Defensive Answers Raise Offensive Questions

Arizona's NFC West opponents averaged more than 28 points per game against the Cardinals last season. GM Rod Graves turned to the draft to reverse that trend, landing cover-corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and pass-rusher Calais Campbell. With its defensive needs all but addressed, how will Arizona cure its offensive ailments?

The Cardinals faced a difficult choice in the first round, not that they were complaining. With only Troy CB Leodis McKelvin off the board, Arizona got its virtual pick of the cornerback litter. Graves decided to pass on CBs Aqib Talib and Mike Jenkins -- considered the two most complete cornerbacks available – in favor of the ceiling-free upside of Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

There are many knocks on RoCro, including poor tackling skills and minimal experience against top competition. However, he has a rare blend of talent and athleticism that can't be taught. He also has the ability to make plays on the ball, which is huge given that Arizona's holdover cornerbacks combined for only five interceptions last season.

Hoping to force some errant throws in RoCro's direction, the Cardinals shunned talented running backs Ray Rice (Rutgers) and Tashard Choice (Georgia Tech) in favor of Miami defensive end Calais Campbell. Campbell is the third Hurricane to join the Cardinals' roster, joining Edgerrin James and Antrel Rolle.


CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Ed Thompson/Scout.com

The selection of Campbell reveals Ken Whisenhunt's ongoing commitment to a full-scale transition to the 3-4 defense. Defensive ends in the 3-4 scheme must have the size of a tackle and the pass-rushing ability of a traditional defensive end. Campbell -- after posting 16.5 sacks over the last two seasons and measuring in at 6'8", 290 pounds -- certainly fits the bill.

Campbell joins a rotation that includes Antonio Smith, Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett and newly acquired veteran Bryan Robinson. Each of those players tips the scales at more than 280 pounds, a sign that the 3-4 transition is nearing completion.

While the first day of the draft answered most of the team's defensive questions, the offense remains riddled with question marks. Is there a running back available who can effectively spell James? Is there a receiver still on the board who can replace Bryant Johnson? What about depth on the offensive line?

Arizona will start working on turning those question marks into exclamation points when it goes on the clock with the 18th pick in round three, No. 81 overall. The top priority remains at running back, where Graves will hope someone like Choice or Texas running back Jamaal Charles is available.

Once running back is addressed, look for Arizona to turn to its remaining offensive needs. Among the offensive players available who the Cardinals met with earlier this offseason are: wide receivers Andre Caldwell (Florida), Harry Douglas (Louisville) and Todd Blythe (Iowa State); offensive linemen Anthony Collins (Kansas), John Greco (Toledo) and Mike McGlynn (Pittsburgh); and fullback Carl Stewart (Auburn).

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.


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