As you and I both know, this is as important an offseason for your Cardinals as maybe we've ever seen.
For one, they're coming off success they haven't experienced since the 70s when they were in St. Louis. And for another, they lost several key members that were vital to that success.
So unless players step up and fill the gaps that they left behind, the Cards will be in big trouble.
This is particularly evident on defense for the Birds, as they all ready didn't have a great defense, and losing guys like Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle, and Betrand Berry won't help.
And this offseason, there's several battles going on in training camp for some key spots on the D for the Cards.
Let's check 'em out...
This has been a big issue in the Cardinals defense the last several years, mainly because true nose tackles are few and far between, and the Cardinals haven't really had one.
Don't get me wrong, Bryan Robinson has done a fantastic job filling in...for a 36-year-old. But that's the issue at stake.
Alan Branch, drafted four years ago from Michigan in the second round (after the Cards traded up I might add) was supposed to be the answer. But credit the Cards, who could've chased a bigger name in the NFL Draft, and instead got a very good (according to scouts) nose tackle in big 6'2", 327 Dan Williams.
Now usually the hype around defensive rookies isn't worth it. But Williams was supposedly a top 10 or 12 pick. And he fell to us.
Plus, the way I see it, he played in the best defensive conference in college football in the SEC, and he was considered the best (along with Terrance Cody) nose tackle.
As for whether he'll start the season? I doubt it. But in the Cards scheme, he'll see lots of playing time early, and I wouldn't be shocked in the least if he is starting by, at the latest Week 8.
As well, don't be shocked to see Gabe Watson, who's supposedly looked much better in offseason drills, to get some playing time as well.
Projected Starter: Bryan Robinson
Backup: Dan Williams (and soon to be starter)
Competition: Gabe Watson
Perhaps the biggest hole left on the Cardinals defense is at perhaps the biggest position: inside linebacker. Now, Gerald Hayes does return for the Cards, so they're set there.
But the other inside linebacker in the hybrid 3-4 scheme the Cardinals run is wide open. And like at nose tackle, it appears that it's only a matter of time before a rookie takes over. Right now, it appears that Paris Lenon, a surprisingly underrated linebacker who did well with the Lions of all teams, has the job to start the season, given coach Whisenhunt's tendency to not start rookies at the beginning of the year.
But it seems to be only a matter of time before the fastest linebacker at the combine this year, Daryl Washington, takes over for Lenon. And if he is as fast as they say he is, he's exactly what the Cardinals need, who seem to have gotten a steal with picking him in the second round.
There are other competitors for the job, who if they step up in the offseason and preseason could very well steal the position. These include Ali Highsmith and Monty Beisel, who have been with the Cardinals the past couple of seasons, so coach Whisenhunt is very familiar with them unlike Washington and Lenon.
Projected Starter: Paris Lenon
Backup: Daryl Washington
Competition: Ali Highsmith
Like at linebacker, the Cards are set on one side with Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As far as who will start alongside of him, your guess is probably as good as mine.
Unlike the other two positions, there are not as many indications as to what will actually happen. In a perfect world, perhaps Greg Toler would step up and fill the role.
But this isn't a perfect world is it?
Honestly, there are any of four guys that I believe that could take the cake:
1. The aforementioned Toler, who arguably has the best tools but is lacking in experience. That, and he couldn't beat out Michael Adams in the offseason. Not encouraging...
2. Speaking of Adams, the goat and hero of last season's playoffs, has a good a chance as anybody else. Sure, he gets burned a bit, but he's a gutsy player that the Cardinals really like.
3. Speaking of a player the Cardinals liked enough to take in the sixth round even though he didn't play college ball last year, Jorrick Colvin could pull a shocker and be the starter by the middle of the season, that is if he a) makes the team and b) Toler struggles.
4. And finally, we have Trumaine McBride. I'll be honest. Don't know much about him. But more power to him should he win the job.
Projected Starter (I think): Greg Toler
Backup: Michael Adams
Competition: Jorrick Colvin