We'll round out the defense today today with this breakdown of the current crop of corner backs. Considering that the pass defense was among the worst in the league last season, an improvement from this group could be the difference between another mediocre season and the post season. The same starters return but all eyes will be on a promising first round pick. Is a year of added experience and a rookie enough to get this unit over the hump though?
Roderick Hood: Hood signed a five year, $15 million dollar deal to come to Arizona in 2007, after four seasons in Philly. The former undrafted free agent stepped into his first season as a starter and posted career highs in nearly every category including tackles, passes defended and interceptions. He was the sixth most targeted corner in the league last year and ranked as the 17th most successful, according to Pro Football Prospectus. He's got solid cover skills and is a good enough tackler to be adequate in run support. Hood has enough size (5'11 198), speed and quickness to match up with most receivers in the league and his instincts are improving. He'll turn 27 midway through the season but with less than 30 career starts, we still haven't seen his best football yet.
Eric Green: Green's first full season as a starter produced.....mixed results at best. He's been slowed by injuries throughout his career and 2007 was no different. He missed the final 5 games of the season with a torn groin. He possesses the physical skills to be a decent player but has yet to develop the football instincts or consistency necessary to remain a starter. He's only managed one interception in 24 career starts and his game didn't seem to improve in 2007. After averaging just over one pass defense per start in 2006 (9 PD in 8 starts), he struggled in 2007 with just 8 passes defended in 11 starts. Green knows the situation though, this could be his last chance to prove he's a quality starter. He'll be a free agent after this season and the Cardinals have already drafted his replacement so he'll have every motivation to have a career year. Considering that he just turned 26 and has less than 25 career starts, he could be on the verge of putting it all together.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: The good news for DRC is that he won't be pushed to start by opening day or even by mid-season. The goal from him this season is just to progress and gain as much experience as necessary. While he may have had the highest ceiling of any corner in the draft, he's not 'NFL ready' by any means.
He's working to add bulk to his slender frame (6'1 184) but he'll also to get stronger in order to handle physical receivers. His athleticism is second to none though and if he can handle the physical demands of the game, he could be a star much quicker than expected. He'll likely start the season as the nickel corner but if Green's game doesn't improve, DRC could take over before long.
Ralph Brown: Brown is entering his ninth season, second with the Cardinals, and he's a decent backup. He lacks the athleticism that you normally look for in a corner but he's developed some veteran savvy. He has good body control and decent instincts when the balls in the air. He's also a willing tackler and capable of the big hit (second on the team with forced three fumbles in 2007). He's a force on special teams and is best suited in that role.
Michael Adams: Adams is a relatively unknown commodity. He's vastly undersized (5'8 178) and inconsistent, but that's not uncommon for an undrafted free agent in his second season. He's a competitor though and at just 23 years old, he could develop into an adequate backup and contribute on special teams. He played in 7 games last season after injuries ravaged the secondary and finished with 10 tackles and a pass defended.
Marcus Brown: Brown is another undrafted free agent from a small D-1AA school but that's pretty much where the similarities between him and Adams end. Brown's got the size (6'1 200) and athletic ability (4.42 forty, 43 1/2 inch vertical) to play in this league and is versatile enough to contribute in several different areas. He led McNeese State in interceptions his senior season and was also used on punt returns at times. With the lack of depth at corner, Brown might be able to make the opening day roster if he can outperform Adams.
The ultimate success or failure of the cornerback position could simply come down to health. If they can make it through the season with Hood, Green and DRC as the top 3 (in some order), then it has the potential to be a solid group, but injuries could cause major problems. Any significant injury to the top three could drag Antrel Rolle out of the free safety spot and the entire secondary would have to be reshuffled. Thoughts? Is this a solid group or just a house of cards that'll crumble eventually? How many games does DRC start, if any at all?