Visiting Day: Kill Two Birds With One Stone

Special teams and quality depth in the defensive backfield are two priorities for the Cardinals this off-season. How does this player help both?

Whenever someone is a defensive back and is described as a "special teams standout," there's a stigma attached to that player.  The common thinking is that, if he were any good, he wouldn't be used as a gunner or a wedge breaker, he'd be making the highlight reels, or at least be intricately involved in the team's nickel defense.

Well, Roderick Hood is both: In his three seasons with the Eagles, he has excelled in special teams and has contributed in their nickel and dime packages.  Unfortunately for Hood, he's buried beneath Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown on the depth chart.  Brown and Sheppard were taken higher in the draft, given big money to stay in Philadelphia and, by all accounts, are honestly better players. 

However, since both have made it to the Pro Bowl, it's more of a compliment to Philadelphia's scouting department than a knock on Hood (unintentional pun) that he hasn't been able to ascend the depth chart.

Enter the Arizona Cardinals: With David Macklin a free agent and Eric Green still raw at the position, Arizona needs to bring in someone to compete for the starting corner opposite Antrel Rolle.  Whisenhunt has stressed healthy competition thus far and seems to be serious about creating it throughout the course of the off-season, even continuing into the regular season.

Hood can come in and compete for a starting role.  Very few teams can offer that.  He's also talking to the Browns and may meet with the Saints, finds himself in the rare position (at least thus far in his career) of being a hot commodity.  Cleveland and New Orleans could both use help in the secondary and on special teams, so it remains to be seen if Hood will be playing for Arizona next season.

The important thing to remember is that, while he won't come in and immediately solidify a position of weakness on the defense, he will bring a winning attitude (something that has been missing in Cardinals lore for the last, say, 50 years), a stellar reputation in the kicking game (which struggled in coverage last season and was embarrassed on Monday Night Football), and be another body to compete for a starting role.

He lacks ideal size for what defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast asks his cornerbacks to do, but does have the mentality and the physical nature to more than make up for his lack of body mass.  Also, having worked as a nickel and dime back in Philadelphia, he would be able to quickly step into that role for the Cardinals, should he lose out to Green (or Macklin, if he ends up re-signing with Arizona).

Above all, the worst case scenario is that he helps a special teams unit that is in dire need of his services.  Understanding that the horse has long since passed on and still has marks from where the jockey was whipping it, it cannot be overstated that special teams have become a point of emphasis for the new staff.  New coach Kevin Spencer undoubtedly has a great deal of feedback on the interviewing process for free agents and he is using that influence.

When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.  And the Cardinals could do a lot worse (and have done a lot worse) than taking a shot at a guy with Hood's credentials.


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