Arizona Cardinals' 2009 Roster Analysis: Defense and Special Teams
No.92 hangs up the cleats.
Bertrand Berry was the first official chip to fall for the Cardinals this offseason by retiring at age 34 the other day. He finished his Cardinals career with the sixth-most sacks in franchise history. Not bad for six seasons especially considering three were shortened by injury.
Berry’s 2004 signing was significant because it was one of the first indicators that the Arizona franchise was ready and willing to truly change its past. They had a need and they went out and signed an effective free agent, instead of the other way around (after a player fills a need they are lost to FA). Berry's 14.5 sacks and the Pro Bowl in his first year was a glowing success.
If it weren’t for injuries, he may have posted double digit sacks every year. He will be missed, but regardless, it was time for the Cardinals to develop some younger talent at his position.
NO. NAME POS AGE HT WT EXP COLLEGE ANALYSIS
97 Bryan Robinson NT 35 6-4 304 13 Fresno State- Robinson has been perhaps the most consistent NT force for the Cardinals for two seasons, but at age 35 and becoming a free agent, his status is unclear for next year.
98 Gabe Watson NT 26 6-4 329 4 Michigan- Although his play has been somewhat inconsistent, Watson has the tools to be a solid NT. It remains to be seen how patient the club is with his development.
90 Darnell Dockett DE/DT 28 6-4 285 6 Florida State- Dockett is a beast, making the Pro Bowl this year as a DT although he technically plays DE in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme. Along with Adrian Wilson, he is the heart and soul of the Arizona defense.
Dockett wants a new contract and is threatening to leave the franchise if a new deal cannot be worked out this offseason; he is signed through 2011 and should remain an imposing force at least until then.
93 Calais Campbell DE 23 6-8 290 2 Miami (Fla.)- As a rookie in 2008 Campbell flashed big-time ability while playing behind Antonio Smith. When Smith bolted for a bigger paycheck in Houston, Calais stepped right in as a starter this year and prevented any drop-off in performance while giving us a glimpse of his vast upside.
He is powerful and quick for such a tall frame, and it will be an upset if he doesn't make his way into the Pro Bowl in the next few seasons. He has the tools to be a dominating force for years to come.
91 Kenny Iwebema DE 24 6-4 280 2 Iowa- Is a solid special teamer, and a capable back-up at this point in time. If he continues to improve, he has potential to receive more playing time.
78 Alan Branch DE 25 6-5 338 3 Michigan- Branch was a total and complete bust until this season, having shown very little in his first two seasons at NT.
This season he was moved to DE, a surprise given his size at6'5"/338. H finally found a way to contribute, registering two sacks and complimenting the starters well.
71 Jeremy Clark DE 26 6-3 309 1 Alabama- Was signed late in the season for the playoff run but did not register a stat, and is therefore an unknown going forward.
56 Chike Okeafor DE/LB 33 6-5 256 11 Purdue- Chike is that rare bird that has played his entire career in the NFC West with three different teams. The Rams were the only team he hasn't suited up for.
He has been a valued member of the defensive front in his five seasons in Arizona, totaling 25 sacks in that span, although he missed the 2007 season with an injury. He is unlikely to return in 2010.
50 Monty Beisel LB 31 6-3 244 9 Kansas State- Biesel is a decent player, but not essential.
52 Cody Brown LB 23 6-3 244 R Connecticut- Cody was drafted in the second round in 2009 with an eye towards transitioning to LB from his college position of DE. At this point, it is difficult to gauge what kind of impact he may have next year because he was placed on IR with a wrist injury before the season got underway.
If he can become a solid contributor, it will lessen the impact of losing older players, and take some of the burden off of free agency and the draft to fill those needs.
58 Karlos Dansby LB 28 6-4 250 6 Auburn- Aside from Kurt Warner, the status of Karlos Dansby is arguably the next most significant question the Cardinals' roster currently has.
Dansby has been a staple at LB since his arrival in 2004, with over 500 tackles, 25 sacks and 10 interceptions. It is likely that he signs a fat contract with another team this offseason after having been franchised two seasons in a row in Arizona.
This potential loss, combined with Berry's retirement and with many others possibly moving on such as Okeafor, Biesel and Haggans, this would make LB the unquestioned top position of need.
59 Will Davis LB 23 6-2 261 R Illinois- Davis had a solid rookie campaign registering 19 combined tackles and two sacks, and also contributing well on special teams.
