The Arizona Cardinals suffered a huge loss on the defensive side of the ball this offseason when All-Pro linebacker Daryl Washington was slapped with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
In hopes of alleviating the issue, the Cardinals could look towards 2013 second-rounder Kevin Minter to fill the void. The former North Carolina standout has already made an impression during OTAs, forcing Arizona head coach Brian Arians to take notice.
“He’s a thumper and he thumped way too many guys yesterday, so I had to pull him out of the drill,” Arians said. “We don’t tackle this time of year, but I love his intensity. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t hit people.”
That type of tenacity could be just what Minter needs to earn some playing time during his rookie season.
During training camp, Minter will battle with the likes of Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley for the right to start in the middle of the Arizona 3-4 defense while Washington serves his four-game suspension. While overcoming Dansby is a longshot, the aggressive, violent Minter has a good chance of pushing Brinkley down the depth chart.
With tremendous physicality and instincts against the run, Minter should see early snaps during Washington’s absence. Although he’s considered a coverage liability at this point in his football career, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles should see enough to put the rookie in a two-down role once the 2013 campaign gets under way.
Training camp should be a terrific gauge of where Minter is in his transition to the NFL. If the rookie continues to trend in an upward direction, don’t be surprised to see him starting by Week 1.