Gradually, Washington builds up

Posted by Darren Urban on May 31, 2012 – 9:55 am

When Daryl Washington first arrived in Arizona, special teams coach Kevin Spencer asked him if he was the new strong safety. (I’m not sure if Spencer was joking, but I’m guessing he knew exactly who Washington was.)

“That there told me I needed to put on some weight,” said Washington, the Cards’ emerging star at inside linebacker.

Washington was 228 when he first got to the NFL. Last season, he came in at 234 pounds. He weighed in last week, at the start of OTAs, at 243 pounds and “I didn’t feel it.”

“Is it a good thing? Yes,” Washington said. “I am going to lose weight. I don’t plan on playing that big.”

Washington had a very good year in his second season, hitting all his goals —  although he is still lamenting the three interceptions he dropped or lost because of penalties, which would have given him his preseason goal of five for a total. He’s turning into exactly what the Cardinals hoped for when they made him a second-round pick, replacing departed free agent Karlos Dansby (and even wearing Dansby’s number.)

The weight will naturally adjust as Washington goes through training camp and the season, he said. His ideal weight is around 238 pounds, which will make him around 245 with pads on. This was always the plan, he said. Strength coach John Lott told Washington when he arrived not to worry about adding pounds because it would be a natural progression. “Now,” Washington said, “I can see it.”

“Plus,” he added, “my speed is still the same.”

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No rush to linebackers

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2012 – 3:48 pm

Before the draft, it seemed  — at least, in my opinion — the Cards had three areas that most warranted help: offensive line, pass rusher and receiver. The Cards took care of the latter right away with the Michael Floyd pick. They obviously hit the line hard with three choices, including potential right tackle starter Bobby Massie. But, sticking to their board — and perhaps revealing just how much they think of their young players — the Cardinals didn’t take a pass rusher. Didn’t take a linebacker at all.

Right now, the Cards have 14 linebackers on the roster. Six could be classified as outside linebackers, seven as inside guys and Stewart Bradley as a swing guy (although obviously guys can always move around.) Three of the inside linebackers are undrafted rookies (Marcus McGraw, Colin Parker and Paul Vassallo) and one is definitely untested (Quan Sturdivant.) But one the inside, Darryl Washington is established, Paris Lenon continues to outperform everyone’s expectations and both Bradley and Reggie Walker have shown they can fill in.

But it’s on the outside that will always get the attention. Young players usually have a ton of confidence that they will do the job as long as they get the opportunity, and that’s certainly the vibe you get from O’Brien Schofield when you talk to him. Sam Acho had seven sacks after barely playing the first five games, so he seems to be a potential game-changer. Both must up their games. And then what? Will Brandon Williams, signed late last season on to the practice squad after not finding a place with the Cowboys, surprise some people? Can the Cards find a diamond among free agent Antonio Coleman or undrafted rookies Zach Nash and  Broderick Binns? (Clark Haggans could also still return.)

It’s not like the Cards didn’t sack opposing quarterbacks last year. As a team, they had 42, tied for seventh in the NFL. The Cards had an NFL-best nine different guys with at least two sacks. The way defensive coordinator Ray Horton does things, pressure by committee works and is much harder for which to handle. But developing those linebackers, especially the rushers on the outside, is one of the keys to any 3-4 scheme. After passing in the draft, development will be one of the things to watch at the position.

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