Cardinals outside linebacker Kareem Martin celebrates after bringing down Bears quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The pass-rushers had double-digit sacks apiece in 2016 and are too talented to regularly leave the field. But the Cardinals did break out a dime package that featured three outside linebackers in 2016, where Jones slid inside and Alex Okafor saw action.
Okafor left for the Saints in free agency this offseason, which piqued the interest of Kareem Martin.
“That’s the role I’m trying to carve out, that one he had last year,” the fourth-year outside linebacker said. “We ran that dime package a lot. It was pretty much our main third down call, especially toward the end of the year. I’m trying to show what I can do here in camp, so when it comes to the game plan, when (defensive coordinator James Bettcher) is making those specific packages, my name’s in his ear.”
Martin has turned some heads in the preseason, registering a half-sack against the Raiders and then bringing down Mark Sanchez in the backfield Saturday against the Bears after a mishandled snap.
“Kareem Martin had a hell of a game,” coach Bruce Arians said.
Martin is a former defensive end who is built a little differently than Okafor – Martin is two inches taller and 12 pounds heavier – but Arians said he is the top candidate to assume the role of third outside linebacker.
Jarvis Jones was added in free agency as another option, but he’s been injured. Rookie Haason Reddick is learning inside linebacker, and Arians believes putting him in that role would be too much responsibility. Martin has been a key special teams player the past few seasons, but he’s never produced as much as expected for a former third-round pick.
“Being able to make that defensive impact, it would be a good moment for me,” Martin said.
LOOKING BACK AT ANQUAN
Arians didn’t coach former Cardinals star receiver Anquan Boldin, but is plenty familiar with him. Arians said his enduring memory of Boldin, who retired on Sunday, is his ferocity as a competitor.
Arians brought up the frightening hit that broke Boldin’s jaw in 2008 – Boldin missed only two games despite it being wired shut -- and his ability to buck the odds after concerns about him during the draft.
“Any time I think of ‘Quan, everybody said he couldn’t do it,” Arians said. “Too slow, this, that, was a quarterback, all that. He’s way up there in the stats for the great ones. Just an unbelievable competitor.”
Linebacker Karlos Dansby played with Boldin in Arizona from 2004 to 2009. They were key cogs of the Super Bowl team in 2008.
“That journey we took, took us like five years to get there,” Dansby said. “That’s family. That’s how we view each other. Blessed to be in the same locker room with him.”
TOO MUCH TRAINING CAMP
Arians acknowledged the Cardinals’ training camp has probably stretched on too long. The team has been at University of Phoenix Stadium since July 21 because of the Hall of Fame Game.
Many other teams began later and have already wrapped up, but the summer heat makes that logistically difficult.
“We’d have to go home and practice outside,” Arians said. “I don’t want to do that myself. Ninety guys in a bubble just doesn’t work. You’re stepping all over each other. It’s so much easier to just stay here.”
SEVERAL PLAYERS ON COMEBACK TRAIL
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring) and wide receiver John Brown (quad) ramped up their activity level. Brown, who hasn’t played this preseason, said his confidence would improve if he saw time Saturday against the Falcons.
“It would be a big help to me,” Brown said. “I tried to go last week but I wasn’t ready. I feel better than I did last week, so hopefully I can go this week.”
Brown left the team after practice to attend a funeral and will join the Cardinals in Atlanta before the game. Left guard Mike Iupati left practice early with an apparent elbow injury.