Rookie Playing Time Projections: Defense

Led by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Arizona Cardinals' defensive rookies thrived a year ago and the team is hopeful that success will continue in 2009. Although the Cardinals opted for offense with their first-round pick, the rest of the draft was geared towards defense. Brad Wilbricht breaks down Arizona's defensive rookies and predicts what playing time they'll see.

The Arizona Cardinals' defense improved dramatically last year and the team has positioned itself for even greater advancement during the upcoming season. Rookie LB Cody Brown was the first defender taken in this year's draft and will benefit by learning the ropes from a host of veterans at the position. Brown will more than likely be utilized as a situational pass rusher during his initial campaign in the NFL.

Chike Okeafor and Clark Haggans are expected to be starters at linebacker and the Cardinals also have Bertrand Berry at their disposal. Brown, a second-round pick, will be given ample time to learn the team's aggressive defensive scheme and should see an expanded role as the seasons goes on. Brown's greatest contributions will come in blitzing situations due to his speed off the edge.

Arizona was fortunate to land safety Rashad Johnson in Round 3 but the former Alabama star may not see the field immediately. Johnson displays the awareness and physicality to play right away, but the Cardinals are loaded at safety. SS Adrian Wilson and FS Antrel Role make up an excellent starting tandem while backup Aaron Francisco provides solid depth as a backup. Given Arizona's use of safeties in the nickel package, there's a chance Johnson will be called upon in that role.

Greg Toler

Joining Johnson as a newcomer in the Cardinals' secondary is CB Greg Toler. Similar to CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Toler is a small-school project but is expected to experience a longer learning curve at the professional level. Rodgers-Cromartie was much more NFL-ready and the services of Toler aren't vital due to the team's depth at cornerback.

While Toler will be eased into action, he exhibits tremendous potential and could end up being a steal as a fourth-round pick. He has ideal size and speed but needs to refine his technique. If Toler is able to put all aspects of his game together he should progress into a playmaker in the near future.

Despite an abundance of defensive ends already on the roster, GM Rod Graves went with another option at the position, adding DE William Davis in Round 6. Davis' skill-set fits Arizona's hybrid defensive scheme but he'll come in behind two second-year players already on the roster. Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema have a season under their belts and it will be difficult for Davis to jump them on the depth chart.

Although Campbell will be taking over as a starter along the defensive line, Davis will help fill the void left by the departed Antonio Smith. Davis demonstrated his pass-rushing abilities at Illinois but is also stout at the point of attack and can hold up against the run. He boasts great potential and along with Campbell and Iwebema, supplies the Cardinals with an excellent young trio in the trenches.

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