts, dedication and a nose for the football? This kid has a pretty bright future ahead of him. It's a good thing the team decided to address their pass rushing concerns late.