By the end of last season the Arizona Cardinals' dynamic inside linebacker duo of Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby was giving the 49ers' tandem of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman a run for their money as the NFL's best.
Dansby was on the fringes of the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. As the only player with at least 300 tackles and 15 sacks over the last three seasons, Washington has been the NFL's most lethal inside blitzer.
Now that Washington has been suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season, both stud linebackers have disappeared from an underrated Arizona defense that was dominant for long stretches of the 2013 season.
The loss of Washington can't be understated, as evidenced by general manager Steve Keim's atypically strong public acknowledgement that the linebacker has put the organization is a position that will compromise its chances of winning in 2014.
As long as coordinator Todd Bowles had the 2012 Pro Bowl selection flying to the ball, he could afford to break in Kevin Minter as Dansby's replacement. Now that both inside spots have been severely downgraded, the backbone of a stout defense is in danger of devolving into a weakness that will sabotage an outfit that was in the running for the "Around The League Podcast" Team of 2014.
On the heels of Sean Lee's ACL tear, football fans will be deprived of watching two inside linebackers with the fastest closing speed in the league.
The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks down the news and examines developments from the first week of OTAs.