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Kareem Martin Tries Outside Linebacker

Posted Apr 1, 2015

Defensive end will get shot a new spot after struggling as a rookie

The Cardinals' Kareem Martin sacks Rams quarterback Austin Davis last season, forcing a fumble teammate Antonio Cromartie returned for a touchdown.

The first day Kareem Martin went to meetings as an Arizona Cardinal, he sat in the outside linebackers room.

That changed quickly. He moved in with the defensive line the next day, and the early comparisons for the 2014 third-round draft pick in terms of his frame and learning curve was to defensive end Calais Campbell.

That didn’t pan out exactly as Martin and the Cardinals might have hoped. But when coach Bruce Arians said the team will be looking at Martin as an outside linebacker this offseason, Martin thought back to coming off the edge at times in the Cardinals’ nickel packages and running as an outside linebacker on scout team when the Cards were about to face a 3-4 defense.

“I didn’t do it full time,” Martin said, “but I did it enough.”

The Cardinals could use outside linebackers. The team is expected to use an early draft pick on the positon – perhaps the first round – and only have a handful of guys on the current roster: Matt Shaughnessy, LaMarr Woodley, Alex Okafor and Lorenzo Alexander.

Arians said Woodley – a 30-year-old trying to restart a stalled career after getting hurt in Oakland last season – can be an every-down player if he performs well enough. But in the search for edge rushers, the 6-foot-6, 272-pound Martin will get some reps.

"With his length, I wouldn't say he's (San Francisco’s) Aldon Smith at this point in his career, but he's got that body style and he's shown some stuff off the edge,” Arians said. “So we are going to look at him to see if he can play in space at all. That might be a spot where he can find his niche as a pass rusher.”

Martin didn’t find that niche on the defensive line. Not as a rookie. Fifth-round pick Ed Stinson and midseason pickup Josh Mauro each got more work on the line than Martin, who ended up only playing 186 defensive snaps all season – and only 18 in the last seven games of the regular season.

Told of Arians’ comparison to Smith, Martin chuckled. “(Smith) is a great player,” Martin said. “(Arians) only said body type. I have to go out there and prove myself. But that’s what I am working this offseason for, to be a contributor.”

His rookie season was admittedly frustrating. But he said it was important for him to accept his role, which included some work in the nickel in particular games – he had his lone sack of the season against the Rams, forcing a fumble cornerback Antonio Cromartie returned for a touchdown – but mostly was on the scout team in practice. Since that meant playing linebacker at times, there is no shock in hearing Arians’ plan.

Martin acknowledged he’ll have to learn drops in pass coverage in order to morph into a potential every-down linebacker. That will be the big challenge, he said, but then again, that’s what the offseason is for in the first place.

“Being on the edge won’t be so foreign to me,” Martin said. “I’m ready for it.” 

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