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Leadership Around The Corner

With DRC, Toler, Adams, position is young for Cards


Cornerback Michael Adams covers receiver Steve Breaston during Saturday morning's practice during Fan Fest in Tempe.
At first, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie recoiled at the thought.

DRC a leader? "No!" Rodgers-Cromartie said, emphasizing it with a shake of the head. "No sir. That's Michael Adams. He's older. He's smarter. Don't make me no leader."

Bryant McFadden was traded, and Rodgers-Cromartie was the Pro Bowler, so it stood to reason DRC might end up with that mantel among the cornerbacks – except that's never really been DRC's personality either, and he's still admittedly trying to learn the game himself.

Adams is a wealth of knowledge, and currently first-string in McFadden's absence, but even he shakes off the notion he's the group leader. "Nah," Adams said. "I'm just here fighting for my life."

The position ended up in the spotlight as soon as McFadden, who started last season, was traded. It is assumed Greg Toler, 2009's fourth-round draft pick, will eventually supplant Adams as starter. But everywhere the cornerbacks turn, there is relative inexperience. Reserves Rashad Barksdale and Trumaine McBride have been around (McBride even started nine games for the Bears in 2007) but none have the résumé of McFadden or any other long-time veteran.

A lot of the young guys are coming to me asking questions," DRC said. "I told them, 'I ain't the guy to be asking questions right now because I'm just like all of you in a sense.' "

They can turn to safeties like Matt Ware – a one-time cornerback – or Adrian Wilson, but, Toler admits, "There are times you look for answers and sometimes none of us have them because we haven't been around the block to see everything."

One of the goals of minicamp for coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff is to look over the cornerbacks and evaluate the position. The Cardinals won't rule out bringing in a veteran, but Whisenhunt said, "I don't think it's something we have to have."

Whisenhunt sounds certain the Cardinals' secondary will be better by the time the season arrives. It'll help if Toler turns into the player the Cards expect, the one who played well against the Saints in the playoffs after Rodgers-Cromartie wrecked his knee. 

But Toler has to earn it, Whisenhunt reiterated, which is why it was no surprise to see Adams and not Toler running with the first unit this weekend.

"I've been here long enough to know how fast the depth chart changes," Adams said. "Minicamp depth charts don't mean much. There are guys everyone expects to start, guys who everybody expects to be in a certain position when the season starts."

Toler smiles at the thought, knowing it was going to be a fight. As for the idea the Cardinals still could seek out a veteran, Toler welcomes the idea. "Whatever decision they make, I'll be ready," he said.

Adams acknowledged the chemistry the cornerbacks have, even without the experience. In his view, trading McFadden means the coaches saw something in the players that remain. "Either that or they've got another plan," he added.

Another plan may take a while to develop. The Cardinals might be better served, even if they decide on bringing in a veteran corner, to wait. The talent available, for instance, at the end of training camp when teams make final cuts might serve them better than anyone currently waiting for a call.

Until then, Rodgers-Cromartie have to be something he'd rather not.

"When B-Mac got traded, that hurt me a little bit because he was a good, good, good friend of mine," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "When he was gone it was like, 'Damn, who is going to step up and be that leader?' It put pressure on us young guys to step up and do the right thing.

"I feel confident. I've got a player in Mike Adams. And G.T., once he gets in that book, there will be no drop-off."

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