It was a simple response to a Twitter comment yesterday, and somewhat open-ended at that, although it ended up generating a couple hours of Twitdebate. I wouldn’t say I expected wide receiver Michael Floyd to start “from Day One.” I’ve already covered that, actually. But it goes to a larger component — nothing surprising — with coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff. Bottom line, he prefers to ease his top picks into the lineup, and earn their way.
Let’s look at the Cardinals’ No. 1 picks through the Whisenhunt era, and when they started for the first time:
— 2007: T Levi Brown. Started at right tackle Week 1. Brown was the fifth overall pick. The Cardinals had no holdover at right tackle that made sense to plug in for Whisenhunt’s first year. Heck, Mike Gandy was signed as a free agent just to play left tackle. When Brown hurt his ankle in the third game of the season, Elton Brown — a natural guard — was forced to start for a few weeks. You want to plug-and-play a top five offensive lineman, but Levi’s ascension was as much about need as anything else. (UPDATE: And as “footballguru80″ pointed out in the comments — which I had forgotten — Oliver Ross was running at RT before going down with a season-ending triceps injury in the preseason. Ross likely would have started the opener, I’m thinking, given history.)
— 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: Started at right cornerback Week 9. DRC was coming from Tennessee State and his learning curve was steeper than some. His natural talents were undeniable. But Eric Green started instead. DRC came in midseason (Green fell so quickly he was inactive every postseason game) and did a very good job. But he wasn’t ready at the outset and definitely was a player who needed to earn his time.
— 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Started at running back Week 7, 2010.Wells actually had just one start his first two seasons, playing behind Tim Hightower (and I’m not so sure Wells would have gotten that start had Hightower not had his fumbling issues, leading the coaching staff to try and make a point to Hightower.) Wells was obviously “The Man” last year but he continues to be challenged to work to keep that spot.
— 2010: NT Dan Williams. Started at the nose Week 1, 2011. Here’s another No. 1 pick who didn’t start as a rookie. He played, like Wells, but battled his weight and needed to show the coaches he deserved to get that honor. He couldn’t supplant veteran Bryan Robinson in 2010. It’s probably not a coincidence the two top picks who took the longest to crack the starting lineup were also the guys drafted latest in the first round, with Wells at pick No. 31 after the Super Bowl and Williams No. 26 after the Cards’ second straight division title.
— 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Started at right cornerback Week 1. Peterson, the fifth pick, had an argument that he should have started right away. But I don’t think it would have happened if Greg Toler hadn’t shredded his knee in the preseason; Peterson was running second team at that point and I really have no doubt he would have been there when the regular season started if Toler had stayed healthy.
With all this in mind, and with Andre Roberts (who was, after all, a third-round pick; it’s not like he was an undrafted free agent) growing last year, I don’t know why my thought that Floyd will start the regular season as a reserve is so shocking. Will Floyd be a part of the offense? Of course. At least he should. But start? I don’t think so. Not from Day One.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Dan Williams, DRC, Ken Whisenhunt, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson
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