Cardinals to ask Deone Bucannon to be more vocal in 2018

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals linebackers coach Larry Foote has one request for Deone Bucannon this season.

Well, one major request.

He wants Bucannon to be more vocal.

Bucannon, who’s entering his fifth season, will, for the first time in his career, be the elder statesman at inside linebacker. And with that comes more responsibility.

“We’re going to ask him to be more vocal,” Foote said. “He started taking those steps last year a little bit. We’ve taken Karlos [Dansby] off the field and he was running it.

“And the easy part is he’s got the respect of his teammates, his peers. He’s a quiet guy by nature if you don’t know him, but he talks on the field.”

With Dansby still a free agent, his role probably will be filled by last year’s first-round pick, Haason Reddick, who, like Bucannon, transitioned to inside linebacker after college.

The two paired together will give Arizona an athletic duo with sideline-to-sideline range and the ability to plug holes in the box with power.

Bucannon, who has averaged 89.5 tackles per season, was plagued with an ankle injury the past two seasons that caused him to miss three games in 2016 and four games last year, including the first three as he continued to recover from offseason surgery. In 2015, the last season in which he played all 16 games, he had 109 tackles, but still managed 89 and 82 tackles the past two years.

But after missing some time and coming on slow last season, Bucannon will be “fresh” in 2018, Foote said.

“Even at the end of the year he started playing his best ball, which we predicted, having surgery late in the year,” Foote said. “I want him to have the best season. I think he’s ready.”

If there’s a season for Bucannon, whose fifth-year option was picked up by the Cardinals for 2018, to flourish, it’s this one.

With Steve Wilks taking over as head coach in January and bringing Al Holcomb with him from Carolina, the Cardinals’ defense will have similarities to the Panthers’ schemes from the past few years. And that means a significant role for inside linebackers.

Just look at Luke Kuechly. He has been a Pro Bowler the past five years and a first-team All-Pro in four of those seasons, while recording more than 100 tackles every season he has been in the NFL.

“You saw the linebackers in Carolina,” Foote said. “Once [Bucannon] gets over the terminology, he’s going to be fine.”