Kevin Minter to Cardinals: How Does ILB Fit with Arizona?

Shaun ChurchContributor IApril 26, 2013

Feb 25, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana Tigers  linebacker Kevin Minter rests on the bench after finishing his on the field workout during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the 45th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected former Louisiana State inside linebacker Kevin Minter.

How does Minter fit in with what the Cardinals want to do on defense?

Minter is a hard-hitting inside linebacker who moves well in space and will be in the right place at the right time more often than not. He will play early in Todd Bowles’ defense, potentially in place of Daryl Washington while the Pro Bowl ILB serves his four-game suspension.

Once Washington returns, he will battle Jasper Brinkley for the weak-side ILB spot.

Where Minter is effective besides moving in space and getting to where he needs to be is in both the run game and in blitzing.

When defending the run, Minter rarely misses tackles and has the ability to shed blockers to get to the running back. He uses his hands well enough in doing this, but he lacks elite pop when striking offensive linemen while standing them up. This sometimes leads to him being overpowered by a blocker, but with time in John Lott’s care, he can strengthen his upper body and work on his initial thrust.

When blitzing, he reacts quickly to what is going on in front of him. According to Bleacher Report contributor and NFL scouting connoisseur Eric Stoner, Minter is “very good at timing his blitzes up and gets a lot of free runs at the quarterback.”

This comes, he said, because he was often free to rush if his pass responsibility (the running back or tight end) stayed in to block, rather than running a route.

With such adept pass-rushers in the middle of his defense, Bowles has to be excited at the different looks he can bring on any given play that can result in a win for his unit. He does not always have to use both men in coverage on passing plays. Bringing one of them with an a-gap blitz puts extra pressure on the opposing offensive line, and if that gets blocked there is a chance someone else is not.

Minter can be productive early, and if he ends up starting next to Washington as a rookie, Brinkley will have been an inexpensive free-agent pickup. He is owed up to $3.5 million for two years with the Cardinals, but they can cut him at any time without penalty if need be.

Whether they do that is a long way off right now. Currently, he is penciled in as the starter next to Washington. But when camp starts, Brinkley versus Minter will be one of the many good position battles to watch play out.

Just like with Jonathan Cooper last night, let’s all welcome Minter by following him on Twitter and give him a shout-out. We are all blessed to have him in the desert.