Questions Abound For Cards' Linebackers

Does Joey Porter have another standout season in him? Can Gerald Hayes retain his form while dealing with a back injury? Is Daryl Washington worth the price Arizona paid on draft day? Find out these answers and more as Ryan Knowles previews the Cardinals' 2010 linebacking corps.

There are more than a few question marks hanging over the Big Red's linebacking corps with just over a month before training camp. With Karlos Dansby, Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor gone, the position has become younger, but largely unproven.

The questions start in the middle, where Karlos Dansby leaves a very large vacancy. The Cardinals drafted Daryl Washington to be the new tenant, but Ken Whisenhunt is leery of starting rookies right away. As a result, Paris Lenon or Monty Beisel will likely start the season with the first team. However, Washington has the potential to develop quickly and contribute right away.

Until last season, Gerald Hayes had been one of Arizona's most consistent defensive players. But a lingering back injury kept him out of action for two weeks and limited his play in several more. Hayes tallied just 62 tackles a year ago, his lowest output since 2004. Hayes will attempt to regain the form that brought him three straight 88- plus tackle seasons and the coaching staff's confidence.

The issue is less hazy, but just as crucial on the outside. Joey Porter brings veteran leadership and a legitimate pass rush to a team in need of both. Two seasons ago, he collected 17.5 sacks and a fourth Pro Bowl selection. The Cardinals will seek similar production in 2010.

Porter has been reunited with former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Clark Haggans, who will start on the other side. Haggans had a solid 2009 campaign with 74 tackles along with five sacks. The Colorado State alum split time with Chike Okeafor last season, but looks to shoulder the majority of snaps in his third season in the desert.

Second-year pass rushers Will Davis and Cody Brown will certainly be in the mix and watchful eyes will be on former CFL standout Stevie Baggs come training camp. But outside of Porter and Haggans, this group is largely untested and will be expected to provide a consistent pass rush in order to take pressure off the secondary.

Linebackers are vital in the 3-4 defense as they're often required to cover a large amount of the field and create opportunities for other positions. Arizona's defensive scheme is no different and with several new faces at the position, the linebackers' abilities to make plays, know their assignments and be consistent become that much more important.


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