Larry Foote (50) and Kevin Minter (51) are currently the inside linebackers running with the first unit.
Kevin Minter was already penciled into a starting inside linebacker job, although now, he won't be playing next to Daryl Washington as expected.
Who it will be with are details the Cardinals will figure out as the offseason and then training camp progress, after Washington's year-long suspension came through last week. The team's reaction Monday was exactly as one would think – losing Washington isn't good. But it isn't a death knell either.
"What he brought to the table, the guy was phenomenal," Minter said. "You can't look past that. There is going to be a void. I feel we all have to step up to fill a guy like that's shoes."
But, Minter added, "We have a lot of talented guys. Even if we have to move some people around, we're going to make it work."
As the final week of organized team activities commenced Monday (mandatory minicamp is next week), the Cardinals lined up with
Minter and veteran Larry Foote with the first unit of the base defense. Veteran Lorenzo Alexander has moved inside and should eventually find himself in the mix, although he is still limited coming off a Lis Franc injury.
The Cardinals are also expected to sign a veteran at some point – Ernie Sims visited last week – although coach Bruce Arians said that will be an ongoing process all the way through camp as the Cards study who is available. The team likes the work of one-time undrafted free agent Kenny Demens on the inside too.
There will be a lot of speculation about who replaces Washington. One thing Arians made clear Monday was there would not be a lot of discussion about Washington going forward, not by the team or any of its players.
"This is the last time this will be addressed by the Cardinals," Arians said. "We will not talk about guys who are not with us. We hope Daryl gets his life straightened out, but he was also very unaccountable to his teammates, the organization, the fans and everybody else."
The players had heard about the coming suspension before Friday, so they could digest it by the time it was national news. Not that it would have made a difference any other way.
"You can't do anything but move on," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "It doesn't matter if you are disappointed. Complaining about it, talking about it, it doesn't do anything. When you hear the news you think, 'OK, next man up.' "
"Obviously we are disappointed as a team," Alexander said. "But at the same time, we have to be there for him, be supportive and not put him on an island by himself."
Arians acknowledged it will be very difficult to account for the speed Washington brought to the defense. But he and his players
insisted there probably won't be a major shift in how defensive coordinator Todd Bowles structures his scheme. Bowles' philosophy was always to create toward the strengths of his players – that was what he talked about when Karlos Dansby left as a free agent to officially open the door for Minter – and that shouldn't change. Arians talked about using more safeties in sub-packages rather than linebackers.
"People fail to remember how good our front is," Alexander said. "You've got Calais (Campbell), Dock, Dan (Williams), all those guys taking up blocks to allow Karlos and Daryl to do what they are going to do (last year). I don't see why that will change to allow us to run to the ball.
"Add in Cro (Antonio Cromartie), Pat (Peterson), when Ty (Mathieu) gets back and the quarterback will have to hold the ball. That will allow us to do so much more. That's why (Dansby and Washington) had a great season. Obviously they are good players, but it was a collective team effort."
Minter raved about the intelligence Foote brings to the defense, saying it reminded him of what Dansby provided a season ago. Foote said those little things can help late in games, and he too said the defensive line the Cardinals provide will aid whomever Arians plugs in at inside linebacker.
"When you have talent up front like us, you can win any game," Foote said. "On the back end, as long as we communicate, we'll be a good defense, as they were last year."
If nothing else, Arians said, there is time to figure it out. As harsh as losing Washington is, the timing is better than a preseason injury, like when the Cardinals lost starting guard Jonathan Cooper in late August with a season-ending broken leg.
Then, the Cardinals were scrambling to find out the best course of action. Now, there are still moves that can be evaluated, even if the scenario isn't ideal.
"Hopefully this is the biggest thing that happens to our football team this year," Arians said. "But there are going to be another two or three bumps in the road. You have to march on. You cannot use it as an excuse."
The Cardinals open their last week of 2014 OTAs.