Last year, even before Daryl Washington was suspended for the entire season, expectations were high for Kevin Minter.
Entering his second season since being a second-round pick out of LSU, the linebacker who played just one defensive snap as a rookie was supposed to slide into the starting spot vacated by Karlos Dansby. His presence was a big reason why the Cardinals did not address the inside linebacker position during that year’s NFL Draft.
He did, though a left pectoral muscle injury suffered during the preseason made the entire campaign a struggle.
“To be honest, it was about about 60, 70 percent,” Minter told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM when asked to give the level he was able to perform. “It’s like, getting off blockers was a problem. But as the season went forward I got some of my strength and I was able to get off blockers a little bit better.”
Minter did not cite the injury for all his struggles, pointing out that he was still fairly inexperienced after playing primarily on special teams the year before.
The linebacker finished the season with 49 total tackles, one sack, one pass defensed, one QB pressure and one QB hit. He played in all 16 games, though his snap count varied. He played a season-high 48 in the regular season finale against San Francisco, with a low of just eight in a Week 11 matchup with Detroit.
Opponents going away from the run game played a role, given that Minter is known more for his effectiveness in that area than in coverage, though he also did not play well enough to warrant being on the field every down.
Now 24, Minter is not only comfortable with being an NFL linebacker, but healthy and ready to turn his career around.
“I’m feeling 100 percent right now,” he said. “What you can expect this year is the Kevin that y’all drafted. The one that y’all have always been wanting.
“I feel like I’m going to bring a lot to the table this year.”
Minter cited the lack of a brace as a big factor in his excitement, adding he and the team have a good rapport as OTAs are wrapping up.
And motivation is not an issue. The Cardinals added to their linebacker depth by bringing in veterans LaMarr Woodley and Sean Weatherspoon as well as rookies Markus Golden and Shaquille Riddick, but that does not mean Minter is expecting to fade into the background.
“It’s my time to do what I came here to do,” he said. “A lot of people expect a lot of great things out of me, and I actually expect a lot out of myself. I feel like I haven’t really done what I was drafted to do, and it’s just time for me to do it. Time to show improvement, time to show everybody what Kevin Minter is all about.”