For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 14, 2010 – 4:10 pm

Back in 2007, when I was still at the East Valley Tribune and just about three months into a blog for the first time, I wanted to come up with something that could stand at the top of the blog for several days while I – gasp! – actually took some vacation time.

Guestimating the starting offensive and defensive lineups for the regular-season opener, in June, seemed to make sense, especially on the heels of the just-completed offseason work. So that’s what I have done every year and will do again the next two days. Today, we’ll hit the defense. Tomorrow’s swan song entry will be on the offense.

We’re going with the 3-4 alignment because that makes the most sense as a base, although the Cards continue to mix it up and use plenty of other sub-packages (would they really use a four-safety set this season, like we have seen at times in OTAs?). But this is how I think they’ll line up Sept. 12 in St. Louis.

DE – Darnell Dockett. He’s done all the right things this offseason. OK, except for the shower thing. But you know what I mean.

NT – Bryan Robinson. Dan Williams will get plenty of playing time this season, and he may even be starting at some point (after the bye?). But coach Ken Whisenhunt has made it clear the past three years rookies, even first-rounders, have a hard time getting playing time early. And as good as Dockett said Gabe Watson looked this offseason, it’s tough to bet against Robinson once again starting, even if he ends up with fewer plays.

DE – Calais Campbell. If anyone is poised to have a big year, it would seem to be Campbell. With his potential and what Williams can become, the Cards have to be happy with the future D-line.

ROLB – Joey Porter. No-brainer. The Cards need a pass rush upgrade off the edge. The preseason will be about narrowing down Porter’s eventual heir apparent. You figure Cody Brown, but we’ll see.

SILB – Gerald Hayes. I still think Hayes finds a way in there, although the coaches like what Reggie Walker brings and Hayes is battling the back issue.

WILB – Paris Lenon. Replacing Karlos Dansby isn’t going to be easy (Thanks, Mr. Obvious). This is eventually Daryl Washington’s spot, but maybe not this year and certainly not to start the regular season. I’ve already talked about the coaches’ aversion to giving rookies a lot of time early.

LOLB – Clark Haggans. Will Davis looked good in his pre-injury stints last season. But Haggans was pretty consistent last season. And he’s exactly what Whisenhunt likes having around the field and the locker room.

CB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. His knee will be fine. So will his toe. I am interested to see how he handles DB coach Donnie Henderson, who can be in-your-face.

CB – Greg Toler. The Cards have moved around the candidates thus far, but Toler should find a way to win the job. He has to step it up though. And I still think there may be a veteran to be had after the other 31 teams make their cuts.

SS – Adrian Wilson. I am curious to see how he meshes with Kerry Rhodes on the field …

FS — Rhodes. … because you know everyone is going to be measuring what Rhodes does to what Antrel Rolle might have done.

OK. That’s it for the defense. I’ll close out with the offense tomorrow.

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39 Responses to “For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition”

  1. By Joe-B on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Four Safeties? Davis really wants to get creative huh?

  2. By mike b on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Darren- I know this isn’t official only a guess but do you see where stevie baggs and dean muhtadi (sp?) will be practice squad perhaps? Cuz I’m rooting for those two.

  3. By darrenurban on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Mike B —

    Well, remember I am just sketching out a starting lineup. This isn’t a full roster.

  4. By Cardsfan928 on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Four Safeties? Darren could we nickname it Phoenix-fire scheme? hahahahaha…nice article though

  5. By Scott H on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    If this defense is gonna be better than last year, it’s the back end that needs to improve significantly. We saw how they got torched during the playoffs and it was ugly. We had Kurt Warner and his virtually perfect game against the Packers to bail us out in that one. Against the Saints, the torching started early and it never stopped. The coverage was lousy and that tackling was even worse. Losing McFadden would seem to be a step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. The scary thing is, the Cardinals were among the league leaders in sacks…so it’s not like the guys up front weren’t doing their job. With Dockett being Dockett, Porter still having plenty of sacks left in him, and Campbell coming on big time, this unit will get to the QB often enough. But they can’t do it on every play. And we don’t have Warner around anymore to bail us out. There is A LOT riding on how well Rhodes and Toler are able to play this year. If they’re not any better than the guys they’ve replaced…it could have a real domino effect on the offense. Because if we’re falling behind by multiple scores too often and asking Leinart to have to throw on every down…that’s not the recipe for success for this team.

