The rookies and their impact

Posted by Darren Urban on July 7, 2011 – 11:30 am

So’s K.C. Joyner — the  “Football Scientist” — wrote an Insider article about No. 1 pick Patrick Peterson and the possibility he could bring the Cards’ secondary elite status this season. Joyner uses football metrics (fancy stats) to prove his point. He compares the Cards’ move to that of Bill Walsh and the 49ers back in 1981 when they added future star Ronnie Lott.

“This combination of traits helped the 49ers pass defense improve to top-five rankings in passer rating allowed, passing yards per attempt (YPA), passing yards allowed and interceptions in the 1981 campaign, all of which were key elements in San Francisco’s Super Bowl run that season,” Joyner writes.

“Fast forward to this year’s draft. It’s very hard to project any draft pick to be as impactful as Lott — who was a star at cornerback before he was eventually shifted to safety — but Whisenhunt and the Cardinals’ brain trust may have had the same idea in mind when they drafted LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 pick.”

Joyner also writes “It may sound hard to believe given how bad Arizona’s pass defense statistics were last year, but the metrics show that the addition of Peterson and an achievable turnaround by former Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could give the Cardinals a truly elite secondary.”

Of course, that would be huge for the Cards if Peterson indeed did so (while noting DRC also has to up his play). But it also got me wondering about the entire rookie class. The way coach Ken Whisenhunt likes to break in rookies, there is usually a waiting period for them to make a large impact. Add in the complete loss of the offseason — so that this rookie class with have absolutely zero idea about life in the NFL and what this coaching staff expects until we are two weeks away from an actual preseason game — and you have to think the learning curve will be that much steeper.

Peterson, of course, should get a chance to play early. But with DRC and Greg Toler, there doesn’t have to be a rush into the starting lineup. The Cards can afford to pick-and-choose his spots (which may, again, slow down that scenario Joyner envisions). The same goes for second-round running back Ryan Williams, since the Cards obviously have running backs already in place — even if one of the guys already on the roster isn’t there once the season begins, which remains a possibility.

Interestingly, it’s the next four picks that really could be the ones to watch, depending on how free agency turns out. Third-round tight end Rob Housler is a pass-catching piece the Cards could use right away, if he can quickly assimilate. Fourth-round outside linebacker Sam Acho will have to learn the position, but given the Cards’ need for pass rushers and the ability to spot-play such guys, he too could be used early. And the Cards will probably carry only one fullback, so if fifth-rounder Anthony Sherman is the guy, he’ll have to be the blocker right out of the gate. Meanwhile, sixth-round linebacker Quan Sturdivant will find that there is playing time to be had in the middle — again, if he can quickly learn on the job.

(Sixth-round DL David Carter and seventh-round WR DeMarco Sampson, to me, are depth at best and will be fighting just to get on the roster.)

Until these guys get on the field, it’s always easy to be optimistic what they can add right away. History shows the free agents the Cards bring it — whomever they will be — will be more important, one way or the other, at first. That may just be underscored with this absent offseason.

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27 Responses to “The rookies and their impact”

  1. By D on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    We’ll see Peterson start in special teams right away for sure and Williams will get touches because it’s easier for a rb to play right away and especially if Beanie or Tim are not on the opening day roster
    These players represent speed and this team needs more of that

  2. By AndyStandsUp on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    I don’t see Demon Peterson unseating Toler, at least at the start, nor taking over KR/PR responsibilities from LaRuSH or Roberts. Maybe after the bye week.
    With the other rookies, you have to look at the depth in front of them. Barring injuries or FA acquisitions you’d have to think Sturdivant has better chance of playing inside linebacker than fullback Sherman beating out Ali, Broughton and Mauia.
    Of course, retirements, trades and /or cuts could also be a factor. Darren, any more word/opinion on whether Patrick,Spach,Hayes,Porter or Wright plays next season for the Cards?

  3. By Darren Urban on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    AndyStands —

    RE: Coming back

    There has been nothing said from those sides or from the team. My opinion remains unchanged for those five:
    Patrick — longshot, depending on FA
    Spach — Better chance than Patrick
    Hayes — cut
    Porter — Probably needs to restructure contract to stay
    Wright — probably retires

  4. By Pete on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    People shouldn’t forget that the 49ers also drafted Eric Wright that year who also started in their secondary.

  5. By tom on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply


    im gonna be mad if whiz doesnt play pp right away… i get the taking rookies slow but not when they are top 10 picks in my opinion. i think you need to get them in there quick and see if you have a dominant rookie player who looks to become a superstar… you dont want that kind of “potential impact” sitting on the bench. if they struggle bring them on slow but at least in the beginning play them and see what you got. what if pp becomes the suh of secondary players or like an eric berry type secondary rookie… you dont want that on the bench just for morales not to mention the money they make… how do you feel darren?

  6. By Darren Urban on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Tom —

    RE: Playing versus waiting

    I want to see him on the practice field first. If he is holding his own, then I don’t see the reason to keep him on the sideline just because he is a rookie. But I don’t see why he “has” to play just because he is the fifth overall pick either.

  7. By Scott H on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Looking forward to seeing this kid play this season! Also looking forward to seeing a TE get involved in the offense. Of course, right now, it would just be nice to see everyone getting on the damn practice field for real…

  8. By Bernardo on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Peterson can most def beat out Roberts for PR before the bye week!and sherman has a great chance at starting after the bye.. all our full backs on th e DC are horrible.

  9. By CardsFan on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Darren, with one of Peterson’s strengths being as a returner, is there any chance that LSH is the odd man out of the RB group, potentially as part of a trade for Kolb? I’ve seen reports that the Eagles are looking for a Sproles-like back to complement McCoy, and he might fit the “surprise” that was tweeted about (as no one is talking about him as a possibility, anyhow). LSH and a 2nd or 3rd rounder in 2012 might just fit what the Eagles are looking for.

