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Cardinals have a keeper in rookie OLB Acho

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Dec. 01, 2011 @ 10:23 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Rookie OLB Sam Acho couldn't have come up with a better performance than the one he delivered in the Cardinals' 23-20 Week 12 victory over the division-rival Rams.

"It was definitely one of the best games I've ever had," Acho said of his Superman act in St. Louis, which was highlighted by two tide-turning sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. "I prayed to the Lord to allow me to play one of my best games ever, and He came through.

"Those big plays were great, but there were definitely some others that I could have done a much better job on."

The way we hear it, that last quote fits the ever-so-humble Acho to a T.

"He's very humble," said one daily team observer. "He knows his place as a rookie. He's also really, really smart, very inquisitive. (Defensive coordinator) Ray Horton has called him 'brilliant.' He has grasped this defense very quickly, and he's making plays because he always seems to be in the right spot."

True to form, Acho told PFW his emergence as a starter in place of the injured Joey Porter is largely due to the input he regularly receives from veteran Cardinals defenders Clark Haggans, Porter and Vonnie Holliday.

"For starters, Haggans has been playing for 11-12 years," Acho said. "He has such a vast amount of knowledge. He has won Super Bowls and been on both good teams and bad teams. I started off as his backup and was constantly picking his brain.

"Joey is another guy that's done it all. He led the league in sacks in multiple years and passes on a lot of little things to me, stuff that the coaches don't teach.

"Holliday has played end in the 4-3 (as Acho did in college at Texas) for a long time and really knows how to rush the passer."

Acho said the toughest adjustment in converting from end to outside linebacker has been to learn how to harness his natural urge to make the surge.

"I am so used to running upfield and getting sacks," he said. "But I have had to learn the concept of sometimes having to drop into coverage.

"My natural inclination is to just go, go, go, but in this defense, a lot of the time you have to go back, back, back."

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