  6. By AndyStandsUp on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Since the 4 defensive rookies will probably sign before training camp and I’m unsure of the length of your well deserved vacation, any guesses who will be cut to make room? Veterans or newbies?

  7. By darrenurban on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    AndyStands —

    Don’t worry. I will be back before cuts need to be made. My guess is cuts will be end-of-the-roster types.

  8. By Chris H479 on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply


    I know this is really off topic but i’ve been wondering a lot lately about LaRod Stephens-Howling. He really stood out to me last year, what with him being a 7th round pick and having a decent impact on the return game ( not to mention the eye opening TD he scored against Tennessee last year ). I just wanted to know what the coaches are saying about the man and what his role will be this year on the team.
    PS. Thanks a ton for what you do. im a die hard cards fan and really do appreciate all the good info you give us. You da man Darren.

  9. By darrenurban on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Chris H479 —

    I think LaRod is in the mix to be a weapon for sure. Coaches love him. I don’t know how much work he’ll get out of the backfield, but he will continue to be a special teams force.

  10. By Aaron on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    With AW, you never really have the number of safeties on the field that the stat sheets say you do. He’s 50% safety, 50% LB and 50% animal. And yes, that’s three 50%s. He’s the NFL equivalent to the “Most Interesting Man In The World”…he’s THAT good.

    I don’t really see Williams starting this year. Beanie had his issues dropping the ball when he first started getting on the field, but has since proven he is the more dynamic RB yet he’s still not the “starter”. Whiz has proven that “starter” means very little to him and how he’ll use each player, even when it comes to QB (2007).

  11. By georgiebird on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Clark Haggans is a team guy but not a championship player at this stage of his career-same for Lenon.
    One or two of the young linebackers (Davis, Brown, Washington) will have to step up big time for this defense to be capable of winning games

  12. By Aaron on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Scott H – it’s hard to blame the secondary in favor of the front line and vice-versa. We were 6th in the NFL for sacks (43) but also 6th in the NFL for passes defensed (108) and 7th in the NFL for interceptions (21). While not all forced fumbles are done by the front line/linebackers, most of them are (during sacks or stripping the RB) and in that category we were 27th in the NFL.

    Aside from McFadden being horrible and Rolle being inconsistent (albeit by the end of the year, I give him credit he wasn’t shoelace tackling as much) our secondary really wasn’t bad last year. We had a lot of sacks, but I think it was more a product of us making sure that when we got to the QB, we brought him down (excluding Jacksonville and Tennessee). We went after Porter and drafted Washington so that we can get to the QB more often, even if just pressuring him, so that he doesn’t have so much dang time to let a receiver get open. McFadden was horrible, but the problem was 50/50 and not just the secondary’s.

  13. By mike b on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Darren- Thanks after posting that i saw you typed STARTING line up lol…… also it is a guess….. do you think that Muhtadi or Baggs can make it or is it a wait until the pads are on kind of thing.

  14. By darrenurban on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    Mike B —

    Everything is wait-until-the-pads.

  15. By R Robles on Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

    Im Sure Wilson Will Play Linebacker Too

  16. By cardzallday11 on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    Darren- man love your stuff read it every day. but my question is do you think this years or the changes to this years defense will be alot better than last years? i mean im going to miss dansby, but i think Lenon should fit right in, and if not our rookie Washington will do even do you think our rookies will do this year filling in big shoes? (ALSO I PREDICT MY MAN CAMPBELL WILL HAVE A BEAST YEAR I KNOW IT!!!!)

  17. By darrenurban on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    Cardzallday —

    I think I want to see everyone in pads first.

  18. By lobo on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    i expect that rhodes will show more this year than rolle ever did…just never a big fan. he got toasted a whole lot more than most which in my book offset his heroic touchdowns. rhodes was a heckuva safety for jets until run in with ryan.

  19. By KG on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply


    In your opinion, is Rhodes fitting in well with the team and how do you think he has performed in OTA’s? Is there anything there that concerns you about the working relationship between him and A-Dub?

  20. By darrenurban on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    KG —

    I think Wilson and Rhodes mesh just fine. Rhodes has been decent in OTAs, but again, it’s tough to really measure much.

