GM Rod Graves’ disclosure that the Cardinals were committed to extending the contract of Daryl Washington came as no surprise.
Team sources are in agreement that the lightning-quick third-year inside linebacker is a genuine star in the making following an all-around excellent 2011 campaign.
As for Washington himself, the team’s intentions were music to his ears.
“It’s important to me and my family to hopefully stay with one team,” Washington told PFW. “I love this organization, the city and all the players and coaches, and I told myself early in my career that this is where I’d like to stay.”
Just like Cardinals veteran SS Adrian Wilson, who likely assured his status as a lifelong Cardinal after willingly taking a $10 million paycut as part of the new four-year deal he signed in late July.
“Adrian Wilson is one of those guys you can’t help but respect as a person,” Washington said. “He leads by example and doesn’t do much talking, but he really took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of the business and how to show respect and professionalism.”
Opinions vary as to just exactly when the light went on for an Arizona defense that started slowly but made significant strides last season under new coordinator Ray Horton, allowing only 12 touchdowns in the last nine games (when the team had a 7-2 record).
“I think it was more of a gradual evolution,” said Washington, the team’s leading tackler by a wide margin last season, in addition to being one of the league’s best linebackers in coverage situations. “It was just a matter of all of us building trust in one another, as well as Coach Horton’s scheme, and playing more together.”
Washington couldn’t have played much better, becoming one of only five NFL players last season who registered at least five sacks and two interceptions (Terrell Suggs, Clay Matthews, David Harris and Rob Ninkovich are the others).
“I always can improve,” he said. “I can still get off of blockers quicker and show more patience in my coverage and disguises.”
One thing Washington can’t hide are his positive feelings about fellow young Cardinals OLBs Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield.
“They are definitely on the rise,” he said. “Both those guys could have huge years.”