Rashad Johnson (Getty)
Safety Matt Ware is out for the season after suffering a sprained right knee Monday night in San Francisco. This seemingly spells trouble for a Cardinals’ defense that is already susceptible to the pass. Ware’s replacement, rookie Rashad Johnson, will certainly feel the pressure in the coming weeks.
After putting Matt Ware on injured reserve for the rest of the season, the Cardinals find themselves dangerously thin at the safety position with only three true safeties. If Arizona can keep starters Antrel Rolle and Adrian Wilson healthy, the secondary can survive, but an injury to either would be devastating.
Ware has never been a star during his six years in the NFL, but he has found a niche as a solid contributor on Arizona’s special teams and in the defense’s dime package.
Coach Ken Wisenhunt will now turn to this year’s third-round pick, rookie Rashad Johnson. The former-Alabama standout has played primarily on special teams thus far, piling up just seven tackles on the season.
Johnson is a raw talent at this point in his career. He has yet to progress to the point coaches had hoped for. With that being said, Johnson is extremely athletic and instinctive. Let’s not forget that the Cardinals were comfortable enough with Johnson that they released veteran Aaron Francisco before the season.
The Cardinals would be much more scared if they had to thrust Johnson into a starting role, but since he will only be operating in the dime defense, the team can get by.
And aiding Johnson in his first significant stint on defense is a matchup against the Detroit Lions this weekend. The Lions possess the league’s 20th ranked pass defense. Daunte Culpepper is likely to start for Matthew Stafford, and their biggest threat, Calvin Johnson, is banged up. This week’s game against Detroit is the perfect opportunity for Johnson to get acclimated to his new role. A battle against St. Louis the following week will be a nice treat as well.
But after that it’s on for Arizona and Johnson. They have a tough matchup against Green Bay, and the playoffs will follow shortly thereafter. These next few weeks are essential for Johnson if he wants to contribute in the postseason. If Johnson struggles, the team can turn to Ralph Brown, who will work as an inside corner along with Michael Adams.
Johnson has earned his chance, and now he gets to show what he’s got.