Cardinals Positional Analysis: Secondary

The Cardinals secondary was mediocre for most of last season, but drastically improved to propel the team to the Super Bowl. Adrian Wilson leads a unit that is hoping for more consistency and bigger plays this year. Second-year year corner Dominique Cromartie is looking to have a breakout campaign in 2009. Andy Bishop evaluates the secondary.

Cornerback

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has coaches and fans alike excited about a potential breakout year for the second-year corner. If Ro-Cro can pick up where he left off last year and continue to make strides, he will force quarterbacks to throw the other direction.

Rodgers-Cromartie turned heads in his rookie season by grabbing four interceptions and returning one for a touchdown. With another offseason under his belt, the expectation is that Rodgers-Cromartie will be a bigger playmaker this season.

The one knock on the young corner is his susceptibility to giving up big pass plays. He did improve in this area in the latter half of the season and hopes to continue that this year. Even if Ro-Cro does get beat, he has amazing recovery speed. While clearly not an elite cornerback yet, Rodgers-Cromartie is well on his way to becoming one.

Starting opposite Rodgers-Cromartie this season will be newcomer Bryant McFadden, who played his first four years in Pittsburg. McFadden offers a clear upgrade to the position as compared to past years. He is still young in just his fifth year in the league and possesses all the skills to be a quality starter.

One aspect of McFadden's game that needs improvement is his consistency. He has never started more than nine games in a season, whether it be injuries or other players simply performing better. McFadden has a clear hold on the No. 2 spot as neither of the three other cornerbacks has the skills to be a starting corner at this time. He should be a solid performer for Arizona.

The Cardinals will use CB Ralph Brown as their nickel cornerback in 2009. Brown enters his tenth year in the league in a familiar role, having only started 16 games at cornerback his entire career. The nickel spot is clearly where Brown excels. He was dependable at that position in 2008 and should be this year.

Behind Brown are two corners that shouldn't see much action this season. Michael Adams is undersized at just 5'8". He didn't have the best of preseasons as he still learning the game in his third year. Rookie Greg Toler is a great athlete, but he will likely have to wait a year to see any significant playing time.

Safety

Strong safety Adrian Wilson is sure to fill up the stat sheet each Sunday. Whether it's tackles, sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles, Wilson is sure to make an impact. And that's exactly why the Cardinals rewarded Wilson with a five-year, $39 million contract extension this offseason.

Wilson is the leader of Arizona's secondary, and even the defense as a whole. As he enters his ninth year in the league he is still in his prime. Any defensive coordinator around the league wishes he could have a safety like Wilson—one who can punish receivers over the middle, come up in the box and help stuff the run, or relentlessly blitz the quarterback.

FS Antrel Rolle has made his transition to the back of the secondary and should be comfortable now. The fifth-year player was originally drafted as a cornerback but has since found a home as a safety. Rolle had a solid 2008 season with 89 tackles and an interception, but can still improve his coverage skills. Rolle should have plenty of opportunities for interception, and should improve upon his 2008 total.

With the addition of rookie Rashad Johnson, one safety spot was left for either Aaron Francisco or Matt Ware. It came as a surprise to many that Francisco was the one left behind on cut day. Francisco had contributed more the last few years with Arizona, but coaches decided to go a different way.

Ware should see some time on the field in passing situations, but will also be an integral special team contributor. He will back up Wilson at the strong safety position.

Rookie Rashad Johnson looks like he has all the tools to be a playmaker in this league. Like Ware, he could play in dime situations, but will see most of his playing time on special teams. Johnson can play both safety positions, which helps his chances of starting should Wilson or Rolle go down.


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