As much pub as the Arizona offense receives, the defense should be given some love as well. Coming off a less than impressive season of giving up 399 points, the defense looks good upfront again, with some question marks in the secondary.
Defensive Line: Bertrand Berry, Alan Branch, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Kenny Iwebema, Travis LaBoy, Bryan Robinson, Antonio Smith. This is probably the deepest part of the defense. Campbell, the rookie from Miami is quite impressive and for me to admit someone from the University of Miami is impressive, that must mean something. He will be a pro-bowler for years to come. Berry will play backup for now. I just pray he can make it through a 16 game season without getting injured. LaBoy also looks to be an impressive addition to the team. Dockett needs to continue to work on his penalties. I know I’ve brought that up before, but I can’t stress that enough. His penalties hurt us in the past.
Linebackers: Monty Beisel, Karlos Dansby, Clark Haggans, Gerald Hayes, Ali Highsmith, Chike Okeafor. This is a group I really like. Dansby is one of my favorite players on defense because he plays hard, not that the other don’t, however Dansby is a special talent that is only going to get better and better. Hayes has become a much better player than I ever expected him to be. I will be interested to see how the rookie Highsmith progresses.
Secondary: Ralph Brown, Oliver Celestin, Aaron Francisco, Eric Green, Rod Hood, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Antrel Rolle, Matt Ware, Adrian Wilson. WIlson is the pro-bowler of the bunch. Eric Green showed great improvement last season. The rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie I think will be a very good player. I was surprised with the effectiveness of Hood last season and look for more of the same this season. Obviously the pass defense does need to improve. They were torched in the preseason in three of the four games.
Special Teams Player: Nate Hodel, long snapper. Perhaps the most important player on the team. It will be imperative to get good snaps off on punts and field goal attempts. It could be the slight difference that causes the Cardinals to make the playoffs or not.
Kicker: Neil Rackers – Rackers struggled a couple of seasons ago and improved a little bit last season. I don’t think he’ll ever match again the season he had in 2005, however, he missed a couple of key kicks last season, including the missed field goal to lose the game in Washington, and then the missed chip shot against San Francisco that probably cost the Cardinals the playoffs in 2007. He missed an extra point in Kansas City in the preseason. That is not acceptable, preseason or not. He won’t make all his kicks, but let’s hope he makes the important ones.
Punter: DIrk Johnson – A new punter to the Cardinals. He played one game for Chicago last season, averaging 49 yards a kick in four punts. He has never had a kick blocked. His lifetime average is 41.7 yards.