The Arizona Cardinals made several roster moves in the past couple of days including cutting backup linebacker and special teams ace Ali Highsmith. Filling Highsmith roster spot and the void left by Matt Ware's injury is Hamza Abdullah. Abdullah could end up splitting time with rookie Rashad Johnson as the team's nickel safety and will also play a role on special teams. Abdullah was selected in the seventh round (231st overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spent the first couple of months of the 2005 season on their practice squad before being signed to the active roster by the Denver Broncos. During the remainder of the 2005 season and throughout the 2006 season he played primarily on special teams before starting the final eight games of the 2007 season. During that eight game stretch he logged 37 tackles and two passes defended while also forcing two fumbles.
Heading into the 2008 season Abdullah looked on the verge of a breakout season. He entered training camp as the starter at strong safety and despite a nagging groin injury he emerged from camp as the starter, at least according to the team's first official depth chart that year. With that in mind, it was a surprise when the Broncos cut Abdullah just one month later. There was some talk that his inability to stay healthy might have lead to the release and even some grumblings that his religious beliefs might have been a factor (read the comments here). Abdullah was signed by the Browns during the 08 season but never saw the field and was cut during this year's training camp after yet another injury.
What we can actually expect from Hamza Abdullah: From everything I've read so far Abdullah sounds like a typical backup strong safety. He's capable of laying a massive hit on the ball carrier or receiver but will take bad angles at times and will completely whiff on occasion when he lowers his head. He's not much of a defender against the pass, in man or zone coverage, and could turn into a major liability if forced into an every down role. Basically Abdullah sounds quite a bit like ROTB whipping boy Aaron Francisco, decent special teams player and poor defender.
In a perfect world, I'd imagine that Whisenhunt hopes that Adrian Wilson stays healthy and Rashad Johnson is able to outperform Abdullah when the defense switches to nickel and/or dime situations. Wilson is obviously a premier strong safety but with the absence of Ware they were left with no real backup candidate. Prior to this move, and perhaps even after, if Wilson were to go down I'd have to think that Rolle would move over to strong safety and Johnson would step into the starting free safety role. While it's bad enough to break in two new starters at the same time it's also worth noting that in this scenario the team would probably be forced to move Ralph Brown, or another corner, into the nickel safety or simply not use more than two safeties. Adbullah at least gives them another warm body at the safety position and, while his limitations may outweigh his abilities, he does have experience playing in this league. I highly doubt he'll be around after this season but these are the kind of band-aid fixes that teams have to make when injuries strike late in the season. Thoughts?