The Arizona Cardinals wrapped up their four week stay in Flagstaff on Thursday, heading back to Glendale with a lot of things accomplished, but with a few lingering questions for Coach Whisenhunt to answer before the regular season kicks off on September 10 versus the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.
With two games remaining in the preseason, the coaching staff looks to solidify the starting line up by the end of this Saturday’s matchup against the San Diego Chargers. The starters will play the entire first half, and the third and fourth stringers will fight for the final roster positions with the remaining 30 minutes. Coach Whisenhunt’s goal is to have the starting 22 established so the first team units can have a full two weeks to practice together in order to become a more cohesive group. I think this is a great strategy as it gives the starters the breathing room they need going into the regular season and the time to refine their gameplan for the 49ers.
According to azcardinals.com the starting lineups are all but established, save a few positions in the secondary.
Eric Green and Rod Hood are set to start at CB, Antrel Rolle will back them up
This is the best move for the secondary. Rolle has been collecting flags like they were $1000 bills, effectively leading to scoring drives from both the Texans and the Raiders in the last two games. Green has shown definate improvement in his coverage skills since last season as well as an increase in his closing speed and tackling ability. While Hood has not looked spectacular, he has looked solid and made several good plays which have elevated him above Rolle for the starting job. If Antrel wants to get his starting job back, he will have to show he can cut out the mental mistakes that have plagued him over the past two seasons. No one doubts his physical talents, but those mental errors are too costly to the team and warrant his replacement. I hope he can pull it together and rebound well to get back into the starting line up.
OLBs Darryl Blackstock and Calvin Pace are still gunning for Okeafor’s spot
The defense is obviously still reeling from the loss of Chike Okeafor, last year’s team sack leader and emotional spark. Both Blackstock and Pace are looking to fill that gap, but it was tough to evaluate their performance in the game versus the Texans as the Cards played primarily a 4-3 defense. Blackstock has greater speed and quickness as he is a natural LB. Pace, a former first round selection at DT by the Cards, has the strength and toughness to compete on the outside. Personally, I’d like to see Blackstock win the job. He’s a natural fit at OLB, with the closing speed to be an effective force off of the edge as well as the instincts to play in pass coverage. I think Calvin Pace belongs in the DE spot, backing up Darnell Dockett and Cris Cooper.
Terrence Holt is all but set at the Free Safety position
Reports from camp are that free agent signee Terrance Holt will be written in as the team’s starting FS for week one. Back up Aaron Francisco will provide solid depth for the secondary as well as a great option for the special teams. Holt is the best option here. Although Francisco is the heavier hitter, Holt’s speed and athleticism are superior to Francisco’s and he gives the Cards the best fit along side Pro Bowl SS Adrian Wilson, his former college teammate at NC State. I have no doubt that Francisco can develop into a starting FS in this league, I just think he needs to improve his speed and coverage skills before he is ready.
So we head into the home stretch here, 16 days away from the season opener!! The players are ready, the coaches are ready, and this team is just inches away from being a complete unit. GO CARDS!!!