Defensively, the re-signing of Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson makes him an NFL anomaly these days, signing a five-year deal that will make him a Cardinal "for life."
They kept LB Karlos Dansby via the franchise tag, but haven't been able to get a long-term deal done. Therefore, he'll be here and among the growing group that is feeling di$$ed on this team.
Add blossoming-stud DL Darnell Docket, a Twitter machine that changed his name to his number (Nine-O, not to be confused with 90) to the mix as well, and that's a mini-bunch of upset team stars. If channeled correctly, if can be a wonderful thing for this team. If not (which I don't see at this point), it would be a problem.
But when you consider that A) none have squawked (much), and have acted professionally this time around, and B) they will all be playing for what would reasonably be considered their "golden contracts" (their best shot at the huge deal in their NFL prime), the guess here is that it will end up on the positive side for the Cards defense.
The Cardinals addressed their most glaring defensive weakness in signing CB Bryant McFadden, who was last seen wearing black and gold and tackling Cardinals in Tampa last February. It isn't like CB Rod Hood didn't make plays last year. He did! I remember both of them.
But under the "a defensive backfield is only as strong as its weakest link" theory, this solidifies an otherwise-terrific defensive backfield, with Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle becoming one of the league's best tandems at safety.
Despite a lousy camp, (especially in the last two games) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has "emerging star" written all over him. There's no way Wilson will allow DRC to become lackadaisical, as he appeared against the Broncos and more-so, the Packers.
This could and should emerge as one of the division's—if not the league's—best defensive backfields. They also added young depth in drafting Alabama S Rashad Johnson and CB Greg Toler in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
The pass rush could be a concern, but if preseason is any indication, the loss of DL Antonio Smith just opened a door that second year former backup Calais Campbell wants to kick in and make a name for himself. Good speed and a previously not-so-pronounced dedication and tenacity could make him an improvement.
Dockett had a fantastic playoff/SB run. The Cardinals haven't had Dockett's talent inside since the days of Eric Swann.
Oh, and Nine-O will be playing for the dollars this year, too.
With a healthy OLB Bert Berry back, a seemingly reborn Bryant Robinson, massive Gabe Watson, and an always ready to blitz Wilson, the potential is there for a better than average combo of harassment of opposing QBs and filling the middle against the run.
The linebacker position would appear to be the Cardinals' overall defensive weak link. Unlike other teams within the West, there isn't a "star," budding or otherwise, among this group.
But they are a hard-nosed, hard-working bunch that plays pretty well together. Underrated Karlos Dansby leads Clark Haggans, Chike Okeafor, and Gerald Hayes in this years 3-4 defense, with a mobile Ali Highsmith first off the bench. Oft injured Travis LaBoy will be missed. He was fun to watch when he was healthy.
The Cards lost DE turned OLB Cody Brown for the season, a second-round pick that fit the Cards' pressure A LOT plans nicely. Yet they kept undrafted rookie free agent and possible diamond-in-the-rough Reggie Walker, who made the team by his alert, speedy, always-be-around-the-ball play on the field in the preseason.
While you can't really miss what you never had, the loss of Brown and his pass rushing potential is more than a casual disappointment.
The Cards fired defensive coordinator and Phoenix native Clancy Pendergast soon after the Pittsburgh version of "The Drive" in Super Bowl XLIII. Needless to say, he'd likely be here if the Cardinals stopped Pittsburgh in those final two minutes in Tampa.
But the Cards defense wasn't by any means a shut down defense long before that. I think getting rid of the last coaching remnants of the Green era was another example of addition by subtraction. They gave up a boatload of big plays, and a less powerful offense with Pengergast's D would have had this team finishing 7-9, at best.
I believe the talent was greater than their collective play, and that discrepancy rests on the shoulders of the defensive coordinator. Adios Clancy.
Look for the Cards to do more stunts, take some risks, and count on on-the-fly adjustments under Bill Davis, who came over with Whisenhunt from Pittsburgh and has been coaching the linebackers the past two years.
As long as the players' talents can keep up, this can not only be a much-improved bunch, but a fun defense to watch, too!
For the record, I'm of the opinion that former nickelback and special-teamer Aaron Francisco didn't lose his job on the final cut. I believe he, like Pendergast, lost his job in those final two minutes in Tampa.
Not in being one of the three players that couldn't prevent "the reception," but getting faked out of his jock at midfield, allowing Holmes to get past him in taking it to the six-yard line with about one minute to go.
Francisco would have had to have an unbelievable camp to stick with this team.
For the record, part two: He was signed by the Colts the next day.