Jul. 28, 2012; Flagstaff, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes (25) reacts during training camp practice on the campus of Northern Arizona University. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: How Will Kerry Rhodes Loss Affect Them?

Although Kerry Rhodes did not make the Pro Bowl last season, he played like a Pro Bowler. In the second year of former defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s system, Rhodes quietly became one of the best players last year in Horton’s’ 3-4 defense; for that matter, one of the best players at his position (free safety) in the NFL.

Having been lost in the discussion (last season) because of the likes of Patrick Peterson, Darrel Washington, Calais Campbell, and Darnell Docket amongst others; Rhodes was one of the best players on the Cardinal defense last season.

For that reason, veteran free safety Rhodes will be dearly missed this year in the Redbirds defense. You cannot deny his experience and his veteran leadership he had last season. His veteran leadership and his experience will be dearly missed this season.

Having said that, we really do not know how he would mesh or fit in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles system and now we will obviously never know. As GM Steve Keim and the rest of the Cardinals upper management made the tough decision during the off-season not to bring him back for the 2013 season and beyond.

From the outside looking in, we do not know the real reason for the decision to let him go. However, from a fans perspective, all we can do is trust or believe that it was the correct decision.

Last year, the Redbirds defense became one of the better defenses in the NFL. Now we will never get to see how much better they could have been with the likes of Ray Horton (in charge of the defense) and Kerry Rhodes in the backfield. We will never get to see how much better they could have been if they would have had anything remotely close to an NFL offense to keep the D off the field more often.

In other words, now that the Redbirds have a new coaching staff on board, we will never get to find out how good the Horton’ defense could have been with any kind of offense and the same goes for free safety Kerry Rhodes.

With Rhodes gone and the Horton’ regime gone we will never be able to see what could have been. We will also never get to see how Rhodes would have fit in new D coordinator Bowles’ scheme.

From my perspective, I believe new GM Keim, new head coach Bruce Arians and new defensive coordinator Bowles must have felt free safety Rhodes was not a good fit in their new regime and that is why they let him go. Or should I say, that is why they were not willing to resign him nor pay him what he felt he deserves.

Therefore, as good as Rhodes was in the Horton’ system, does not always translate successfully in someone else’s regime. From a fan perspective or on the outside looking in, I believe they probably wanted new blood in their defensive back field who could help mentor the younger players. Someone who already new Bowles system and someone they felt would be a better fit in the new scheme.

I also believe management would have still kept him for the right price but did not want to over pay someone who perhaps would not be a perfect schematic fit and perhaps not be able to mentor the younger players.

But please do not misunderstand me here. I am not trying to say Rhodes would not be a good mentor per say.  But as it pertains to knowledge of Bowles defense, he would not be beneficial (available) in mentoring the younger players this year because (if he was still on the team) he would’ve needed to learn the new scheme as well. Therefore, he couldn’t or wouldn’t have the ability (this year) to help the youngsters catch up to speed, so to speak.

I believe the signing of veteran free/strong safety Yeremiah Bell was signed this off-season to do just that. That is, to provide veteran guidance (leadership) for the young players. Bell has strong ties to Bowles from his days with the Miami Dolphins.

Bell will be able to step right in and mentor the young free/strong safeties, because of his knowledge of the defense. Bell also has great character on and off the field and is an extremely hard worker. This should be great for the younger players.

Finally, there is no doubt Kerry Rhodes will be dearly missed. His talent, leadership and his experience will be dearly missed. However, I do trust in upper management’s decision to let him go.

With Yeremiah Bell now in the fold along with the abundance of new young talent on the roster makes for an interesting and exciting season. It truly will be interesting to see how Bowles will piece things together in his new scheme.

It will also be interesting to see how Bowles will use his new talent at the safety position. It will also be very interesting to see what kind of defense he ends up putting in place on the field. Will it be primarily a 3-4 or a 4-3? Or will it perhaps be a combination of the two.  Reading the tea leaves tells me that they will slowly merge in to the 4-3 defense.  To further prove my point, 4-3 defensive end John Abraham (yesterday) was just signed to a two-year deal to play for the Cardinals.

This further tells me Bowles is looking to merge into a 4-3 defense. Abraham has always played a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment throughout his career.  He is currently listed as an outside linebacker on the Cardinals roster, although (in my opinion) he will probably be playing as a situational pass rusher; as well as in 4-3 schematic (looks) situations.  Time will tell if they do in fact change into a 4-3 or stay with the 3-4 and just use Abraham in key 3rd down pass rush situations. We will get to find out soon, as training camp (practice) starts today.

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