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Rookie DBs Slowly Making Progress



 Safety Rashad Johnson tried to make a play against the Packers last week.

Defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Greg Toler probably aren't going to be able to help the Cardinals' defensive secondary much to begin with.

Such is the reality of rookies, especially under coach Ken Whisenhunt.

But both are all but safe heading into final roster cuts this weekend, given their draft status (Johnson was the team's third-round pick; Toler the fourth-rounder) and their potential. So the Cards must deal with growing pains.

"That's the NFL today," Whisenhunt said. "The teams that are good are the ones who can develop young talent. I think the way we have done it has been successful for us, because we don't just throw them to the wolves. They have to earn that spot."

Whisenhunt compared the duo to the spot cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was in a season ago. DRC played little on defense until the Cards got near midseason.

Whisenhunt did say he thought both players would end up helping the Cards at some point this year, although he admitted he'd be concerned if they had to start opening day.

"At Alabama I played a little more loosely to cover up for other guys," Johnson said, "but here, it is 'Do your job and the guy beside you, you have to trust he will do his.' There were a couple times (in games) I was trying to do too much."

Johnson has been working with the second unit in the team's dime package and has seen some time with the backups in the Cards' base defense. Toler remains a little further down the depth chart, not surprising since he came from a much smaller school – Saint Paul's in Virginia – and is much more raw.

"That first day (of camp) I was just running around not knowing everything," Toler said. "Right now, I just want to turn the x's and o's from the classroom on to the field."


It comes as no surprise, since rookie Beanie Wells has been hurt much of the preseason, but Whisenhunt said Tim Hightower is going to be his starting running back.

"We are always going to have competitions at the positions and the best players will play," Whisenhunt said. "I wouldn't expect Beanie to start with the preseason Tim has had. You never want to rule anything out, but I am pleased with what Hightower has done."

Whisenhunt said quarterback Brian St. Pierre (back) and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (hamstring) will not play Thursday, in addition to wide receiver Early Doucet (who is nursing cracked ribs).

Rookie running back LaRod Stephens-Howling still is feeling some symptoms of his concussion, so while he has officially been cleared, his status for the game remains uncertain, Whisenhunt said.

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