Dec 2, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Sam Acho (94) and inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) celebrate Acho

Who Should Start at Middle Linebacker For the Arizona Cardinals?

I am going to jump right into this one.

Daryl Washington is going to be suspended four games for the use of marijuana. The Cardinals are hoping the punishment, is not too drastic because Daryl Washington is a key cog in a stingy defense.  On that note, the presence of Karlos Dansby should be welcomed by the team. He was very productive in Miami and Arizona and a well loved linebacker for the Cardinals faithful. Let us take a look at not only Dansby but a couple of guys brought in to bolster the Cardinals middle linebacker core.

Karlos Dansby is a no-brainer for the Arizona Cardinals at one of the inside linebacker spots.  He had 101 solo tackles to go along with 33 assisted tackles for the Miami Dolphins last year.  The stat that jumped out the most, though, was the nine passes Dansby defensed this previous season.  There are defensive backs who do not break up that many passes in a season.  What that should be telling Todd Bowels, is Dansby has great awareness and although he is 31, he still has the ability work in open space.  At about 6’4 250 pounds he also has the size to withstand the pounding that takes place in the box when the run game is headed his way.  He is a true proffessional and great for any locker room.  Dansby is a hard worker and understands the game, in zone and man coverage Dansby excels and does more than hold up his own.

Jasper Brinkley was a pick up in free agency for the Cardinals and it was not a bad one.  Last year Brinkley totaled a career-high 872 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.  Not bad for a guy who missed the entire 2011 season with a serious hip injury.  Last year for the Minnesota Vikings. Brinkley tallied 63 tackles with 36 assists.

The only downside is Brinkley does not fare well in pass coverage.  He is slow to react to pass plays and lets his man get behind him too often.  With Todd Bowles indicating that a multiple front may be used, and the Cardinals having the personnel to do it, perhaps Brinkley’s weakness can be masked a little bit through scheme.

With this being a league in which teams are throwing the ball almost 70 percent of the time it will be very important for Brinkley to shore up his coverage skills while not losing any of the run-stopping ability he has.

Rookie Kevin Minter, the Cardinals’ second-round selection in this years draft, is an interesting prospect.  Without a doubt he was LSU’s best linebacker this year and in known as a run defense machine.  While watching film I noticed he has a knack for really playing downhill and can get into the backfield with relative ease when defending the run.

In an interview with Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Les Miles stated  “It’ll be real difficult for the ball to be run between the tackles, Kevin Minter just knows where to be”.  Miles went on to say “I think he’ll be an every-down player, he’s a guy who will make a lot of big-time tackles.”

The knock on him, just like Brinkley, was weather or not he could succeed in pass coverage. Although he had 6 passes defensed in college does not necessarily mean it will equate to success in the National Football League. He will need to work hard in man and zone coverage if he is to be what Miles is predicting, an every down backer.

With Washington being out it is looking like Dansby and Minter will be manning the inside linebacker positions.  But Jasper Brinkley certainly could be in the mix for a starting roll. How he adapts to a 3-4 base defense (played 4-3 in Minnesota) could have an adverse affect on his positioning on the depth chart.  If and when Daryl Washington returns the Cardinals would be hard pressed not to have him and Dansby on the field together.

Time will tell, and for the time being, the Arizona Cardinals have a good amount of talent to evaluate at the inside linebacker spot.

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Bruce Arians Jasper Brinkley Karlos Dansby Kevin Minter NFL Todd Bowles

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