The Arizona Cardinals expect to have a top tier defense in 2012. For that to happen, the team is counting on productions from their young outside linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. Acho had a bit of a breakout season in 2011 as a rookie, leading the team in sacks. Schofield didn't get as much playing time, as he was behind veteran Clark Haggans.
However, Schofield is expected to start this season and is considered one of the league'e top under the radar prospects, according to an Insider article on ESPN.com.
There is specific criteria to be on this list. These guys had to be drafted in the third round or later, be on their rookie contract, be 26 or younger and have less than five career starts.
Schofield meets the criteria and is 14th on the list.
Schofield had 12 sacks as a senior defensive end at Wisconsin, but fell down draft boards when he tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl. The Cardinals snatched him in the fourth round and it was a perfect match; Schofield wasn't going to make it as a defensive end in the pros at just 240 pounds, but he has the ideal body type for a 3-4 outside linebacker. Schofield has 6.5 sacks in a year and a half of part-time play. (He didn't take the field as a rookie until Week 8 because of the ACL recovery.) He also led the Cardinals with 12 tackles on special teams last year. Although the Cardinals did decide to re-sign veteran Clark Haggans, the plan is for Schofield to take his spot as the starting strongside linebacker with Haggans as the backup.
Heading into 2012, Schofield is hungry. He is ready to start. He wants to get after the quarterback and wreak havoc. The Arizona defensive scheme will produce pressure. If he and Acho can be the guys that they showed they could be a year ago, offenses will not enjoy going up against Arizona.
Schofield could become a double digit sack guy. Considering the length of time that is has been since the Cards have had a guy do that, it would be safe to say that Schofield will have had a breakout year in 2012.
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