Cornerback Greg Toler makes an interception in Chicago last week.
The day cornerback Bryant McFadden was traded in April, Greg Toler seemed to be the logical replacement.
Toler was modest, but he thought it. So too did Trumaine McBride, who had just signed with the team in January. But when the Cardinals got to Flagstaff for camp, after an offseason of minicamps and organized team activities, the depth chart looked a little different than expected – for everyone.
"When I went into training camp starting," McBride admitted, "that shocked me."
The Cardinals knew when they dealt McFadden it was important to find a replacement across from Pro Bowler Dominqiue Rodgers-Cromartie. Everyone involved should have know coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn't make it a simple change.
The battle between McBride and Toler has been – somewhat surprisingly – the longest running of camp. Toler finally displaced McBride at the top of the depth chart last week and came up with an interception in Chicago. Yet Toler hasn't locked up the starting job. Not when coach Ken Whisenhunt speaks on the subject.
"Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves with Greg," Whisenhunt said. "I am pleased with how he has worked and where he is right now, but that is a big job being across from Dominique.
"His challenge is to maintain it. Trumaine isn't going to give it up easily."
When the Cards open the season in St. Louis, Toler should be the starter. But as a fourth-round pick out of tiny Saint Paul's in Virginia in 2009, his raw talents needed work. He may have the most talent, but is still building his game.
Because of that, Toler got some advice from defensive veterans like linebacker Gerald Hayes when he suddenly, surprisingly, was second-string.
"They just don't want you to be complacent," they told Toler. "They don't want you just thinking you're going to come in and slide into the position because then you might just slide back on what you do."
That made sense to Toler.
"I respect that, and I respect everyone's decision to have me run with the twos," Toler said. "Trumaine is a great player as well. I just want to keep working."
McBride just wants a place in the NFL. He was out of football most of 2009 after getting cut after the first game. He does have 10 starts under his belt for the Bears, although nine came back in 2007. He would love to start, but at this point, sticking with the Cardinals is more important.
The Cardinals could keep as few as four cornerbacks – DRC and Toler are locks, while veteran special-teams star Michael Adams is likely – and they could still chase a veteran who is released. McBride still could slip in as a starter, or he could be on the bubble.
"I feel like I have done enough to make the team – hopefully," McBride said. "Things change, but right now, I feel I have put myself in position to make the team."
Toler has bigger goals and the Cards have larger expectations. Toler does believe he has made a major leap from his rookie year, making plays or understand if he doesn't. Last season, "I was just beating myself up, like, 'Dang, what happened?' " Toler said.
"The NFL is a big monster itself and you just want to get on a team first, especially coming where I came from," Toler said. "Coming from college, I was just trying to make a 53(-man roster) and say I was in the NFL. God willing, I can show the world I can do more."
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