Over the past few seasons there is one thing that Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been wildly consistent about. That would be his insistence in not starting rookies right away. In fact, since he became head coach, only one rookie has ever started in Week 1. That was offensive lineman Levi Brown.
However, that trend just changed this year. The Cardinals depth chart was released on Tuesday and there was not only one rookie listed as a starter, but two -- fullback Anthony Sherman and first round pick, cornerback Patrick Peterson.
You have to wonder if this is the beginning of another change by Whisenhunt. Since being hired, he has gone from being perceived as a run-first offensive coach to one who believes in throwing the football and relying on his quarterback to make plays.
Previous to this year, the team's draft philosophy was every bit as much about (and perhaps more) selecting players in areas of need, rather than their rating on their draft board. This year, it seems that they drafted completely on the idea of "best player available."
Could it be then that Whiz is finally acquiescing and realizing that rookie starters are not inherently evil thing?
In the case of Sherman, he happens to be the only fullback on the roster, so it is kind of a no-brainer that he is starting. It is not clear, though, how often he actually "starts." It will depend upon the offensive set the team uses when they first take the field. In fact, right after the draft, I figured that Sherman would one of the most likely to have started out of the rookies. (I was obviously wrong about Housler, seeing that the team went out and picked up, not one, but two veteran tight ends in the offseason).
In Peterson's case, it is a matter of injury. Had Greg Toler not torn his ACL, Peterson would currently be the nickel corner. He would, though, still be the starting punt returner. There is a veteran behind in in Richard Marshall, but the difference between starting Peterson or Marshall is really negligible because both are newcomers to the team this year and there is a new defensive coordinator.
In fact, at corner, it is almost as if the team is starting two rookies. Between Peterson and the other starter, A.J. Jefferson, there is a total of ZERO NFL starts between them. Jefferson, though, was with the team a year ago, at least.
It makes sense to most people that Peterson would be starting unless he is completely lost in learning the defense. He was considered the most talented player in the entire draft. He should be playing. It is just that Whiz has still been holding on to the notion that rookies must earn their spots.
Is this a sign of change for Whisenhunt? I am not sure, but he has shown that he can adapt and change. We will have to wait another season to see if this is just an anomaly or a sign of things to come.