D. Dockett & A. Smith (Harry How/Getty)
AZRedReport.com’s Amberly Richardson continues to rank the Cardinals top-49 players. Part V of this seven-part series takes a look at spots 21-15, a grouping that includes a veteran off-season addition, one of the Cardinals unhappy campers, the improving O-line members and more. Find out how the Cardinals shape up in this installment of the power rankings.
21. CB Roderick Hood (5’11, 198) should remain in his starting role next season despite the addition of first-round selection Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Hood’s five years of experience and consistency has a lot on the rookie. Hood manned a career-high 57 tackles last season as one of the most reliable members of last year’s banged up secondary.
20. DE Antonio Smith (6’4”, 282) will face the most competition starting his fifth season with the Cardinals. Despite his consistency, Smith could be given a run for his money by a handful of newcomers that include veterans Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans. Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema are the rookies looking to shake him off the top.
19. NT Gabe Watson (6’3”, 332) is going into his third season and coming off his first starting campaign. Watson was a fourth-round pick in 2006 and is outplaying his draft status. He more than doubled his tackles from his rookie year (16) to his sophomore season (34).
18. LG: Reggie Wells (6’4”, 318) was the Cardinals first pick in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft (177th overall). He’s started in all 16 games for the last two seasons. The offensive line was the Cardinals’ most improved group, and they will be looking for dependable depth behind Wells moving forward.
17. LT Mike Gandy (6’4”, 308) enters his eight season and second with Arizona. He’s seen the most success in the past three years as a starter in all 16 games. Gandy was a big part of the Cardinals offensive line success last season. The unit allowed just 24 sacks, good for a league eighth-best. He is expected to sit atop the depth chart this year, but he has a reliable backup of Elton Brown for insurance.
16. OLB Travis LaBoy (6’3”, 260) has a lot to live up to this year. The Cardinals will rely on LaBoy to effortlessly fill the gap Calvin Pace’s departure left. He is best suited for the 3-4 scheme, is relentless on his attack and should be Arizona’s most prominent new addition. He is heading into his fifth season. LaBoy has spent his entire career with the Tennessee Titans. He had career-bests in 2005, when he registered 41 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
15. DE Darnell Dockett (6’4”, 290) is running the Anquan Boldin track at the moment. Both are under contract, but think that their increasing notoriety should yield more cash flow. While neither took part in organized team activities, Dockett’s demands are being taken less seriously.
Dockett joined Larry Fitzgerald at the Pro Bowl last year, but his one breakout season won’t have the Cardinals babying him. Dockett compiled career-highs with 58 tackles and nine sacks. Entering his fifth season, he has missed only one start. The Cardinals hope that all the off-the-field shenanigans are put to rest come training camp. Arizona’s defensive front seven needs Dockett on board, not just present.
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.