ROTB Roundtable: Daryl Washington Suspension, Playoff Aspirations, and Breakout Season

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

News hit last week that star linebacker Daryl Washington would be suspended for the entire upcoming 2014 season.

This, of course, left the team scrambling to answer many new and pressing questions.  The ROTB Writing Staff took on three of these.

Don't forget to answer the questions yourself in the comments below!

1) Now that Daryl Washington has been suspended for the upcoming season, how do you think the LB corps will turn out? Do you have any ideas to replace Washington?

Jesse Reynolds: I foresee several ripples from this. 1. Run defense will still be top five. 2. The pass rush from the interior will decline greatly and hurt coverage (8.5 sacks from the interior last year plus a ton of pressures is now gone). 3. The defense will struggle against "spread" offenses as we no longer have versatile backs who can cover effectively, rush and stop the run.

Jess Root: That depends. Is Kevin Minter ready? How much will Larry Foote play? Can the team get a pass rush off the edge? I think it will be Minter and Foote as the starters. Ernie Sims and Lorenzo Alexander will be in the mix. In passing downs, though, they will probably change personnel. Last year, Washington and Dansby rarely left the field.

Alex Mann: It all depends on the health of Larry Foote and the development of Kevin Minter. Minter will be a monster in the league, and if Foote is healthy, he's easily a very productive player in the league. There will be a slight decrease in production, but if they can live up to the "next man up" motto, it won't be by much.

Randy Fields: I think there will be LB by committee based on situational football. Foote could be the Paris Lenon for this year, meaning supposed to be signed as depth and then plays as a starter. I think Minter is going to be given the opportunity to live up to his draft status, and after that it's going to be a heavy amount of scheming by Bowles to account for the loss of two playmakers this year.

Robert Norman: The team just lost its two starting inside linebackers, who both played at an incredible level last season. I think the team goes with a committee because none of those linebackers stand out as strong pass defenders currently. That said, Minter and Foote will probably get the most snaps and the team needs to think about drafting another starting ILB as Washington's replacement. Overall, I think this just became the team's weakest position.

2) How much of an impact will the Washington suspension have on the team's Playoff/Superbowl aspirations?

Jesse Reynolds: That's impossible to say. To cop out, I believe the offense will be the key this year. If Palmer isn't blowing hot air like Arians tends to do about how the offense looks this far, this offense that was good enough to score against three top five defenses last year (Seattle x2, SF x2, Carolina) will be good enough to win big games and will outweigh the loses on D. Hopefully Palmer isn't exaggerating.

Jess Root: Well, you are taking a playmaker off the field, but he is just one player. Todd Bowles showed he can scheme effectively for his players, even when they change. It depends on the job the players who are in Washington's place do with their assignments. If the offense is better, then the defense won't have to be perfect, so it really doesn't necessarily affect their playoff chances.

Alex Mann: None. It's a team sport, and unless it is your quarterback being suspended, it is very unlikely that the loss of Washington has any sort of massive ripples on the team.

Randy Fields: Last year the defense carried the team, and kept the scores close enough for wins the early struggles of the offense. This year the Offense should take the driving role of putting up points so that there are less 3 point margins and less need for the defense to win the games. With all of that I really think there are still playoff aspirations.

Robert Norman: I don't think the suspension will affect the team's aspirations solely because it looks so far on paper that we have improved or maintained the status quo in too many other areas. However, I don't think the idea of "next man up" is true. Does anyone really believe the Cardinals have a linebacker who can play on the level of Dansby or Washington this season? It was a huge loss defensively and I believe the run game will be great, but we'll still struggle against teams passing games and tight ends.

3) Which player do you think is on the verge of a breakout season?

Jesse Reynolds: Bucannon. Not Minter (who I think will be just above average), not Floyd (who already broke out) but the rookie safety. He has two top tier corners around him, a play maker next to him with a solid vet behind him.  His job will be simple - #%&@ up the other team.  I think Buc will be a violent force this year.

Jess Root: This question...actually, Larry Fitzgerald needs to break out. A tight end could as well and Michael Floyd could have a monster year. On the defensive side of the ball, Kevin Minter is the best candidate along with Deone Bucannon.

Alex Mann: Michael Floyd and Carson Palmer. Palmer will look a lot more comfortable under center with a solidified left side and an entire season with his receivers. Floyd showed us glimpses of his excellence and will only build on that going into 2014.

Randy Fields: I'm glad Jess already said it, but Larry Fitzgerald needs to break out to earn his next contract and earn the one he has. He and Floyd are poised for big years feeding off of each other and with their success we may finally see that elusive Tight End play that has eluded the Cardinals for years.

Robert Norman: I don't know if he's on any radars but Rob Housler...I know it's bad, but I definitely laughed at my own joke. Honestly? Jake Ballard. It won't be a national scene but I really like his ability and think he'll become a steady contributor along with Troy Niklas for years to come. He stepped in during the season and was earning more playing time than you expect by an in season pickup. Carlson is Arians' Todd Heap, Housler still can't block (or mostly catch). I expect Ballard to win some depth chart battles.

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