Did Dennis Green Set Foundation for Arizona?

While former Arizona head coach Dennis Green fell under a great deal of scrutiny during his time in the desert, his handprints are all over the Cardinals' current roster. Despite winning only 16 games in three seasons, Green helped secure many of Arizona's existing stars. Brad Wilbricht takes a look at the Cardinals' drafts under Green and gives the fiery coach credit when most others refuse.

The 2004 draft supplied the Cardinals with many of the players that now make up a solid nucleus of young stars. Three starters on defense were acquired under former head coach Dennis Green's first draft while arguably the Cardinals brightest star, WR Larry Fitzgerald, was added on the offensive side of the ball. Furthermore, eight of the Cardinals' 22 starters were secured in the 2004-2006 drafts.

Of the draft picks acquired during Green's tenure in the desert, none have made as great of an impact of Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was thought of one of the NFL's best wideouts throughout the western region but has burst onto the national scene thanks to the Cardinals' improbable postseason run.

Larry Fitzgerald

Green was well aware of Fitzgerald's abilities, even when most weren't. The former Academy of Holy Angels star was excelling in the high school ranks when Green was manning the sidelines for the Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, Fitzgerald was a ball boy for the Vikings for three years, starting when he was 15 years of age.

Although it's difficult to gauge players of different eras, Fitzgerald has consistently done things that few others have displayed in history of the game. His precise hands and ability to secure the ball in traffic hasn't been duplicated. Fitzgerald has racked up 426 receptions for 5,975 yards and 46 touchdowns during his five-year career. If he continues on his current pace, Fitzgerald's career totals will be similar to that of the greatest receiver of all time, Jerry Rice.

Along with Fitzgerald, the same 2004 draft produced LB Karlos Dansby and DT Darnell Dockett. Dansby was selected in the second round while Dockett was picked in the third round.

While his future with the team is uncertain, Dansby has been the leader of the Cardinals' linebacking corps since his arrival in Arizona. He's compiled 446 tackles in five seasons while adding 24.5 sacks and nine interceptions. Dansby recorded a career-high 119 tackles this year and will be a hot commodity in the offseason.

Dockett has been the heart and soul of the Cardinals' defensive line and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2007. Dockett's versatility makes him a valuable fixture in Arizona's defense. His ability to jump around to all positions can create mismatches and wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.

In addition to Dansby and Dockett, DE Antonio Smith was also secured in the 2004 draft. Smith was taken in the fifth round and has developed into a full-time starter. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Smith is an unrestricted free agent following this season and could be playing himself into a lucrative contract that the team is unable to match.

Antrel Rolle

Safety Antrel Rolle was selected with the eighth overall pick in 2005 and has been a constant playmaker in the Arizona secondary. Rolle's switch from cornerback to safety has been beneficial thus far and he should continue to grow into his new position in the coming years. The Cardinals also acquired backup RB J.J. Arrington and OG Elton Brown in the same year.

In Green's final draft with the Cardinals, he selected QB Matt Leinart with the 10th overall pick. Leinart has been impressive thus far and has yet to pan out up to this point in his career. However, with another season to learn from veteran QB Kurt Warner, Leinart may be in a position to pick up where Warner leaves off upon his retirement.

Although Leinart's future is still up in the air, the Cardinals were able to find three more starters in the 2006 draft. RG Deuce Lutui was selected in the second round while TE Leonard Pope and DT Gabe Watson were picked in the third and fourth rounds.

While Green has transitioned into a radio career and several other endeavors, Cardinals fans must give credit where it's due and thank the former coach for helping build the foundation of the franchise.

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com

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