Six-Pack With Draft Expert Chris Steuber

With six weeks under the rookie's cleats, AZRedReport.com checks in with Draft Expert Chris Steuber with six questions about the progress of Arizona's first-year players, and how some of the older players are shaping up as well. How will the young players stay focused during the bye? How pivotal will Arizona's 2008 No. 1 pick be in the days to come? Steuber answers these questions and much more.

AZRedReport.com The Cardinals are coming off a dramatic win over the Dallas Cowboys. Some of their youngest players were big contributors, such as rookie RB Tim Hightower who came up with an important first down last Sunday, second-year player WR Steve Breaston, who has filled in for Anquan Boldin very well, and many more. How do these young players remain focused and keep up the momentum after the bye?

Chris Steuber: They both have something to prove every time they're on the field. Breaston (2007) and Hightower (2008) were fifth round selections, and nothing is guaranteed to them. Being consistent is a part of the job description, and sometimes it's hard for young players to keep up the pace. It will be harder for Hightower than it will be for Breaston. Breaston is in his second-year and has already endured a 16-game schedule, so he knows what to expect. Hightower may hit the rookie wall around Week 10 or 12 and start to slow down. But the way he's being used at this point, as a situational back, will benefit him moving forward.

AZRedReport.com: Many members of Arizona's secondary have played through various ailments. Heading into the Dallas game there was a possibility of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie starting in place of Rod Hood. The Cardinals are fortunate that didn't happen as Rodgers-Cromartie has missed several pivotal tackles and been beat badly. What are your thoughts on Rodgers-Cromartie? Will he be a premier corner in this league?


Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
(AP)

Steuber: The transition from Division I-AA to the NFL isn't easy, and I think what you're seeing from Rodgers-Cromartie at this point are growing pains. As naturally gifted as he is, Rodgers-Cromartie is starting to realize that the instincts, speed and toughness he possessed at Tennessee State, and what he displayed leading up to the draft at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine, don't translate to the NFL where the players are just as gifted. I think Rodgers-Cromartie has a lot of talent and a chance to be very special, but the biggest obstacle for him will be to get physically stronger. Rodgers-Cromartie has a unique, wiry frame, which he's had since his high school years, and that could prove to be pivotal as he progresses throughout his career.

AZRedReport.com: On the same note, the Cardinals attempted Rodgers-Cromartie on offense earlier this year. Do you think he's better suited to receive than tackle or pick off the opposition?

Steuber: No, Rodgers-Cromartie, although he has good ball skills, is a cornerback, not a wide receiver. I'd like to see the Cardinals put their attention into developing his game on defense rather than experimenting with the notion of using him on offense.

AZRedReport.com: The Cardinals are 21st in the league in interceptions, with three. Is there a weak link in Arizona's secondary and how about the strongest link?

Steuber: Actually, the secondary has only accounted for two interceptions this season (SS Adrian Wilson and CB Eric Green have one each; DE Chike Okeafor also has one.) I'm not sure if there's a weak link in the secondary, because collectively they're not getting the job done. But even though they're struggling in the secondary, they're still 4 – 2, and their defensive front seven, which has recorded 18 sacks (tied for second in the league) and forced nine fumbles (No. 1 in the league), has been outstanding and should help the secondary get back on track shortly.

AZRedReport.com: From what you've seen in the Cardinals defensive backs, would you switch around the rotation at all? If so, why and how?

Steuber I wouldn't change the rotation, because they have talent and eventually, if they keep winning, it should come together. Rod Hood and Antrel Rolle have to be factors and set the tone in the secondary. Last season, they both had five interceptions, and so far this season, they haven't contributed in that area. But, it will come.


Early Doucet
(Getty)

AZRedReport.com: About a month ago, you thought wide receiverEarly Doucet was the rookie who could contribute the most for the Cardinals. Do you still feel the same or is there another rookie you have an eye on?

Steuber: No, I feel the same way, although Tim Hightower seems to be the rookie contributing the most at this point. But I am surprised that the Cardinals have not been able to get Doucet more involved. It took them five weeks to get him on the field, and he didn't disappoint against the Buffalo Bills, catching six passes for 47 yards. This past week, Doucet saw limited action and only caught one pass for three yards. I know that WR Steve Breaston is playing very well right now, but when you see other rookie wide receivers having success this season, it makes you wonder why Doucet, who's just as talented, couldn't be just as effective.


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