Haley Is Calling the Shots, Breaston MVP

Steve Breaston (Roy Dabner/AP)

When he took the top coaching job with the Cardinals a year ago, Ken Whisenhunt promised that he would one day hand the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Todd Haley. And that's what he plans to do for the upcoming season. In fact, Whisenhunt disclosed Thursday (May 22) to The Arizona Republic that Haley called plays in the latter half of 2007, too.

The reason for the change is twofold. First, Whisenhunt feels a responsibility to do it. He appreciated the fact that Bill Cowher promoted him to offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and gave him the chance to call plays for three years.

Without that opportunity, Whisenhunt probably wouldn't have become a head coach. Second, Whisenhunt will have more time to devote to managing the game and making decisions.

"So I don't use all the timeouts in the first half and don't have any at the end," Whisenhunt said, jokingly. "I think I'll feel a lot more comfortable this year having gone through it."

Whisenhunt won't completely step away from the play-calling responsibility. He's an offensive coach, and calling plays is addictive. Whisenhunt won't be far away from Haley and will make suggestions.

For Haley, the move is another boost to his career. He turned down a chance to interview for the Dolphins' job in January, and the Cardinals gave him a new three-year contract worth around $1 million a year. Assuming play-calling responsibility will help him in his pursuit of a head coaching job, provided the Cardinals are successful.

"I'm obviously excited about it," Haley said. "That's what you do the job for. You prepare all week, design the game plan and when you get to game day, it makes it that much more fulfilling to that. It's obviously as close as you can get to the game.

"It puts a little heat on you and increases the target on your back, but I relish the pressure of that and look forward to it."

Haley called plays late last year as the offense began to find its stride. The Cardinals finished 12th in total offense and were fifth in scoring. Haley's biggest challenge this year

is to improve upon a running game that ranked 29th in the NFL.

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Steve Breaston has been the most valuable player of the offseason. He's added weight and muscle, and even more, he's making a standout play in nearly every practice. The team is looking for a third receiver, and Breaston appears to be intent on proving he's much more than just a punt and kick returner.

--Receiver Anquan Boldin and defensive end Darnell Dockett, both of whom are represented by Drew Rosenhaus, didn't attend the first week of voluntary camp. Both want new contracts.

"I'm excited about the guys who are, (here)," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I would be less than honest if I said if I wasn't disappointed that Anquan and Darnell weren't here. But once again, these are voluntary."

--Center Al Johnson recently had surgery on his left knee to clean it out, Whisenhunt said. Johnson had some pain and swelling and elected to get the problem taken care of before camp. He should be ready to go when camp opens in July.

--Cardinals receiver Ahmad Merritt took part in voluntary practices, his first work on the field since suffering a dislocated ankle and fractured leg in a preseason game last August. "It feels good, man," he said. "I'm a little rusty."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Any time you have a good player...he contributes not in just the playing but in other areas. Whether it's what he sees or even advice. That's why we want those guys here and really believe so much in the team continuity aspect." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the absence of Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett at the team's voluntary workouts.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Karlos Dansby (tendered at $8.065M; signed tender April 17).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS --DL Rodney Bailey has the ability to play inside and out adds to his value.
--P Mitch Berger didn't secure the job in the final weeks of '07.
--QB Tim Hasselbeck is probably out of the picture after the addition of Brian St. Pierre.
--S Bhawoh Jue could provide depth.
--DT Ross Kolodziej was banged up last year, and he probably won't return.
--QB Tim Rattay is a solid backup but is trying to seek a No. 2 job elsewhere.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--TE Tim Euhus (not tendered as RFA) is average at best and could return as a camp body.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--CB Michael Adams: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Clark Haggans: UFA Steelers; $1.5M/1 yr, SB unknown.
--P Dirk Johnson: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Travis LaBoy: UFA Titans; $22M/5 yrs, $7.5M guaranteed.
--WR Jamaica Rector: ERFA;

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