Breakdown: Cardinals Select Markus Golden

Everything you need to know about the Arizona Cardinals’ second-round selection of defensive end Markus Golden out of Missouri from Scout's college and pro football experts.

Instant Analysis from Scout's Jamie Newberg:

Fans are going to love Markus Golden playing for the Cardinals in the desert. This is a speedy and active edge guy that can make plays all over the field. He has good size and quickness and at times can be a disruptive force. Golden recorded 16 sacks and 33 tackles for a loss at Missouri and well over 100 tackles. He was a Juco transfer that shined at Missouri.

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

Both Markus Golden and fellow rush end Shane Ray served as the backups to All-Southeastern Conference defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. The starting tandem handled more than 75% of the defensive snaps and they combined for twenty-one sacks and 33.5 stops-for-loss in 2013. The combined totals for Ray and Golden in “mop up” duty saw that duo collect eleven sacks and twenty-three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Many thought that Michael Sam and Kony Ealy would be too hard to replace entering the 2014 season. Both Ray and Golden have done everything they can to dispute those thoughts. Golden ranked third on the team with 78 tackles that included ten sacks, as he added 20.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage while recovering three fumbles with two forced fumbles and nine QB pressures/

The 2014 season was Golden’s grand opportunity to shine, as he no longer had future NFL talents Ealy and Sam taking up most of the snaps at defensive end. The junior college transfer has an ideal frame you look for in a strong-side linebacker or rush end, but will need to add more bulk if a team plans to play him as a down lineman at the next level.

Golden carries his weight well, showing good balance and body control working his way down the line and has the second gear to generate long pursuit. When playing on the edge, he keeps his pads down and head on a swivel, as he compensates for a lack of ideal bulk with active hands to deliver counter moves and slip off blocks.

The bigger blockers have good success executing reach blocks on him and he is not effective at splitting double teams, but, when isolated on the edge or playing off the line, he is a solid wrap-up tackler who hits with a thud. He has also developed swim and rip moves working inside, but is better at getting to the quarterback when playing off the edge.

Speed is his best rush move, but Golden also has great hand placement to slip out and avoid blocks on the move. He comes off the edge with a sudden burst and when asked to shoot the gaps, blockers are often surprised by his explosion through the holes. The thing you see on film since his junior year is that he combines his speed with efficient inside counter moves to pressure the pocket.

Golden has become a physical pass rusher who can flash ability to throw offensive tackles to the ground once he latches on to his opponent’s numbers. He has an effective inside rip move and as the 2014 season progressed, he showed violent hands and the ability to chop away at the blocker's hands coming out of stance. Even while giving up considerable bulk vs. his opponent, he has the ability to drive offensive tackle back on heels and then swim back inside.

Golden does a nice job of locating and exploiting the seam when asked to stunt inside. Do not judge him on his poor timing at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine (ran 4.9 but had a left hamstring strain), as his initial quickness is slightly above average. Where he has problems is when trying to stack, as his lower body flexibility is just average and he can lose his balance when trying to bend back inside.

Golden’s closing speed is average, but he is an effective wrap-up tackler has the ability to take away the cutback lanes. He also demonstrates enough of a burst to shoot the seam and make plays in the zone, which is a requirement needed if he is to convert to linebacker at the next level (has good ability to stretch the play. He can hold his ground in one-on-one battles with tight ends and lead blockers, showing some ability to stack up vs. the double team when he keeps his pad level down.

When he gets too upright in his initial burst off the snap, Golden will give up ground, as his technique then gets too inconsistent. He lined up at three-technique at times and his initial quickness gave interior offensive linemen problems, but he lacks “sand in his pants” to play too much over the head of interior blockers.

Some scouts think that he might be limited in space, but anyone that doesn't think he is a good candidate to move to outside linebacker in a base 3-4 front needs to view film of his skill-set at that position from his 2010 season at Hutchinson College. The thing you have to like about this Tiger is that he always generates an above average effort when rushing the passer and will do whatever is needed to get to the quarterback with his second effort.

Until his hamstring heels and undergoes position drills as a linebacker, teams will still wonder if he can turn out of his backpedal cleanly and give chase to short-to-intermediate area receivers in pass coverage. He seems alert to locating the ball and showed adequate backpedal discipline in pass coverage as a freshman, but that was five seasons ago.

Because of his lack of great size and height, there were times in 2014 when Golden was slow in recognizing kick out and down blocks. When that happened playing vs. the run, he would get caught too far up field at times. Stamina is also a bit of a concern, as the high increase in reps last year saw him wear down some late in games, making him susceptible to a quick count and a step late getting off the snap.

Markus Golden Scouting Combine measurables

6-2/260 (4.90 forty)
31 1/8-inch arm length
10 1/2-inch hands

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.


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