TEMPE, Ariz. — You’re forgiven if you forgot about Kevin Minter last season.
After all, for a second-round pick out of LSU, he had a very nondescript rookie season. Minter finished his first NFL season with just four tackles — all on special teams — and saw all of one defensive snap the entire season.
Don’t blame Minter; blame Karlos Dansby.
The Cardinals signed the veteran to a one-year deal and reaped the benefits as he had a career season, tallying 122 total tackles along with 6.5 sacks, four interceptions and 19 passes defensed. All Minter could do is observe.
“I took the year as a learning year,” Minter said after an Organized Team Activity Tuesday at the team’s Tempe training facility. “The guy in front of me was amazing. He had the best year a damn linebacker could have. I had to pay attention.
“A guy like that, he came every day ready to work, and I just hope I can bring it to the table as well.”
Minter is likely to get the first shot at replacing Dansby, who left for a big free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns. The thing is, though, they’re completely different types of players.
“He did a lot of different things, but I think I bring a lot to the table, too,” Minter said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge, I’m not going to lie about that, but I feel like it’s a challenge that I can step up to.”
At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Dansby had excellent speed and versatility. He could rush the quarterback, drop back into coverage or help in run support.
Minter, who comes in at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, is known more as a “thumper” who will be fine against the run but may struggle in defending the pass.
Just one year ago, his NFL.com pre-draft scouting report said he, “lacks desirable range in coverage because of lost ground when forced to open up hips, turn and run. Fast enough in a straight line, but lateral speed may be a question.”
But while that may be true, the Cardinals are not expecting Minter to come in and do what Dansby did, if he is in fact the player who ultimately replaces the veteran in the starting lineup.
Last week, as a guest of the Bickley and Marotta show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the way to replace Dansby is for everyone on the defense — including the defensive lineman and those in the secondary — to do their jobs.
“You may replace the player and do different things with the player you have and you replace it that way,” he said. “But I think everybody’s making a mistake and putting it all on the middle linebacker when it has to come from everywhere else.”
But it will start with Minter who, after a year of waiting, is ready to get into the lineup and be a part of the defense.
“It’s like being in college again,” he said. “Doing all the adjustments, making all the calls and stuff like that. Being the guy they depend on to run the show.
“It’s cool, it’s pretty humbling. It’s nice.”