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Cardinals' Trio Leans On Carolina Experience

Cash, Benwikere and Young III have good grasp of defense

Cardinals linebacker Jeremy Cash calls out instruction during offseason work.
Cardinals linebacker Jeremy Cash calls out instruction during offseason work.

Jeremy Cash has been a member of the Cardinals for fewer than three months, an acclimation period when some players prefer to be seen and not heard.

The third-year linebacker doesn't follow that script, in part because of his naturally boisterous nature, but also because the Cardinals need him to be loud.

Cash is one of three players – along with cornerbacks Bené Benwikere and Lou Young III – who joined the team this offseason already one step ahead of the game. They are all formerly of the Panthers, where they played under Cardinals coach Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator Al Holcomb and other assistants.

While Cash is still in the early stages of developing relationships with his new teammates, he has no problem barking out instructions as the defense breaks the huddle before each snap.

"When I first signed with the Cardinals, they were looking for me to be that leader – to help communicate and get people lined up," said Cash, who was with Carolina for parts of the past two seasons. "It took me awhile to learn the defense (in Carolina), but now that I have a pretty good grasp of it, I can bring others along with me."

The Cardinals' switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3, along with the shift in verbiage, may lead to ups and downs during implementation. The former Carolina trio believes past experience is a plus as each one pushes to earn a roster spot.

The Cardinals' projected starting linebacker corps features Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick at outside linebacker and Josh Bynes in the middle, but Cash seems to have a shot to be a primary backup.

Young III, who played in Carolina from 2014-16, is in the muddled mix of cornerback candidates vying to make the team and earn playing time. He took some lumps figuring out the defense in Carolina but is now confident in his progress.

"You kind of learn from your mistakes, and now my mental and everything is right," Young III said. "I'm confident in what I know. I can play fast and make plays."

Benwikere, who was drafted by the Panthers in 2014 and saw significant playing time until his release in 2016, is in a slightly different boat. He's played outside and slot cornerback throughout his NFL career but is now also being asked to play safety. The versatility should improve his chance to make the team and find snaps, but in some respects he's back to square one.

"I do have the baseline of it but I'm also learning a new position," Benwikere said. "I know corner, but now I'm learning all three. I'm learning just as much as other people are, understanding gaps and fits, things like that."

Last week, cornerback Patrick Peterson told Wilks about his appreciation for the defense, how there isn't a lot of gray area in its delineation. Even so, the holdovers from the Bruce Arians regime will likely make mistakes at times as they transition to the new playbook.

The former Panthers players are more advanced, and Cash is hoping to spread his knowledge. It's a choice not every player would make in the offseason battle for roster spots and playing time.

"If you go out there and put your best foot forward – whether that's going out there and making plays or helping others make their own plays – if we all get better as a team, we're going to win more games," Cash said. "So I'm just trying to focus on that. It's less about myself, and more about helping the team win."

When Young III signed with the Cardinals in February, the familiarity with the playbook played a role, but he was also ready to rejoin a group of coaches he jelled with during his stint in Carolina.

"Once everything calmed down with the coaching change and Coach Wilks came over, it was a no-brainer for me," Young III said. "I have a lot of respect for them, as men, first and foremost, and then as coaches. I've learned a lot, both on the field and off the field, how to be a professional. I like to be around people that are going to challenge me and get the best out of me. They don't want nothing less, and I don't want nothing less."