GM Graves Addresses Cornerbacks at Combine

Cardinalinsider.com's Amberly Richardson spoke with GM Rod Graves at the NFL Combine to find out what he plans to do about his shaky cornerback corps. While Graves was tight-lipped about his plans for draft day, he revealed where "cornerback help" ranks on his offseason wish list and unveiled his plans to fortify the position for next season.

Entering this year's NFL draft, many believe the Cardinals will target a cornerback with their first pick. However, GM Rod Graves trusts the talent in place and is comfortable with the team's current depth at the position. Even factoring in Antrel Rolle's move to safety, Graves isn't sold on investing a first-round pick on a cornerback.

"I feel real good about (the cornerback position). We'd like to bolster that group with a little more talent, possibly in the draft," Graves said during the NFL Combine.

Roderick Hood and Eric Green are slotted as the starting cornerbacks next season. This leaves some Cardinals fans leery about the team's pass defense. Arizona allowed 232 yards per game through the air last year and will need to improve its secondary play to have any shot at its first playoff appearance since 1998.

Hood is the most polished and established cornerback on the roster. He has solid cover skills and is adequate in run defense. Hood possesses excellent size, speed and quickness. He features good acceleration, allowing him to close on opposing receivers while the ball is in flight.

Green has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, including last season when he suffered a groin injury in Week 12. Green is extremely athletic and has an explosive first step. Although he's been prone to mental mistakes, he has a good burst and can turn and run with most NFL receivers.

While Hood and Green may develop into a suitable starting cornerback tandem next season, the Cardinals are severely lacking depth at the position. Ralph Brown and Michael Adams are the team's top backups, leaving little margin for error or injuries.

Brown totaled 26 tackles and one interception in limited duty last season. He possesses only average speed but has good body control. He is a willing tackler--he forced three fumbles last season--and is dependable in run support.

Adams played sparingly last year and is unproven and unreliable.

The Cardinals will undoubtedly address the cornerback position at some point in this year's draft. With a deep and talented class of cornerbacks, the true value could come in the later rounds. Graves implied that the team's emphasis in the first-round could be on adding a young pass-rusher who can help boost the defensive line and--by extension--the secondary.

"We feel we have a pretty good (secondary) unit and we feel like we can win with the unit that's in place. We're going to continue to develop our front seven and shorten the field for those guys if we can," Graves said.

Following the Combine, the top cornerback prospects in the draft appear to be Mike Jenkins (South Florida), Leodis McKelvin (Troy), Aqib Talib (Kansas) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee St). All four are likely first-round picks.

Assuming the Cardinals pass on a cornerback in round one, Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech) and Antoine Cason (Arizona) could still be available in the second round.

Rodgers-Cromartie had an exceptional Combine and shows the most game-breaking ability. His smooth footwork and excellent balls skills were unmatched. However, taking him with the 16th overall pick would be a stretch and he'll likely be off the board at No. 50.

Flowers and Cason would both be excellent fits in Arizona's aggressive defensive scheme. Both players thrive in man coverage and are solid in run defense. More importantly, they could be available when the Cardinals are on the clock in the second round.

Graves' recent comments may be a smoke screen attempting to throw off opposing teams. However, the depth chart doesn't lie. Arizona needs help in the secondary and, although Graves might not admit it now, there's a good chance he will in this April's NFL draft.


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