When linebacker Cody Brown was drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals last year, the assumption was that he'd come in as a situational pass rusher and eventually develop into a starter on the defense. After all, the Cardinals rarely started rookies and Ken Whisenhunt's preference to let them develop during their first 1-2 years in the league has worked flawlessly. However during last year's preseason, Brown suffered an injury - shredding several ligaments in his wrist - and was forced to the injured reserve. Rookie season over.
Brown will receive a fresh start in 2010 to prove that he can live up to his second round status. With the losses of Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor, and Karlos Dansby, the linebacking corps is wide open for the taking. Only this year around, Brown's coming off a season-ending injury, rather then the draft.
The Cardinals brought in long time veteran Joey Porter to start along side Clark Haggans on the outside. Beyond them, will likely be the combination of Brown, Will Davis, Reggie Walker, and Stevie Baggs. As it stands, Brown should be the primary 3rd string outside linebacker and should receive plenty of opportunities for playing time, but how he handles the time will be entirely up to him.
Let's not forget that Brown had a combined 33 tackles for a loss and 18.5 sacks during his final two years at UConn. He's a dangerous pass rusher that relies solely on his strength and handwork. He'll bring a bull rush to the Cardinals defense that led him to become a team captain and an All-Big East Selection in college. He was also relied upon in coverage and has no problem playing with his hand off the ground. He'll provide stout run-defense - something most outside linebackers struggle with early in their career.
Insert a seasoned vet like Joey Porter, who can show Brown the ropes and teach him everything he needs to know to succeed in the NFL. Porter already made it clear when he arrived in Arizona that he would become a mentor for the younger players, including Brown. He's also coming off two monsterous seasons, where he registered a combined 26.5 sacks. Brown is in prime position to become successful at the next level. The biggest question is whether or not he can recover from the injury.
He's had plenty of time to recover after not playing a lick of defense last year. Although wrist injuries take long to heal, it was only projected to be a 4-6 month healing process. At this past weekend's mini camp, Brown was spotted wearing a protective sleeve over his wrist, meaning the injury still remains a concern. Only Brown and the Cardinals training staff will know if he'll be fully healed and ready to go by the start of the regular season.
The next question is whether or not he'll be in football shape. By the time the football season starts, it will be well over a year and a half since the last time Brown suited up for a game. Can we be sure that he's in shape to play in the NFL? We can only hope that Brown remained active and we do know that Ken Whisenhunt's camps have been well-known for being laid back, so any indication of Brown's cardio will be tested come August and September.
It's still very early into the offseason and with nearly three months until training camp, we can only speculate/dream for what Cody Brown will bring to the Cardinals defense. If he comes in and quickly establishes himself as a threat off the outside, taking him in the second round and waiting a year will seem completely worth it. If he shows up at camp out of shape and gets lost in the shuffle, the loss of Okeafor and Berry will be obvious. The Cardinals success rushing the passer next year relies heavily on Cody Brown's shoulders.