Linebacker Kevin Minter is entering a very important year in the league. Drafted in the second round in 2013 to line up next to Daryl Washington and hit guys. His rookie season was spent on the bench when the team signed Karlos Dansby. Then, in 2014, he played injured, dealing with a pectoral injury all season. Minter himself said he was playing at about 60-70 percent with the injury.
He played almost exclusively in base defense packages, meaning he was on the field to play run defense. He did drop into coverage his share, but it was when teams passed out of traditional run personnel.
During mini-camp, he didn't always come out. Yes, he was on the field in first team base sets, but when the defense went to five defensive backs, he stayed on the field. He would leave in dime sets with a sixth defensive back, as occurred last year. Arizona hardly ran a traditional nickel. It was almost always six DBs,
But seeing Minter on the field in a nickel set, I asked head coach Bruce Arians if Minter was going to be expected to be more of a three-down backer this upcoming season. Arians said, "That will be up to him."
"As far as expectations, it's not what he's made for," he continued. "He's not a nickel linebacker unless the team is running the ball. He's a thumper and we need him in our division to play run defense. We have other guys to play pass defense is we need."
This reveals quite a bit. The Cardinals drafted a role player -- albeit an important one -- in the second round. They never expected him to be more than a two-down linebacker.
Now healthy, Minter should be primed to have a dominant year. He is in his third year. He has learned from Dansby. He is alongside Sean Weatherspoon.
But don't expect more than a run stopper. That is all the team expects from him. If he is more, then it is he who has decided to expand his role on his own.