What Ken did right…

Ken Whisenhunt (Matt York/AP)

The Arizona Cardinals are in better shape going into the 2008 season than any other year in recent history. Ken Whisenhunt made successful strides in almost every phase on the field and in the locker room. Team expert Amberly Richardson breaks down Whisenhunt's best rookie accomplishments in this AZRedReport.com exclusive.

Brown Bagging It

Although there was a lot of behind the scenes work in obtaining Levi Brown, Whisenhunt gets the gold star for fully committing to building the offensive line that's plagued the Cardinals for so long.

By using the fifth-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Whisenhunt put his pledge on paper. Barring Brown's ankle sprain early in the season, he helped make the O-line move in a direction any football fan could like. The Cardinals finished ninth in the league in least amount of sacks allowed (24) and fifth for most passing yards (4,065).

Handcuffing Dansby

The Cardinals organization used the franchise tag on Karlos Dansby to buy more time in dealing with contract negotiations. Whisenhunt and Rod Graves consider him a core player and a prized one at that. Time is ticking down as the camps have until July 15 to reach a multiyear contract. If an agreement can't be made he is still in red through the 2008 season. He signed his one-year tender offer of a little more than $8 million in April when talks between the camps were at a stalemate.

The franchise tag decision was a wise one. As a result the Cardinals are building their defensive front seven in terms of strength, athleticism and continuity. Dansby finished the season third best in tackles (97) behind Gerald Hayes (98) and Calvin Pace (98).

Culture & Comfort

With one year of head coaching experience under his belt, Whisenhunt has established a level of comfort in his role and a culture within the franchise. As the popular sleeper pick of the NFC West each year, the Cardinals could make the idea possible. Whisenhunt came in with a plan and had the support from those in power. His ideas have gained enthusiasm from players and fans.

Whisenhunt feels more comfortable about the direction the Cardinals are going and what they are trying to get done.

Omitting Offensive-Minded

Typically an offensive coordinator turned head coach doesn't give up on his old ways. While the start of the season could be true for Whisenhunt, he relinquished his play calling duties to Todd Haley toward the end. By doing so, Whisenhunt has fully embraced his new role and can focus on the whole field.

Furthermore, Whisenhunt could have gone for a home-run back that he dreamed about in the first or second round, but opted for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and DE Calais Campbell, ending the draft in a 4 to 3 ratio with the defense coming up big.

Matt's The Main Man

Matt Leinart isn't Whisenhunt's guy. He didn't draft him, he didn't put "face of the franchise" label on him and he has a reliable veteran backup read to go. That said, one has to admire Whisenhunt's straight forward approach to naming Leinart the starting quarterback just days into the offseason.

Leinart has a lot to prove this year and so does Whisenhunt. Leinart needs to step up big to avoid being cut, and Whisenhunt needs to improve on an 8-8 record to give Arizona a winning season a decade in the making. The two are relying on each other more than any other pair in the franchise.

Kurt Warner did an admirable job stepping in for the injured Leinart, but it's the latter's team. Leinart needs a solid season to confirm it.

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