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Getting to know Kevin Minter with Revenge of the Birds

Get to know the newest Bengals player with help from someone who has covered his NFL career for the last four years.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Another former LSU star is joining the Bengals. This time, it’s Kevin Minter, who looks to upgrade the Bengals’ depth at linebacker and improve the unit in 2017.

Minter signed a one-year deal with the Bengals, reportedly turning down a multi-year deal in favor of taking a risk on himself. He’s hoping to prove to the Bengals in 2017 that he’s better than he’s been in four years with the Arizona Cardinals.

We spoke with Seth Cox of SB Nation’s Cardinals blog, Revenge of the Birds, to learn more about Minter, a 2013 second round draft pick.

Cincy Jungle: Tell us a little about your thoughts on Minter:

Seth Cox: Kevin Minter was drafted to be the hammer in the Arizona Cardinals 3-4 defense. The big hitting, tackling machine out of LSU looked like the ideal fit next to the young, athletic, playmaking Daryl Washington (there's a blast from the past). However, Minter was not able to get on the field in 2013, even with Washington being suspended the first four games of the season. Karlos Dansby and journeyman Jasper Brinkley manned the inside backer spot for the Cardinals while Minter adapted to the speed of the game. 2014 was supposed to be the year, but playing through a torn pectoral muscle proved to be too much. Minter played in all 16 regular season game, starting five and played in the Cardinals’ playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers. In 2015, Minter was finally healthy and earned his opportunity to start, but his physical limitations were obvious. He is a downhill, attacking linebacker with the ability to make the plays in front of him, but he is not explosive. He played lighter and with a little more athleticism in 2016, his best year as a pro, but it still wasn't enough for the Cardinals to make an attempt to bring him back before he hit free agency. One of the biggest questions on Minter is his work in the passing game. Pro Football Focus graded him out well in his pass defense in 2016, yet the question remains: is that a factor of better play throughout the Cardinals defense, better pass rush, better safety play, or is he finally putting it all together? Minter can be a very good Mike backer in any defensive scheme, but if you are expecting a rangy, three down linebacker, Minter could leave you wanting more.

CJ: What do you think about the Bengals signing Minter? Has he lived up to his draft billing so far?

SC: It is an interesting signing in that it seems like the Bengals have been trying to get more athletic, similarly to the Cardinals, for the last couple of years. But still, Minter is a good player. He never quite lived up to his second round pick, but few prospects from the 2013 draft did, so he just is another solid, if unspectacular, player who never reached his potential.

CJ: Did the Cardinals try to bring him back? Is Dansby the Minter replacement and do you think a 35-year-old is actually better than Minter, seemingly in his prime?

SC: There was no talk of the Cardinals bringing Minter back, and most seem to think the addition of Dansby is an upgrade in terms of athleticism and coverage ability with the chance to be a wash in terms of run stopping. I think that undersells how well Minter does at putting himself in a position to make plays. The struggle can be in finishing those plays.

CJ: I read that missed tackles were an issue for him (20 in 2016, per PFF). How big of an issue do you see that being?

SC: It is an issue in that he seems to not be the hammer, inside, physical run stopper he was billed to be. However, he does a nice job, as mentioned above, of putting himself in position to make plays in running lanes. He just doesn't always make them.

CJ: Any specific strengths/weaknesses of his to note?

SC: I think the most interesting thing about Minter is that he improved every single year in tackles, snap percentage, Pro Football Focus grades, and looked like he had started to turn the corner as a more than adequate coverage linebacker... But, he then left the team that drafted him, a team that had exactly one inside linebacker on their roster. And now he’s been replaced by a 35-year-old linebacker in an attempt to get more athletic. (Editor’s note: That’s Karlos Dansby, who spent 2016 with the Bengals.)

CJ: How does he do when matched up against tight ends? How about against the run?

SC: Minter is not a coverage linebacker. He does a nice job of dropping into zone in middle of the field, taking away short stuff, but you don't want him manned up against tight ends or running backs. Against the run, Minter is a good player who takes good angles, works through congestion and has the ability to make plays; he just doesn't always make those tackles that we talked about earlier.

In the end, I was a bit surprised to see him leave Arizona with nary an offer, then to see he only had a visit with the Colts before signing with the Bengals, but his "lack of athleticism" tag seems to be playing against his opportunity to get more run in the league. A good year in Cincy could prove to be worth it for him.