Young Cardinals Set to Soar

The Cardinals have more to play for than a .500 record in their season finale. Coach Ken Whisenhunt will use this final opportunity to evaluate young talent with an eye on 2008.

Antrel Rolle, a first-round pick out of Miami in 2005, looks to prove himself as the shutdown corner the Cardinals so desperately need. With one more interception return for a touchdown, Rolle will tie Robert Massey ('92) for the Cardinals' single-season high (three).

Fellow cornerback Roderick Hood (2) needs one interception return for a touchdown to tie Massey. Both Rolle and Hood stand a good chance on Sunday, as St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger is throwing behind an injury-ravaged offensive line and has been picked off 13 times in 11 games. This season, Bulger has posted the worst passer rating of his career (71.4).

Fourth-year pros Karlos Dansby, a second-round pick out of Auburn, and Darnell Dockett, a third-round pick out of Florida State, have each enjoyed career years and look to finish the 2007 campaign by padding personal bests and team leads.

Dansbury is tied with linebacker Gerald Hayes in tackles with a career-high 93. Seven more tackles and Dansbury hits the heralded century mark. A porous Rams offensive line makes this a plausible scenario.

Docket leads all defenders with eight sacks and has set a career-high in tackles (55). Dockett would love to record a pair of sacks and hit double-digits on the season, although his last sack came back in Week Nine.

J.J. Arrington has quietly, while unofficially, slipped in behind Edgerrin James as the Cardinals' second-string running back, bumping the seven-year veteran Marcel Shipp to third.

Arrington, a 2005 second-round pick out of California, has made the most out of his limited touches (22). He will likely see some more action on Sunday as coach Ken Whisenhunt looks for a speedy complement to the soon to be 30-year-old James.

Coach Whisenhunt and his staff will use the season finale to make positional evaluations for 2008. Arrington should exceed his single-game high in rushing attempts (four) and may top his season total (22) if he is effective early on.

Rookie tackle Levi Brown must to prove to Whisenhunt why he should be a starter. Brown is supposed to be the cornerstone on what has been an underachieving line. The Cardinals rank No. 29 in the NFL with 87.9 rush yards per game, so an offseason overhaul could be in store.

Brown started the first four games of the year before an ankle injury sidelined him for three weeks and kept him out of starting line up for another two.

In games Brown starts, James averages 78.7 rush yards per game, as opposed to a 68.2 rush yards when Brown is out. If the line can open holes for the backs and allow them to get deep into the secondary, the vertical passing game will open up. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald will become greater downfield threats and Whisenhunt will be able to put together a potent offensive attack in 2008.

CardinalsSource Top Stories