AR: The departure of Pace didn't cause to much havoc on the Cardinals defense, mostly because Chike Okeafor returned to the lineup after missing all of last season, when he was hurt in a preseason game against the Raiders. He is a productive member of the front seven and would slip effortlessly into Pace's position. Depth would prove to be an issue and the Cardinals were tornado-like in creating it. They picked up Travis LaBoy, 12-year veteran Bryan Robinson, drafted rookie defensive ends Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema in rounds 2 and 4, respectively. The Cardinals spent much of their offseason time and monies into building the unit. Whisenhunt learned a thing or two with the Steelers, one being that defense wins ballgames.
Q: How are rookies Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Calais Campbell looking?
AR: The biggest critique on Rodgers-Cromartie is that he can't tackle. He silenced the critics and proved he can be physical during the preseason. The Cardinals threw us all a curveball when they put their No. 1 pick in the rotation as a receiver against the 49ers. The pass was broken up, but Coach Ken Whisenhunt, with a big grin, said we could definitely see Rodgers-Cromartie again on the offensive side of the ball. As far as Campbell goes, he looks as solid as ever. Campbell told me that his main goal for the season is to be seen as and to be used as a starter. When I asked him if he was ready to be a starter he said he thought so. He's made a lot of great plays that have lived up to his draft pick (second), but he is sitting behind Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett. Last season the defensive players were on the field too much for their own good, so he'll get some reps in. In his league debut he earned one tackle, but his motor is still as productive as it was in Miami.
Q: What is the strength and the weakness of the Cardinals defense?
AR: The Cardinals' strength is in their depth, but they are still letting their opponents put high numbers on the board, both in the air and on the ground.
Q: Just how good is safety Adrian Wilson, who appears vastly underrated from this end?
AR: Wilson is an unbelievable athlete. In my opinion, I think he's one of the best in the game. He is back from injury and made his presence known in Week 1. He will definitely wreak havoc in the secondary this season. His new sidekick, Antrel Rolle, and him will be a tandem no one wants to see.
Q: What's the deal with kicker Neil Rackers, who used to be one of the best kickers in the league but now is very inconsistent?
AR: The key for Rackers moving forward is to keep his emotions in check. He is an emotional kicker and doesn't have qualms about showing it. Rackers has also had to deal with his long-term holder being cut. The Cardinals are confident in Rackers' ability to get those long attempts.