Training Camp Spotlight: Linebackers

The majority of 2008 was a success for the Arizona Cardinals' defense, particularly in the playoffs. Arizona's linebackers played a major role, racking up 10 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles between them. Karlos Dansby, who led the team with 119 tackles last season, returns for the Cardinals along with a host of veterans. But what's changed heading into the 2009 campaign? Josh Sarkisian explains.

The biggest adjustment in 2009 for the Arizona Cardinals' linebacking corps, and defense as a whole, is the loss of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Pendergast was fired after a five-year stint with Arizona mainly because his defenses allowed too many points and gave up an abundance of big plays. Taking his place is Bill Davis. Davis should mesh well with the defense and the linebackers given he previously served as the Cardinals' linebackers coach prior to becoming defensive coordinator.

Along with the firing of Pendergast came the loss of LB Monty Beisel. Beisel totaled just 20 tackles a year ago but was a valuable backup and versatile performer. Beisel signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in the spring, returning to the team that originally drafted him and joining former Arizona staff members Pendergast and Todd Haley.

But enough about what the Cardinals lost, let's take a look at what they've gained. Arizona drafted multiple rookie linebackers during the offseason. Second-round pick Cody Brown, a former defensive end for Connecticut, was one of the most explosive defensive players in the Big East Conference. Brown compiled 33 tackles for a loss and 18.5 sacks during his last two seasons in the collegiate ranks. The Cardinals recently signed him to a four-year deal and Brown will be out to prove he can make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in the NFL.

Another defensive end turned linebacker is former Illinois standout Will Davis. Though he was selected 204th overall in the draft, his college statistics are impressive. Davis accumulated 95 tackles and 14 sacks after switching from tight end to defensive end. Arizona will be asking Davis to make yet another position change, this time to linebacker.

The Cardinals' linebacking corps has looked impressive thus far in training camp. With veterans such as Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes joining forces with rookies Brown and Davis, expect Arizona to mix up their looks on defense and take advantage of its depth at the linebacker position. The group has all the tools needed for a successful season and has the potential to develop into one of the team's strengths in 2009.


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