Nov. 25, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) sacks St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Top Ten Player Countdown: #3 Daryl Washington

Checking in at #3 of the Raising Zona staff writer vote for the Arizona Cardinals is inside linebacker, Daryl Washington. For purposes of this vote and ranking, we focused solely on the ability and performance on the field. Washington’s struggles off the field have become well-documented.

That’s been outlined in another article. I know it is odd to say Washington will struggle the most in 2013, and make him the third-best Cardinal on the roster. However, it could be true.

Washington was the Cardinals second-round pick in 2010 and immediately stepped right in filling the inside backer void left by Karlos Dansby who departed via free agency. It is ironic how the tides have turned now this year with the expectation that Dansby will step right (back) in to fill the void being left by Washington’s suspension.

On the field, Washington is easily an elite Cardinal, and he came in third for good reason. Washington was the team’s leading tackler last year with 108 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception. Almost all of those stats are career highs.

Needless to say, Washington is all over the field and plays sideline to sideline. He holds up well at the point of attack near the line of scrimmage and also has the speed to drop back into coverage. Holding up at the point of attack was considered a weakness when he entered the league, but he has improved that aspect of his game drastically.

Washington earned his first trip to the pro bowl in just three years of service, and he’s durable, missing only one game in those three years.Washington is still just 26 years old and signed a long-term contract extension with the Cardinals last year.

The deal will keep him a Cardinal until at least 2018 if he sees the entire length of the deal. He has a lot of work to do off the field this year for the organization to pick up the option bonus after this season otherwise, he becomes a free agent.

Cardinal fans are going to learn a lot about Washington during this season. How will he respond to the suspension? How will his pending assault charges play out? Right now, he is saying and doing all the right things but time is the only thing that will tell us how it all turns out.

I am hoping it works out for Washington and the Cardinals. Washington is one of the most talented linebackers in the NFL, and it would be a shame to see it all go down in flames here in the desert. I firmly believe Washington will get it right. I just hope it is not too late to where he will be wearing another team’s uniform.

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