Dec 8, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) warms up before the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. Arizona won 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
3. The Middle Linebacker Position
In a modern 3-4 scheme, the MLB spots are very crucial to effective defense. They have to be able to hit hard at the point of attack while also being able to drop back into coverage as needed. In 2013, the Cardinals had that. Karelia Dansby led the team in tackles and was great at shutting down offense on the line of scrimmage, and Daryl Washington is an excellent coverage linebacker who can also stop the run. Unfortunately, Wash is suspends for a year after repeating his violation of the NFL substance abuse policy, and Dansby took a more lucrative offer to play in Cleveland. Now Arizona is left with Larry Foote, Desmond Bishop, and Kevin Minter.
The issue isn’t so much that those three aren’t talented. Foote and Bishop are both seasoned veterans who have proven their worth, and Minter is entering his sophomore season with untapped potential. That said, the talent drop off is incredibly steep, and it’s not a stretch to say that the defense is far worse off now.
Washington and Dansby both had all the skills needed to anchor the defense. They played at a level that’s tough to match, and it is an issue going forward, especially because it’s unclear who will start and who can step into a major role.
The middle linebacker spot is definitely the weakest position of the Cardinals powerful defense.