Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals cornerback unit is one of the most improved groups on the field. First-round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played an integral role in the upgrade. He sent Eric Green packing, and he led the rookies in interceptions and erased any doubts that stemmed from his small school status. Greg Toler looks to do the same. Here is a look at the vital position.
The Cardinals turned an ailing cornerbacks unit into one of its most progressive squads on the roster. Their first-round investment, otherwise known as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is a big reason why. Prior to picking up the speedy corner, the Cardinals had not selected a corner via the draft since the 2005 class. That year, the Cardinals selected Antrel Rolle in the first round and Eric Green in the third.
Rolle, now a safety, is a major part of the Cardinals secondary, while Rodgers-Cromartie replaced Green on the depth chart and sent Green packing to the Miami Dolphins. Before the 2005 duo, it was 2001 when the Cardinals last spent picks on the secondary.
The once de-valued cornerback position is now center stage. A good ball club has no other choice. Arizona fell into the second half of the league in “passes against.” But the year prior, they ranked sixth with teams going straight after the Cardinals secondary. Going forward, the opposition will challenge the Cardinals corners. The loss of Antonio Smith will test the pass rushers up front, which could give the cornerbacks a bigger task than last year.
Rodgers-Cromartie boasts blazing speed, and he proved his ability to be physical during his rookie campaign. Rodgers-Cromartie registered 42 tackles (ninth among rookie cornerbacks). He made his stamp on the interception game with four regular season picks and two in the postseason, tied for 13th best in the league among defensive backs and No. 1 among rookie DB’s.
Rodgers-Cromartie rode into the NFL on the coattail of his cousin Antonio Cromartie’s lead-leaguing interception season in 2007 with 10, but Cromartie sizzled out in 2008 and tied for 53rd among defensive backs with just a pair of picks.
SDBoltReport.com’s Michael Lombardo stated that Cromartie was routinely caught out of position and missed too many tackles last season. Rodgers-Cromartie’ was also spotted out of position on several occasions but for the sake of the case for Rodgers-Cromartie, as well as his numerous good plays done the stretch, it will be chalked up to rookie mistakes.
Opposite of Rodgers-Cromartie will be Bryant McFadden who was the best cornerback available in free agency. The McFadden acquisition didn’t scream the Cardinals typical bargain shopping approach to free agency, but his $10 million two-year contract is worth every penny. He spent the last four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and started in at least 10 games each year. McFadden is ready to be a full-time starter with Arizona.
He was part of the Steelers secondary that allowed less yards per game than any other team in the league.
Rookie Greg Toler out of St. Paul’s College also enters the mix. His small school and relatively unknown status places the project label on him. But his former defensive back coach and defensive coordinator says otherwise.
Michael Adams makes his return to the desert. He and veteran Ralph Brown are the Cardinals top backups. Brown is as nice of guy as any and can put his game into high-gear in clutch situations. In the postseason, he earned four tackles, two interceptions and two passes defended. The Cardinals re-signed him for one year with a $745, 000 salary.