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

  • [email protected]

    Dansby is a no brainer.. start him

    • Houston Rockets Harrison

      If I were Arians I would feel the same way. Especially with Washington being up in the air. Washington is owed 10 million next year and there have been some talk ( in fan circles) or at least convo of a possible release. But even if Minter steps in and does work that would be a huge blow. Personally I don’t think it makes football sense.

  • MrBodacious1

    Well after reading this article Dansby is the choice to man the ILB position until Washington comes off of his PED’s suspension. Brinkley may get the nod over the talented rookie Minter but I have a feeling Minter’s talent and work ethic will somehow find him in the starting lineup before the season is finished, either way it is great to have the luxury of options at these important clogs in ones defense!!

    • Houston Rockets Harrison

      I totally agree. Brinkley might be the wild card cause he can go. The Cardinals are hoping he can step in in the near future if not right away. In speaking with some fans, some are anxious to see if Dansby can co exist with Washington. Dansby has not really shown any sign of slowing. The two could for a really good ILB duo.

    • Edgar Valenzuela

      It wasn’t PED’s

  • disqus_QFtTy3JXKg

    Dansby should start inside even after Daryl comes out. Daryl can play inside or out and you want the best at every lb positions

  • observer213

    Mr. Washington better tighten up if he wishes to keep his spot from Dansby.

    • Houston Rockets Harrison

      Well Washington is the premier backer on the team. He needs to tighten up because the team needs him more than anything IMO. Dansby is in AZ on a 1 year deal Washington just signed a multi year deal.

  • Dfitzgerald

    Dansby was a great pick up. Back when he was with the Cardinals he was a playmaker. I think what will help the inside backers is a major year by the d-linemen including Campbell and Dockett.

    • Houston Rockets Harrison

      I hear that, he brings great leadership and work ethic to the team. The Cardinals I am sure is hoping he has a good affect on Kevin Minter as well

  • Edgar Valenzuela

    It wasn’t PEDs it was marijuana

  • Bill Doerr

    Between D-Wash, Dansby, Minter, Brinkley and Welker The Cardinals are Elite at the ILB Position. Between Campbell , Dockett, Big Dan Williams as DT and Acho, Schofield, Okafor and Alexander at OLB the Cardinals have a very, very good Defense setup to get after the QB and that’s not even including the secondary. Unless Brinkley is better at Pass Coverage in a 3-4, He was primarily brought in to stop the run on 3rd down. Welker is more of a ST guy and might not even make the 53 year this year with all the talent at ILB.

    I think the competition will go all the way through the pre-season between Minter and Brinkley , I think Kevin Minter will end up starting next to Dansby till Dwash’s suspension end’s.