Rookie Haason Reddick (43) and veteran Karlos Dansby (56) are on track to be opening day starters at inside linebacker.
Bruce Arians was understandably concerned Saturday night about the play of his inside linebackers, after struggles against the Bears and a rash of injuries.
But that was in this moment. With the regular season still a few weeks away, the Cardinals coach insisted he is not worried, in large part because veteran Karlos Dansby is expected to be ready.
“I don’t look at it as a gloom-and-doom thing, because I think Karlos will be fine,” Arians said Monday.
Dansby, already confident in his own abilities, smiled at the suggestion.
“Hey man, that’s an honor, man, to hear that coming from coach,” Dansby said following practice. “He rides us hard. If he has that kind of confidence in me, that’s a blessing. I’m going to continue to work and continue
to try and lead us.”
Early in the offseason, inside linebacker was a spot overflowing with possibilities. Dansby was signed as a free agent. Haason Reddick was the first-round pick. Deone Bucannon was ready to come back from an ankle injury.
But Bucannon’s rehab didn’t click, and he was forced to have surgery. Dansby has been battling a leg issue and had practiced little before returning to work Monday. Reddick, who played defensive end in college, has gone through the ups and downs of a rookie learning a new spot.
Even veteran Josh Bynes, who had been impressive following his signing after camp started, is limited with a hamstring injury.
It led to a starting duo of Reddick and Scooby Wright, who would make the roster on his special teams skill more than his work on defense.
Bucannon could come off the physically-unable-to-perform list this week, although Arians said it would only to be for getting into the early-morning walkthroughs and not practice. Practice could come as early as next
week for Bucannon, Arians said, but his availability for the regular-season opener remains in doubt.
“We haven’t been counting on Deone,” Arians said. “That’s going to be a blessing (if he plays.)”
That’s why Dansby’s presence is so important. Not only is Dansby good at his own job, he’s been crucial for Reddick on the field.
“When (Haason) is on the right guy, he’s doing really well,” Arians said. “When he doesn’t have Karlos in there, (saying) ‘That’s your guy, go get him,’ then he struggles a little bit. Scooby was worried about himself, he couldn’t help (Reddick) too much.”
Dansby said his first practice back after a week off was fine. He was back tutoring Reddick, who Dansby said is “going through the (learning) curve” and needs to over-communicate at this point in his career just to make sure all is right.
Once Bucannon returns, defensive coordinator James Bettcher will have to get creative in how to get Bucannon, Dansby and Reddick snaps. But until then, the Cards just want Dansby out there with the rookie to make sure doom-and-gloom never is part of the inside linebacker conversation.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure,” Dansby said. “It’s just natural for me. That’s my role, know what I’m saying? I knew that coming into the situation what my responsibilities and my expectations were, and the expectations of the coaches. I’m up for the challenge.”