For a sixth round draft choice, he could turn into a legitimate steal.
53 Clark Haggans LB 33 6-4 243 10 Colorado State- Haggans came back strong after having his previous year cut short by injury.
He tallied an impressive 74 combined tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles as one of the main backer cogs.
54 Gerald Hayes LB 29 6-1 246 7 Pittsburgh- Injuries mounted for Hayes this season, but he is still respected for his run-stuffing skills.
55 Reggie Walker LB 23 6-0 238 R Kansas State- This undrafted rookie raised some eyebrows in preseason play and made the roster against the odds.
The coaching staff reportedly loves what they have seen from Walker, but fans haven't seen him on the field enough to know what that means just yet.
27 Michael Adams CB 24 5-8 181 3 Louisiana-Lafayette- What Adams lacks in size, he makes up for with tenacity and athleticism.
Although he is still a work in progress, and was ridiculed for getting burnt repeatedly bu Aaron Rodgers two weeks in a row in pass coverage (Week 17 and Wildcard Weekend), the staff thought highly enough of him, that he surpassed veteran Ralph Brown on the depth chart in November.
Look for Adams to continue to improve.
20 Ralph Brown CB 31 5-10 185 10 Nebraska- Brown has been a serviceable veteran for nickel and dime packages but his return is not essential.
25 Bryant McFadden CB 28 6-0 190 5 Florida State- McFadden was a big free agent signing for Arizona last offseason, but underwhelmed particularly in pass coverage where he was beaten easily more often than not.
Expect rookie Greg Toler to challenge him for the starting role going forward.
29 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB 23 6-2 182 2 Tennessee State- DRC claimed his first Pro Bowl berth this year after a stellar rookie campaign his first time out. The scary part is that he still has a lot of room for improvement.
Although he suffered a knee injury in the Cardinals' playoff loss to the Saints, he expects to be back in "three to four months at the max."
28 Greg Toler CB 25 5-10 191 R St. Paul's (VA)- Raw coming out of tiny St. Paul's college, Toler's growth this season was on display in the final game of the season against the Saints. With DRC and Antrel Rolle knocked out of the game, Toler stepped in and held up very nicely against Drew Brees, making a couple of very impressive plays on the ball in coverage.
He immediately outplayed starter McFadden, setting him up for success next season, perhaps starting opposite DRC. This would form one of the fastest CB duos in the league.
22 Matt Ware S 27 6-2 215 6 UCLA- Ware's importance to the team was outlined when they lost him to IR in December. Ware is a valuable nickel and dime safety who also contributes on special teams, but he is a free agent now and his status is unknown.
Expect the Cardinals to make a push to resign him if he can continue to be had for a bargain price.
41 Hamza Abdullah S 26 6-2 216 5 Washington State- Identical to Ware in size, Abdullah filled a similar role after Ware went down.
He was signed late in the year and is a question mark as far as value—much like Jeremy Clark.
49 Rashad Johnson S 24 5-11 203 R Alabama- There were high hopes for Johnson as a third round draft pick, but as of yet they have not materialized on the field.
The Cardinals' decision to use Abdullah more than Johnson at the end of the season could be a red flag going forward, unless the light bulb suddenly goes on and glows brightly.
21 Antrel Rolle S 27 6-0 208 5 Miami (Fla.)- Rolle earned a Pro Bowl berth and has turned into one of the Cardinals' most reliable players. He is a gifted athlete.
His contract will likely be reworked this offseason to make him affordable.
24 Adrian Wilson S 30 6-3 226 9 North Carolina State- One of the best safeties in the game, three-time Pro Bowler Wilson will presumably be a Cardinal for life.
He is what a football player should be: a hard working, no nonsense, hard hitting beast.
1 Neil Rackers K 33 6-1 206 10 Illinois- Rackers is a free agent and missed badly on a potential game-winning playoff kick, highlighting his only true weakness: Clutch kicking is not his forte.
In all other areas, Rackers is one of the game's best. He is annually one of the best in the league in touchbacks which bodes well for field position, and he is arguably the NFL's very best in onside and squib kicks. Not to mention Rackers is an adept tackler.
I expect the Cardinals to keep Rackers.
5 Ben Graham P 36 6-5 235 5 Deakin (Australia)- Graham had a breakout year, as he tied the NFL record for the most punts downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
Many considered him to be one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs, given that he also finished third in the NFL with an average of 47.0 per punt.
Graham will be back.