The Arizona Cardinals’ linebacker core will play a huge role in determining the success of the team’s defense. The Cardinals’ efforts to stop the run were dismal last season as they were ranked 28th in the league, but a new defensive scheme should provide some hope for the Redbirds.
The two big storylines among the Cardinals’ backers are the return of Karlos Dansby and the off-field issues of Daryl Washington.
Washington was definitely the biggest producer on the defensive side last year. He is coming off the best season of his carer and is entering his fourth year in the league. The 2013 Pro Bowler had 134 tackles (108 solo) and nine sacks, leading the team in both categories. Unfortunately he is suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He was arrested last month for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend and mother of his baby daughter.
Dansby signed a one-year contract last month after being released by the Miami Dolphins. The move is a good one as Dansby will bring experience and consistent play to the linebacker spot. He is a familiar face among Cardinals fans and his return made too much sense with the loss of Washington early in the season. Dansby was drafted by the Cardinals in 2004 and his home and trainers are in Arizona. He led the Dolphins last season with a career-high 133 tackles and one sack.
The Cardinals second pick in the draft, Kevin Minter, should have a chance to compete for some playing time. The inside linebacker out of LSU recorded 130 tackles (15 for losses), four sacks and one interception. He should mesh well with in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ system and will bring some intensity to the group.
Outside linebacker Sam Acho started all 16 games last season, recording two interceptions-the most of all the linebackers. This will be his third year in the NFL, and he is due for a bigger season than the previous two. Fourth round draft pick, (Acho’s former teammate in college at Texas) linebacker Alex Okafor, signed a four-year contract.
Newly acquired free agent Jasper Brinkley will have an opportunity to compete for a starting job with the departure of Paris Lenon. Lorenzo Alexander, a free agent from the Washington Redskins, also has a good chance to start. Former Arizona State Sun Devil Colin Parker is another inside linebacker on the depth chart.
With Bowles bringing in a new defensive scheme the linebackers will get a fresh start. The group has their impact players, youth and veterans, but they have been brought together during a rebuilding period. If the backers can improve and build some chemistry, they can add a decent run defense to compliment an already strong pass defense.