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As an avid franchise player, I’m always looking for teams to rebuild or improve and develop into Super Bowl contenders year in and year out. So from time to time, I’m going to showcase a team and talk about what I would do to help build it into a team that works for me -- and hopefully for you.
It’s no secret that the Cardinals have one of the NFL’s most prolific receiving trios. Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston will spread out opposing defenses and give rookie running back Beanie Wells and promising second-year pro Tim Hightower room to run.
At age 38, Kurt Warner boasts some great passing ratings, at least by Madden standards, but he may only be around for a season or two. If Matt Leinart is not your cup of tea, start looking for a quarterback of the future.
The offensive line is an above average unit that won’t demolish opposing defenses, but will get the job done for your team. The center position is the only weakness because Lyle Sendlein lacks the strength that is needed to handle the more powerful nose tackles in the league.
The Cardinals defense has some playmakers in each unit. Darnell Dockett will wreak havoc no matter where you line him up on the defensive line. Former second-round pick Calais Campbell has "B" potential and progresses
Karlos Dansby can do it all from any linebacker position. His only weakness may be coverage, but even that is helped out by his 6-foot-4 frame and ability to knock down passes. Gerald Hayes (MLB) is great at stopping the run game and hits hard.
The secondary has a nice trio of players. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will easily progress and become one of the top cornerbacks in the game. Free safety Antrel Rolle is excellent in zone coverage and has great hands (76 catch). Adrian Wilson is a dominant strong safety who excels in run support and can be used on the blitz.
Building My Cardinals
When building the Cardinals into the team that fits my style, I look at the strengths of my team. The defense already has some playmakers, so I think it’s a great idea to improve this area even more. With a few key additions, this could be one of the best defensive units in the league.
Secondary: Looking at my personnel, I think a zone coverage/zone blitz style of defense would work well. Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle both excel in zone coverage, with Rodgers-Cromartie quite capable of handling it as well. The first thing I want to do is look for a corner to complete my secondary. Antonio Cromartie from the Chargers would fit my zone defense scheme perfectly. He has excellent speed, good zone-coverage ratings and the best hands of any corner in the game (80 catch) -- not to mention he would be playing corner across the field from his cousin. I would want to look into possible ways to acquire him without having to lose anyone I deem essential to the future of my franchise.
Linebackers: With Dansby and Hayes already in place, I’m looking for two more linebackers to complete my linebacker unit in a 3-4 defense. A.J. Hawk and Manny Lawson are two players I would target. Hawk has good all-around skills with room for improvement, while Lawson boasts great size (6-foot-6), mobility (89 speed), and pass-rush ability (87 finesse move).
Defensive Line:Whether I decide to play Dockett at nose tackle or defensive end is really inconsequential because he is a staple either way. Bertrand Berry will most likely be moved in a trade, leaving my only hole at right end (Calais Campbell is starting at left end). A player I may look at acquiring is Vernon Gholston from the Jets. He has excellent strength (87) to play a 3-4 DE, and will provide some adequate pass rush from the position. At 70 overall, he will be a bargain to acquire.
On the offensive side of the ball, my team is looking really good. I plan to build around Leinart, so I may move Warner in trade. His 94 overall rating should bring in some great value. The only other piece I may try to upgrade is the tight-end position. A more viable receiving threat at the tight-end position would give me more options.
Be sure to check in next week. I’ll have my complete Cardinals roster along with the list of moves I made to build my franchise.