Cardinals Training Camp Preview: Defense

The Cardinals defense stands as the area most in need of improvement for the coming season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt will have his hands full adjusting to a new defensive coordinator and the lingering sting from a Super Bowl defeat. Each position is loaded with potential, but it will be up to the new defensive coordinator, Bill Davis, to draw that hidden talent out. Tyson Qualls explains.

Defensive Line:

The Cardinals defensive line has a mission this offseason, to rush the passer with more efficiency. Bill Davis has already stated his desire to increase the Cardinals' blitzing habits from last season.

Veterans Darnell Dockett and Bertrand Berry's pass rushing capabilities should provide stability to a front line filled with young players.

Kenny Iwebema and Calais Campbell round out a talented front line with great potential. Alan Branch has returned out of shape once again, continuing his habit a performing well below his potential. This will keep Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson as the only two with any chance of starting at the NT position. The defensive line has a lot of work to do if they are going to reach the next level. The mental state and commitment of Darnell Dockett will be vital to the success of the Cardinals' pass rush.

Linebackers:

Last season the Cardinals' linebackers recorded 13 sacks in the regular season. Coach Davis wanted to continue that success and emphasize the pass rush. Rookie draft choice Cody Brown was drafted with that goal in mind. Brown's ability to get to the passer will boost the quality of the Cardinals' defense to another level.

The core linebackers from last year's NFC Championship team return with another season under their belt. Chike Okeafor, Karlos Dansby, Clark Haggans, and Gerald Hayes will be battling for the bulk of the playing time. Expect Cody Brown, Ali Highsmith, and Will Davis to be used exclusively on special teams or pass rushing situations.

Cornerbacks:

The Cardinals are hopeful that they addressed any concerns with their defensive backs by signing Steelers' standout Bryant McFadden. Last season McFadden recorded 41 tackles a sack and two interceptions. Sophomore Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will only continue to improve over time and is headed towards becoming a premier NFL cornerback.

Rookie project Greg Toler is blessed with out of this world speed, but will need more time before he can contribute on a consistent basis. Michael Adams and Ralph Brown could be on the bubble with the recent influx of new blood at the cornerback position. The combination of Rodgers-Cromartie and McFadden will frustrate opposing quarterbacks for the majority of the season, especially in the weak NFC West. The prime battle will be between Toler, Adams, and Brown to snag that third and fourth DB position on the depth chart.

Safeties:

As subscribers to the "there is no such thing as too much of a good thing" motto, the Cardinals drafted Rashad Johnson in the third round. Already stacked with Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson and 1st round pick Antrel Rolle, the team decided that depth at the safety position was a main priority.

Aaron Francisco will also back up the safety position and he has proven to be a quality, yet streaky, player. The addition of Johnson gives the Cardinals more breathing room if Rolle cannot continue his transition from corner to safety. The most intriguing training camp battle at this position will be Francisco and Johnson dueling to see who Ken Whisenhunt will use when he goes to his three safety defense.


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