It’s been repeated many times over the past few weeks, by both GM Steve Keim and especially coach Bruce Arians: The Cardinals are seeking more speed on defense. That was the first thing Arians mentioned at the recent Scouting combine, when he was asked what the team needed to do in rebuilding.
“We need speed at all our linebacker positions,” Arians said. “And continue to develop Kevin Minter into a better player. That’s important. But overall speed at all our linebacker positions.”
Minter is a key because he was a former second-round pick, but he was never drafted to be a speed guy. That was supposed to be Daryl Washington, whose game is predicated on speed. Washington’s future continues to be murky. According to the CBA, he can’t even begin the reinstatement process until sometime in early March, or 60 days before the end of what will be a year suspension. (The suspension was for at least a year; It was announced May 30 but the official notice might have come before that.) Then the NFL has to rule. Until then, the Cardinals say they aren’t even thinking about Washington and I would suppose they move forward in their defensive rebuild without him in mind. If he returns — remember, he still could face NFL punishment for his assault plea from last year — then it’s a bonus.
But in 2013, Arians saw first-hand what Washington’s speed could do. There is no denying Karlos Dansby had a fantastic season in 2013, but his play jumped another level when Washington returned from a four-game suspension that season. When you have guys that can cover ground sideline to sideline, when you have guys who can watch and keep up with someone like Russell Wilson if Wilson decides to scramble, then your defense has a different look.
That would seem to be a natural place for the Cardinals to start in free agency. How much speed might be available on the inside linebacker FA market is a different story. But when the first word out of the coach’s mouth each time he’s asked the question is “speed,” it’s obviously a priority.
Tags: Daryl Washington, defense, free agency
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