  21. By itsjustmeagain on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    hey scott your right we do need to improve in that area but we meassure by the saints and packers game. remember Matt Ware already out, DRC played benged up, then out early in the saints game. Rolle also banged up. your not going to beat Drew Breeze with a banged up defenceive backfield. I think we will do good

  22. By Don't Take Losses on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    Daren Urban getting it done. What I’m left with after reading is how deep this team can go in using players on defensive line, hopefully keeping them fresh. If Branch and Watson don’t come back fit and trim, one of them could get cut.

  23. By JOHN CAMPBELL on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply


  24. By darrenurban on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    John —

    Stevie isn’t going to start. He will have a hard enough time making the roster.

  25. By ReoHays on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    If Greg Toler is not ready to step it up, this could cost us the division. Getting pressure is great if our DB’s can disrupt the dump off and take one to the house. DRC wont be the one getting tested if Toler is our #2

  26. By ReoHays on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    McFadden stunk the place up! He never looked back for the ball. Alot of games were lost becouse the other team completed passes right ove his shoulder and he never saw them coming. Easy picks/batted down balls became first downs from 3erd and long, or 4th and long.
    He was easily my most hated Cardinal last year.

  27. By cardattac on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    I like the line up your seein there Darren. And I do believe Karry will do better then Roll as well. Aside from his TD run backs…. Which are alot of fun to watch. He is usually getting burned or getting thrown to the side with his shoulder tackles. I think we needed a change at the position anyway. Also the addition of Joey Porter will bring that extra attitude…. More then even Dansby had… Which will hopefully help get us to the #1 spot this year in sacks. That alone will take some pressure off of our CBs. I also think I could play better CB then McFadden… OK maybe not…. But comon man… Not even one pick??? Dude had so many ball fly over his head. He may as well not have even been out on the field at all sometimes. HAHAHAHA….. And we gave him back to the Steelers HA… They can have him. Our D Will be top 5 this year!!! Oh Matt and company will clean it up too every time they get us the ball back!!! GO CARDS!!!

  28. By Scott H on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    Aaron / itsmeagain –

    Points well made and taken. Hate to go just by two games, but they were PLAYOFF games and when you lose…there’s no tomorrow. Yeah, the game against the Saints was unfortunate for the Cards in that they were the last team to play one weekend and first up the next. That was a tough draw against the well-rested Saints in their house. And we were banged up before and during the game. But none of that was true the week before against the Packers and the result was the same in that our D couldn’t stop the other team once they got rolling. Period. Regular season stats don’t mean a thing once the playoffs start. Heck, the 2008 Cardinals were living proof of that! Last year in the playoffs, our D played their worst. One year before, they played their best. The difference was an ugly exit one year and a dominant run to the Super Bowl the other. But I do agree that the entire unit has to pull its share consistently if this year is to be a successsful one. And I’ll be honest – with Dansby, Rolle, and Berry gone…there are more question marks going in than we’ve had the past few years. We’re very young in some spots and pretty old ( Porter, Haggans ) in others. Sure, I hope for the best but this defense is no sure thing. Going in, I would have to consider it a good thing that there are no offensive power-houses in the NFC West.

  29. By Aaron on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    Scott H – It’s easy for fans to jump to the wrong conclusions, I was just trying to keep this board level-headed. It’s too early to freak out over anything, let alone looking at last season from a skewed perspective.

    Even taking the 2009 post-season into account, we tied for 4th (out of 12 teams) in sacks with 5 (one of which was credited to Michael Adams from our secondary). We tied for 3rd in forced fumbles with 3 (again, one of which credit to Adams). Take that play from our secondary away, and we aren’t in the top half for the playoffs for stats that relate to our front line. Our secondary wasn’t necessarily the weakest link, especially taking the injuries they had into account and the fact that the Packers and the Saints were two of the best passing teams in the league all year long.

    You also mentioned our 2009 post-season defense as “playing their best” during our “dominant run to the Super Bowl”. Not overly true either – we gave up 118 points (worst in the playoffs by 33 points) for an average of 29.5 points per game (worst in the playoffs). It took one of our best drives of the year at the end of the game to beat the Falcons by 6 points. Yes, we dominated Carolina. We beat the Eagles by 7 points, but again it took a great (and to some extent lucky) defensive stand at the end of the game to stop the Eagles from scoring. I’m not sure you can call our 2008 Super Bowl run “dominant”.

