The Linebacker. A hard nosed position indeed. They are expected to run and keep up with players faster and smaller than they are in the pass game. They are expected to plug holes in the running game, using their bodies as battering rams. They are expected to shoot the gaps up the middle, dart up the outside at lightening speed, wrap up their opposition in the backfield and bury them in the grass. Linebackers are the backbone of not just a team’s defense but the entire team itself. In 2013 the Arizona Cardinals had a class of linebackers like no other. A passionate class of veterans that came into 2013 with one goal, to force the NFL to take notice and reckon with their talents. their STATS alone tell the tale.
Karlos Dansby - 122 Total Tackles, 114 Solo, 6.5 Sacks, 1 Fumble, 4 Interceptions, 2 returned for Touchdowns.
Daryl Washington - 75 Tackles, 59 Solo, 3 Sacks, 2 Interceptions
John Abraham - 37 Tackles, 31 Solo, 11.5 Sacks, 4 Fumbles,
Matt Shaughnessy - 36 Tackles, 31 Solo, 3 Sacks, 1 Fumble
Jasper Brinkley - 27 Tackles, 23 Solo,
Marcus Bernard - 17 Tackles, 15 Solo, 2.5 Sacks
The stand outs in the class are clearly Karlos Dansby, John Abraham and Daryl Washington. Two of which, Dansby and Abraham, found themselves in Arizona because their former teams made incorrect calculations on their worth.
John Abraham was cut by the Atlanta flacons in 2013 even after signing a new 3 year contract the year before and putting up Pro Bowl numbers that particular season. In 2012 he played in all 16 games combined for 35 Tackles and had 10 Sacks. No one else on the team even came close to having that much of an impact on opposing QB’s. And yet, somehow the genius’ in Atlanta’s front office thought, “Hey, we’re clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL next season. Unless anyone here thinks that we could somehow go from Hero to Zero. Anyone? I didn’t think so. Now, do we really need this old guy Abraham hanging around anymore? No? Good. Okay, let’s go stare at each other in the mirror for awhile and tell ourselves how great we are. BREAK! We’re gonna live forever!”
Dansby’s case is a lot easier to understand. He was let go by the Miami Dolphins and let’s face it, that organization is not exactly known for making great decisions. What makes his case one for the books though is that Dansby should have never played for the Dolphins in the first place. He belongs here. He is a Cardinal. His sack celebration is “The Dirty Bird” for crying out loud. When he left the team after the 2009 season to join the Orange and Turquoise (really?) he took with him the heart of the Arizona Cardinals defense. We lost a true leader that year. And they gained, well Karlos didn’t exactly pan out over there. He did well enough to be considered a core member, but he never was the impact player for the Dolphins that he was here. 2013 for both Karlos was an honest to goodness resurrection year. His STATS alone are monstrous without taking into account what his leadership and veteran calm bring to the sideline.
Daryl Washington had a rough start. I mean, it’s almost like he wasn’t even on the team the first quarter of the season! Oh wait. He kind of wasn’t. After being suspended the first 4 games of 2013 for breaking the league’s substance abuse policy Daryl Washington came back strong. Whether he was catching running backs in the backfield or breaking up plays across the field he made his presence felt in 12 of 16 games for the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s hope there’s nothing that could possibly keep him off the field next year because- what’s that? He’s about to go on trial for what? Great. Just great.
The rest of the Arizona Cardinal’s linebackers all made huge strides this year. I for one am looking forward to seeing how Kevin Minter progresses next season. He displayed some of his patented LSU power when he pounded running backs every chance he got this year. There’s no telling what his future may hold.