At rookie mini-camp for the Arizona Cardinals, third round pick Kareem Martin was one of the players to watch. His size stands out, as he measures in at 6-6, 272. He is one of the team's rookies that is expected to make an impact in Year 1.
And that is how he wants it.
"I'm coming here expecting to play," he told reporters after practice on Friday. "That's the thing. I came in here, whatever team I was going to go to, I was expecting to contribute right away, so if I get to play early, it's just what I expected to do the whole time."
What is yet to be determined is what that role will be. When he was drafted, head coach Bruce Arians said he would play outside linebacker in base formations and then move to the defensive line in sub packages.
However, after getting him in camp, the role they have him in seems to be the opposite. With the rookies, he lined up and right defensive end in base packages and moved to the left side at outside linebacker in nickel formations. He did, though, still line up with his hand in the dirt even when he was lined up outside. It is something he is more comfortable doing right now.
He was asked about his position as well. He explained, "I'll be rushing a little bit from the outside, but I think I'll mainly be playing defensive end."
He has already gotten reps with the starters in OTAs. He said that working with the veterans -- Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and others has helped. "It's kind of speeding up the learning curve for me and getting me better," he said.
What is interesting is how he says that he will be more of a defensive end. Since he plays the same position on the line as Campbell, you figure that he won't get nearly as much work there. While teams always try to rotate players in and out on the defensive line, you aren't going to keep a player like Campbell out for long.
What seems more likely is that Martin will get more work as a specialized pass rusher on passing downs. Last season they would go 2-4-5 in nickel packages, with Dockett and Campbell as their only down linemen. If the Cardinals keep that formation, then they could have John Abraham on one side and Martin on the other as a formidable pass rushing duo off the edge. If they change how they line up in nickel packages (they might do things differently now that Karlos Dansby is gone), they could go more 3-3-5, with Dockett moving inside with Campbell and Martin as the other down linemen, allowing the team to use Abraham and another edge player like Matt Shaughnessy, Alex Okafor, Sam Acho or Marcus Benard.
He is already making himself known in practice.
“We have to slow him down,” Bruce Arians said. “I’d rather say ‘Whoa’ than ‘Sic ‘em,” but he’s around the quarterback way too much. He’s doing a heck of a job. He’s more powerful than I thought he’d be.”
Martin is one of the more intriguing players among the team's rookie class because he could potentially be a pass rushing beast now and a playmaker on the line for years to come once he grows into the position.