Kevin Minter eager to prove he belongs _lowres

Arizona Cardinals' Kevin Minter walks on the field during the first day of NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 26, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) ORG XMIT: RFOTK212

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Minter wanted a chance last year to show how he compared with Arizona Cardinals standout middle linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington.

That opportunity never came. The former LSU standout played one down on defense his entire rookie season.

Now, he’ll get all the comparisons he can handle.

Dansby and Washington are gone, and Minter is being counted on to fill that hole in the middle of a defense that was sixth in the NFL last season.

The second-round pick from 2013 knows people wonder whether he can play, since he didn’t get on the field for anything but special teams virtually all of last season.

“I understand the doubts. I might be labeled as a bust,” he said. “I take that as a chip on my shoulder. I really just want to prove people wrong.”

The 23-year-old is replacing Dansby as the one who calls the defensive signals. Throughout summer workouts and through training camp, he has remained confident.

“I feel they drafted me for a reason,” he said before practice Monday. “I’ve obviously done it before, and I feel I definitely can do it at this level.”

Minter left LSU after a superb junior season. He ranked third in the Southeastern Conference at 10 tackles per game. He led the Tigers with 130 tackles, fourth-most in the school’s history.

Although a bit undersized at 6-foot and 246 pounds, Minter thrived at stuffing the run. He expects that to be his best skill in the NFL, too. The Cardinals led the NFL in rushing defense last season, allowing just 84.4 yards per game.

On Saturday at its fan fest, the team ended the practice with a live, full-speed goal-line scrimmage. It was an early chance for Minter to show he belongs.

“I just tried to show that I am that physical guy that y’all make me out to be,” he said. “I will come downhill. We established last year we were a pretty stout run defense. I just want to make sure people know we’re still a force to be reckoned with in the running game.”