    I don’t mean to say these things to be rude or a jerk, because there’s only so much of a story the numbers tell too. I only say it because I don’t see any reason for fans, outside of Warner retiring, to think that we are any worse off this year than we were the last 2 years. All the reasons I keep hearing, when people truly look at the picture, usually aren’t true and are just emotional statements. Just enjoy the offseason, because no matter how much fun every season is – sometimes it’s nice for us to have an offseason too haha.

  30. By card62 on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

    What we need for our defense to improve in 2010 from 2009 and 2008

    1) Pray our starting CBs do not get injured this year.

    2) Hope Porter can teach our young pups how to get after the qb and hit everything that moves.
    3) Our young players including rookies must contribute this year.
    4) Michigan Men must step up on defense Watson & Branch like Breaston has on offense.
    5) Did I mention pray our starting CBs do not get injured this year.
    Go Cards ! Come on September.

  31. By Peter in Canada on Jun 16, 2010 | Reply

    Darren – I disagree with your response to John. I have seen Baggs and he is an excellent pass rusher. He should get a spot on the roster and be used in passing situations. In the CFL with smaller rosters some starters have to double on special teams. I can’t say for certain but I am reasonably sure he must have seen service on special teams. That said I really enjoy your blog and I hope you have a pleasant two weeks.

  32. By itsjustmeagain on Jun 16, 2010 | Reply

    scott you none of that was true for packers game, well DRC got bangged up in first quarter of packers game week 17, matt ware was already out, and it was back up micheal adams that was burned all game long. no excuses but a week 3 bye and bagged up were factors. the bye is later in the season this year.
    I think the cards secondary will be better this year.

  33. By Scott H on Jun 16, 2010 | Reply

    Aaron –
    I must say, I am enjoying the dialogue! No, I’m not freaking out, nor am I taking offense to anything you’re saying. Yeah, there’s only so much value to looking back to what has been. But I stand by my statement that the Cards’ run to the Super Bowl was dominant, particularly in regard to how the defense stepped up to play at a level that very few people would have expected. In consecutive weeks, they shut down ( and I mean SHUT DOWN ) the 2nd and 3rd best rushing attacks in the NFL, they led the playoff field in takeaways, they registered a safety in two different games, and Dockett tied a SB record with 3 sacks during that game. This was NOT the team that people were expecting after those late-season blow-outs against the Eagles, Vikings, and Patriots. The Cardinals , that year, were very similar to what the Giants had been the year before – a team that was nothing special during the regular season but caught fire and played its best and most consistent football during the post-season. The Giants rode it all the way. The Cards….well, not quite. But I have NO complaints because I enjoyed the ride. There’s definitely something to be said for playing your best football at the right time. It happened for the Cardinals in 2008. It did not happen in 2009. That is my humble opinion but I don’t think it’s “emotional” or a “skewered perspective.”

  34. By TucsonTim on Jun 16, 2010 | Reply

    Baggs the sac leader of the CFL goes to the LB depleated Cards and might not make the team. Things that make you go hummmmm

  35. By Mr. Know It All on Jun 17, 2010 | Reply

    One difference between 08 and 09 playoff Cards D was takeaways.

    Another over looked is the Cards offense would score quickly most of the time.

    Factor in 3 and outs, catches run out of bounds, incompletions, penalties and turnovers tipping the balance of time of possession to the opponent. The Cards D was fatigued late in the Super Bowl b/c they were on the field most of the game.

    If the Cards O can control more clock with a balanced attack and if the Cards D gets rid of the Bend but Dont Break (passive) and replaces it with a (Agressive) Blitz early and often from anywhere shut em down in your face, force turnovers style, this team will surprise.

  36. By Scott H on Jun 17, 2010 | Reply

    itsjustmeagain –

    I hear you. No doubt, we are all on the same team! And I’m all in, no matter what! I’ve been on board since the mid 1970’s ( oddly enough, just AFTER the Cardinals had just had a run of consecutive NFC East titles…how’s that for bad timing??? ) and I’m on board for life. Besides, with a 3rd consecutive NFC West title there for the taking, this is NOT the time to think about jumping off! This is what I stuck around for during all those lousy years of going nowhere.

  37. By aaaaudio on Jun 19, 2010 | Reply

    this actually sounds pretty good. You can’t afford to have super stars at every position but there is alot of potential here. The D Line has dept for rotation and our secondary seems pretty awesome. Two out of four LB’s maybe three I trust. Gettin excited for the new season and the Leinart era. I feel with this schedule we should have a great chance at 10-6 again.

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