LILB Daryl Washington, #58
Height: 6-1 3/4 Weight: 230 Speed: 4.62
Notes: Lettered at TCU, where he did not step into the starting lineup full-time until his senior year, finishing with nearly as many tackles his final season (109) as he did the previous three. Became the first rookie linebacker to open the season as a starter in the Ken Whisenhunt era in 2010 after being selected 47th overall in the 2010 draft. Started 11-of-16 games during his first season, returning to the bench after Gerald Hayes returned from injury, and finished the season with 78 tackles and a sack. Started 14-of-15 games in ’11, missing some time in September with a calf injury, and led the team in tackles with 107, five sacks, seven pass breakups and two interceptions. Earned a six-year, $32.5 million contract extension prior to the ’12 season and has started all 11 games this season, racking up a team-leading 95 tackles and nine sacks, far and away tops among all inside linebackers in the league.
Positives: Exceptional eyes and instincts translate to rare football-playing speed. Outstanding closing burst — screams to the ball and strikes like a guided missile. Has a sixth sense for timing up the blitz and making himself small to slice through gaps. Outstanding athletic ability, quickness, agility and balance. Has a terrific feel for angles and almost always beats big bodies to the block point. Has exceptional range and makes plays all over the field with terrific flow and lateral pursuit. Excellent coverage depth in his drops with outstanding acceleration and recovery speed to makes plays on the ball. Highly energetic and brings a presence to the field. Very tough and durable and seldom leaves the field.
Negatives: Lacks ideal size, natural girth and take-on strength — is built like a safety in the lower body with thin ankles and bone structure. Can strike with more violence in his hands and does not play with the same physicality addressing blocks as he does striking ballcarriers. Is not a natural-handed interceptor. Much of his sack production has been schemed and unblocked. Can be knocked back by hammering fullbacks and can be run at and challenged by isolation-lead blocks. Not a true face-up tackler.
Summary: A high-intensity, fast-flowing, explosive hitter who has earned the distinction as the NFL’s best blitzing linebacker. Serves as the defensive sparkplug for Ray Horton’s aggressive defense and is very well-schemed, covered up to run to the ball and make plays attacking the quarterback and buzzing the perimeter. Excels against both the run and pass and is one of the best all-around linebackers in the NFL, bringing a dynamic presence in nickel packages by wreaking havoc in pressure packages or clinging to receivers in man or zone coverage. Will be a staple of the Cardinals’ defense for a long time to come.