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Arizona Cardinals training camp 2013: Previewing the linebackers

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We continue with each position group heading into training camp.

Christian Petersen

Next up in our training camp preview are the linebackers. There is a mix of older and young. Here is what the roster currently looks like.

Inside linebacker:

Jasper Brinkley, signed to a two-year free agent contract this offseason

Karlos Dansby, signed to a one-year free agent contract this offseason

Kenny Demens, undrafted free agent 2013

Korey Jones, undrafted free agent 2013

Kevin Minter, 2013 second round pick

Colin Parker, undrafted free agent signed in 2012

Reggie Walker, originally an undrafted free agent, on final year of a two-year contract

Daryl Washington, originally a second round pick, signed to long-term contract

Outside linebacker

Sam Acho, 2011 fourth round draft pick

Lorenzo Alexander, signed three-year free agent contract this offseason

Tim Fugger, undrafted free agent 2012

Dan Giordano, undrafted free agent 2013

Zack Nash, undrafted free agent 2012

Alex Okafor, 2013 fourth round pick

O'Brien Schofield, 2010 fourth round pick

Matt Shaughnessy, signed one-year free agent contract this offseason

The suspension and uncertainty for Washington

Pro Bowler Daryl Washington will be sitting out the first four games of the season. He also has aggravated assault charges against him, which case is currently in the court system. Who knows if he will be suspended for longer? However, he is a stud and a Pro Bowler. He was the centerpiece of the 2012 defense.

The offseason acquisitions

To replace Paris Lenon, the team signed "thumper" Jasper Brinkley to a two-year deal. They then drafted another "thumper" in Kevin Minter, whom they selected in the second round. Then they added veteran Karlos Dansby, who left in free agency a few seasons ago, whose place Washington took.

The unknown rotation after Week 4

The first team has been Dansby with Brinkley in the offseason, with Washington and Minter together on the second team. One can assume that during the first four weeks, it will be Dansby and Brinkley. But what happens upon Washington's return? Will it be Washington and Dansby (he does know how to play both inside positions)? Will it be Washington and Brinkley? Will Minter overtake Brinkley at some point? How this plays out is one of the things to watch, even during training camp. What are the rotations they show?

Depending on the play of Dansby, I can definitely see the Washington/Dansby combo, although it does not give the team the run stuffer who can take on blocks, rather a pair of playmakers in space. What may be more feasible is Washington and Dansby being teamed up in nickel packages, with Brinkley handling base packages with Washington until Minter overtakes him.

Lost in the shuffle?

Reggie Walker, who has done nothing but surprise coaches in his career, seems to have gone from second teamer to almost out of the picture. The numbers say (between Washington, Dansby, Brinkley and Minter) that there may not be a spot for him. In fact, during OTAs and mini-camp, he found himself behind even Colin Parker on the depth chart, playing on the second field. He is highly respected special teams player on the team, and then at Fan Fest, he was one of the players that stood out most.

Will his play stand out enough to carry a spot on the roster? Will his special teams play be enough alone? This is yet another player to watch once the pads go on.

The long shots

After the five already mentioned, the players remaining -- Parker and the two new UDFAs (Demens and Jones) -- will be camp bodies that hope to land on the practice squad. Parker was there all last season.

Lots of questions at OLB

Moving on to the outside linebackers, there is one guy that seems to have his place set in the starting lineup. That would be Sam Acho. He is not an elite pass rusher, but as he showed in 2011, he is someone that can be a disrupting force.

After Acho, there is a guy coming back from injuries, a rookie, a veteran starting for the first time at a position he has not played and a veteran that is getting looks at OLB and DE.

Shaughnessy's role

He is listed as a defensive end on the team site. I believe he was previously listed at OLB. We have heard that he is getting reps at OLB. I know he has been coming in on nickel packages. He plays with his hand on the ground, looking the part of a RDE. Will he see time on the edge standing up? He has a high motor and is known to be a very good defender against the run. How much he is used at OLB is an unknown.

Position battles

Lorenzo Alexander, a free agent newcomer, is currently slotted as the starter at ROLB. He is a Pro Bowler, but as a special teamer. He has played offensive line, defensive line and was a backup at ILB in Washington for the Redskins. He has not started at OLB. However, all reports I have heard from every person who has covered the team says that he is a fantastic player -- super hard working and very fast. Thus far, he is not on the field on passing downs.

While he may be the early leader, O'Brien Schofield, the team's most gifted pass rusher, is looking to stay healthy and be a great player. He has durability issues and is a bit of a liability against the run, but he has the traits of a very good sack artist.

The other player to watch is rookie Alex Okafor, who is a Sam Acho clone. They were drafted in exactly the same spot, played at the same college and played the same position. They play very similarly. Okafor is not considered a gifted pass rusher, but he had a ton of sacks at Texas and the team believes he will be productive at the next level.

I don't see Okafot starting this year, but Schofield could really make things interesting in training camp. Alexander is the wild card as a veteran. he has not seen starter's playing time before. He will get the early shot at it here.

The long shots

Like at ILB, the undrafted players from last year and this year (Nash, Giordano, Fugger) don't appear to have a shot at the final roster, so practice squad is what we might see from one or more of them.

The likely OLBs on the 53-man roster

No surprises here -- Acho, Alexander, Okafor and Schofield, with Shaughnessy kind of counting.

All the linebackers

Taking Shaughnessy out of the linebacker picture, the team figures to keep eight linebackers, but a ninth (Walker) could be carried.

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