The Cardinals' defense, which shut down Doug Martin and the Bucs most of last game, get Pro Bowl linebacker Daryl Washington back this week.
First, Todd Bowles said of the return of Daryl Washington to his defense, the linebacker must get used to doing the basic things. Only after that come the extra components a Pro Bowl player brings.
"But he's an energizer bunny for us," the Cardinals' defensive coordinator said. "(He is) motivation on the field and he makes everyone play faster."
Bowles' defense is coming off its best game of the season in Tampa and held up most of the way in New Orleans despite the Cardinals' offensive problems – even with injuries shredding them at linebacker.
There is little question, however, that the return of Washington from his four-game suspension can be a significant game changer.
"A lot of teams across the league, look at the injury reports, teams are losing guys for the season," defensive tackle Darnell
Dockett said. "We actually gain one of our best players back."
There are certain schemes and players for which Washington's presence will help tremendously. One is Sunday's opponent, Carolina, which has big dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton. Newton happens to be the kind of QB made for Washington's skill set.
In their two losses, the Cardinals were whacked by another area in which Washington would have helped. It's hard to imagine Washington wouldn't have played a role in at least slowing Rams tight end Jared Cook or Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
With those issues, however, Washington isn't about to proclaim himself the answer.
"You see things (in games) where you think you could have made the play, but you never know what would've happened when you're out on the field," Washington said.
The Cardinals are ranked 14th in the league in overall defense, second against the run. They have seven sacks in four games as a team, so the return of Washington – who blitzed his way to a team-high nine sacks last season – should help in that regard. Washington is the best pass rusher of any of the inside linebackers and arguably one of the best on the team, period.
His arrival comes at a good time. After Carolina, the Cards see playoff teams San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta in their three games before their bye.
"I definitely think we can be better (defensively) than we've shown," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "Adding Daryl, he's probably the most versatile player we've got outside of Patrick. He's a Pro Bowl player, and whenever you have a Pro Bowl player you haven't had in four weeks, you definitely want him on the field."
Washington and Karlos Dansby will be the inside linebacker starters, head coach Bruce Arians had already said. Bowles said both players will have to know both inside positions because each will play in both spots, depending on the play call.
Where Jasper Brinkley – the starter for Washington up until this point – and Kevin Minter fit remains to be seen. Bowles didn't commit to anything Thursday, noting that Brinkley first has to get healthy after hurting his groin in Tampa.
Both, however, have to fit in behind Washington, whose speed gives the Cardinals an added dimension missing for four games.
"The defense has been playing well without me," Washington said. "I hope I can bring some energy to the team. I'll be running all over the field Sunday."