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Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Kareem Martin adjusting to Cards' defense

By Josh Weinfuss


TEMPE, Ariz. -- This week has been all about transitions for Kareem Martin.

The Arizona Cardinals' third-round pick had never been to Arizona or this side of the country before. He’s learning how to play at the speed of the NFL. And the former North Carolina sack specialist is adjusting to playing in a 3-4 defense.

But give Martin a month, he said, and he’ll have the defense “down pat.”

“There's definitely a transition when going from one level to another,” Martin said. “It’s a lot more communication. I've seen that from our first couple of practices.

“Once I learn everything I can get up to speed with the other guys.”

Martin played mainly with his hand in the dirt in North Carolina’s 4-2-5 defense. In three days of practice, the Cardinals have already played him at outside linebacker and on the line. While Martin is more comfortable on the line, he thinks he’ll end up playing both on the line and standing up.

In the Cardinals’ defense, linebackers tend to play more of a defensive end role, Arizona coach Bruce Arians said, which will help Martin transition to a 3-4. Eventually, however, Martin wants to end up in a similar role as Calais Campbell.

The two are most comparable in terms of body type, size and position.

At 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds, Martin is two inches shorter than Campbell and about 10 pounds less than Campbell was as a rookie. But give Martin a couple months, Arians said, and he’ll grow into Campbell's size, which is pushing 300 pounds.

“He said he came in about my weight and in no time he put the weight on,” Martin said of Campbell. “With my frame I feel like I can hold the same or just as much as he can.

“He’s kinda took me under his wing.”

Campbell will be a good asset for Martin to turn to throughout his rookie seasons.

There are parts of Arizona’s defense that Martin has never seen before. On top of that, he’s learning new terminology.

“I don't think that’ll be a tough transition but I think it’ll take some time,” he said.

Martin exploded his senior season with the Tar Heels, thanks to defensive line coach Keith Gilmore refining Martin's long-arm stab. It resulted in Martin getting 11.5 sacks, up from four in each of his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s hoping the upward trend will continue in the NFL, where he can have a career as a pass-rusher.

“With my long arms,” Martin said, “he showed me it can be something that can make me a lot of money someday.”