  10. By Darren Urban on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    CardsFan —

    RE: Hyphen

    I like your connect-the-dots thinking. I wouldn’t think LSH would go anywhere, but you never know.

  11. By ross on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Darren, if a rb does go, who would be the most likely in your opinion?

  12. By Darren Urban on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    Ross —

    RE: RB leaving

    I just don’t know right now. Like I mentioned before, I’m not sure any go.

  13. By Fatdog on Jul 7, 2011 | Reply

    If the Cards cut Hayes I hope they can sign Paul Posluszny or Kevin Burnett after those two pickens are slim.

  14. By Chris on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    I really hope the FO is not relying on Porter/Acho/Haggans/Schofield to start the season at OLB. While Schofield may be able to help the pass rush, Porter was awful last year, and we need to find a player in FA who can get to the QB.

    Further, if we’re not adding a significant piece at ILB as well, our defense is in trouble. Relying on the current group of Washington (who has potential but lots of room to grow) and Lenon, (decent backup, below average starter) coupled with a 6th rounder seems like a recipe for disaster.

    Considering we’re running a 3-4, we better improve our LB situation significantly, or we’ll be near the bottom of all defensive metrics again, and on the outside looking in RE: playoffs.

  15. By Mike Ellingboe on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply


    Agree the LB corp could use some additions, but classifying Lenon as a “decent backup, below average starter” seems a little harsh for a guy who started all 16 games and had 125 total tackles.

  16. By Jzoully on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    One concern is on the mind of the fan, what happens to the offensive line? No drafted lineman (and I can see why because of Herman Johnson), and I really hope that free agency brings in a few new pieces to the equation. My question is if any free agent offensive line are signed for the Cardinals, who are some canidates? (Matt Light, Trai Essex, Willie Collon, etc.)

  17. By Darren Urban on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    Jzoully —

    RE: OLinemen

    I wish I could tell you. I don’t know who they might be targeting.

  18. By Ernie on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    Darren, off the subject a bit, a few of us here are womdering. maybe you know the answer. On kevin kolb, where do you think he was rated on the cardinals draft board in 2007?

  19. By Darren Urban on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    Ernie —

    RE: Kolb rating

    I don’t know where exactly, but I do know they thought highly of him.

  20. By chris on Jul 8, 2011 | Reply

    i dont think getting rid of Hyphen would be a good idea. i mean lets say that you have Peterson and Hyphen back there for a kick off. who does the team kick it too? its one of those choose your poison. i think the RB’s would be Hightower, Wells, Hyphen, and Williams. I am also one of the few or maybe the only one that thinks the cards should keep Porter atleast for one more year. He is older and was forced to play more downs then he should have last year. this year he could be that second guy to come in and still have that leadership there. and with TE i think we keep Spach and go after Zach Miller in FA.

  21. By brad oneill on Jul 9, 2011 | Reply

    Chris come on man. Lenon was great last year. Porter was not horrible he just didn’t quite work in the system last year. I think he will probably be considerably more effective under the new coordinator and with a defense that can get off the field on occasion.

  22. By modavaysean on Jul 9, 2011 | Reply

    @chris Porter is due to make starter type $$$ so if he wants to stay and be a back up he needs to agree to pay cut or beat it . Ya he would be a good back up and a great tutor for the young OLB’s but we aint giving him that kind of $$$ to do that . Hightower is a FA and with as many drops he has made im not sure he will be back . That would make it Beanie, Ryan, then Hyphen . Hyphens size will make him a situational guy no matter what . Also Raiders are losing Namdi, Huff, and Gallery . Do you really think that they don’t plan on giving Zach a new contract ? Zach won’t be available but Boss will . We are going to have to start FA by signing some big time Oline help if we want to get any QB worth getting . BC no QB worth signing will sign if they are afraid they will spend the whole season on there back or in IR .

  23. By cdubbbbbb on Jul 9, 2011 | Reply

    I think we need to trade a rb, either hightower or beanie, whoever our FO feels is movable. Williams is gonna be a force to reckin with. I’m excited about him, check his college stats ( something like 1200yds 22td’s) and u might be too. He will be a star, as will PP21, we need to get these guys on the feild ASAP! assuming they prove themselves on the practice field first.

  24. By TBru on Jul 10, 2011 | Reply

    Lockout over yet?

    Than not much of an impact

  25. By Scott H on Jul 10, 2011 | Reply

    chris –

    Would love to see a guy like Zach Miller here, too. But it wouldn’t matter if the play calling stayed the same. NO TEAM in the NFL makes a TE disappear like the Cardinals have for the past several years! Besides, they just drafted a TE in the 3rd round ( yes? ), so…I don’t think anyTE’s are coming here via FA.

  26. By Chris Freeman on Jul 11, 2011 | Reply

    Darren – back to the running back question, i believe it will be Beanie Wells to go, he has not lived up to the first round tag that is bestowed on him, always has ran with a stiff back and doesnt get low, injuries have and will slow him down, and I was one of the happy to get Beanie, but again Hightower is great value and all around back LSH adds additional value as an option back and with Williams, I believe arizona is trying to be a faster all around team and they may try to cut losses while they can.

  27. By Chris Freeman on Jul 11, 2011 | Reply

    speaking about rookies, arizona will have a great defense, looking at stats last year amoung rookie defenders when it comes to D lineman D. Williams qualified 4th ( 3rd overall DT behind T. ALualu and Suh) D. Washington third best rookie Line backer an obrien schofield rankd 19; the only player to have anywhere near a full season of starting was DE washington

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