In new role, Minter has work cut out for him
June, 23, 2014
By Josh Weinfuss | ESPN.com
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsThe Cardinals are counting on second-year LB Kevin Minter to make the calls on defense.John Abraham is waiting for the day when Kevin Minter needs to tell him to shut up.
It's bound to happen at some point during the 2014 season if Minter evolves into the type of inside linebacker Arizona has faith he will become. It's bound to happen in the heat of battle, when the game is on the line and Minter will need to relay a critical play to the 10 other Cardinals in the huddle. It's bound to be a Pro Bowler at the other end of the direction.
“It's a little tough,” Abraham said.
If it happens, it will be a defining moment for Minter, who is slated to fill the void left by Karlos Dansby's departure to Cleveland. In his second year in the NFL, Minter will be charged with being the quarterback of the defense, the man who relays plays and instructions from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to the rest of the defense.
It's a daunting task for a 23-year-old to look Patrick Peterson, Darnell Dockett or Calais Campbell in the eye and be the authority. But Minter is looking forward to it.
“It's like being in college all over again,” he said. “Doing all the adjustments, making all the calls and stuff like that, and being the guy that they depend on to run the show. It's cool. It's pretty humbling. It's nice.”
Minter's professional career has started eerily similar to his collegiate one.
He was lost his first year at LSU, trying to grasp the changes from high school football to college -- similar to his rookie NFL season. As a sophomore, Minter was given responsibility on defense and he blossomed.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he talked to coaches at LSU and hopes Minter's second year in the NFL ends up like his sophomore year at LSU.
“You're the signal-caller. You're the leader of the defense,” Arians said. “Big shoes to fill. Karlos was very dynamic in what he did last year. Todd schemed very well for him, like he will for Kevin and whoever else who's in there.”
Dansby's leadership is what the Cardinals will miss most, Abraham said.
“Not even his physical attributes to the games, not even his numbers,” he said. “Just his leadership. How he talks. How he keeps a team together … starting in Arizona, leaving and coming back.
“We're definitely going to miss his numbers, but having his leadership and having him talk to the younger guys like that is going to probably be the biggest thing we're going to miss.”
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellKarlos Dansby was the leader of the Cardinals defense last season, but he signed with Cleveland as a free agent.
Minter, who played just one defensive snap last season, was one of those younger guys whom Dansby mentored. He watched Dansby daily and learned how to work hard, make himself better and put the team first.
“That's a great quality for me to take from him,” Minter said. “If I'm able to do that same thing for this team, we can be just as good or even better than last year.
“I took [last] year as a learning year. The guy in front of me was amazing. He had the best year a damn linebacker can have. I had to pay attention. A guy like that, he came every day ready to work. I just hope I can bring that to the table as well.”
Minter will need to rely on those lessons early and often when Arizona reports to training camp. The team lost Daryl Washington, whom Minter would have leaned on for support in 2014, when he was suspended for a year for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, leaving Minter as the only stable piece of Arizona's inside linebacker corps.
But Abraham, who is entering his 15th season, was quick to say Minter won't be the next Dansby.
He's too young.
“He ain't gonna be Karlos at all,” Abraham said. “You can't even compare the two. He's going to be a good leader, but also he's young and all the other guys are kinda older than him. Not saying he's scared, but he's got to get used to being that guy 'cause you're the middle guy. You got to get used to telling people what to do, and I don't think he's ready for that just yet. I can see him getting into it. I can definitely see him being one of those kind of pros.
“Right now, he just got to work into it, just get comfortable, like telling guys, 'Get your ass over there. Go over there.' But right now, I don't think he's comfortable with that yet. Like Karlos came in and he was already 30-something. Everybody knew him here. He had the clout already.”
Minter doesn't have the clout of a 10-year vet, but he does have the support from the coaching staff -- for now at least. It's not easy for guys to develop into the voice of a defense, especially one that's as talented and stout as the Cardinals'. But Minter doesn't have time to let it happen naturally. He needs to step in this season and have his voice ready.
“Sometimes it's easy for some guys to; sometimes it's not,” Abraham said. “For me, when I first got here, I was real quiet, but now I'm comfortable. I can pretty much go anywhere and talk to anyone.
“I stepped back and observe before I start to talk to some people. When I say something, I want you to know, ‘Yeah, he backed it up.'”
Minter spent a year observing. Now it's his time to back it up.
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