The Cardinals stuck to drafting highly rated players in the second day of the NFL draft. But as is usually the case, the reason such players had dropped to the lower rounds in the first place might not have had to do with their physical skills.
Questions about effort or production were at least some of the reason Michigan defensive tackle Gabe Watson, the team’s fourth-round choice, and Louisville linebacker Brandon Johnson, taken in the fifth round, were still around.
The Cards also grabbed Virginia Tech defensive tackle Jonathan Lewis in the sixth round and BYU receiver Todd Watkins in the seventh.
“There may or may not be unmet expectations,” vice president of football operations Rod Graves said. “But the fact is, you reach a point where they become great value.”
Added coach Dennis Green, “The bottom line, all these guys have to learn how to be pro players.”
Watson, who some said had late first-round talent, was even benched at Michigan as a senior. But he could develop into a star nose tackle if properly motivated.
“My response to (critics) is that I’ll show them,” Watson said.
Johnson will back up strongside linebacker Karlos Dansby, while Watson and Lewis should fortify what had been a thin defensive tackle corps, joining Kenny King in backing up Darnell Dockett and Kendrick Clancy. Ross Kolodziej will likely not return.
“We should never have happen what happened to us last year,” Green said, “which was a few injuries and before you know it, we had pretty much a decimated defensive line.”
With college teammate Matt Leinart holding an introductory press conference, the Cardinals also made the event a coming-out party for secondround pick and local product Taitusi “Deuce” Lutui.
Lutui was told he could call his family in Mesa and bring them down to the team complex. So he did.
There were some 40-plus Lutui-related members whooping and hollering when Lutui held up his No. 76 jersey for pictures. They cheered again when Lutui recalled what Green told him: “If Leinart was a gift from heaven, it’s only fair to draft his guardian angel.”
Leinart called Lutui “one of the best people I have met in my life.”
It was a monumental moment for Lutui, whose parents moved from the island of Tonga to better their children’s lives. Lutui said he sat in offensive line coach Steve Loney’s office Sunday morning, unable to believe he was really a Cardinal.
“I (live) 10 minutes down the road, literally,” Lutui said. “My loyalty and passion for this organization is going to build year after year, until hopefully I have something like Pat Tillman.”
Green said among the undrafted rookie free agents the team will sign will be a safety and probably a pair of cornerbacks. The Cards have agreed to terms with Princeton defensive back Jay McCariens, brother of Jets receiver Justin. They’ve also reportedly already agreed to terms with Mississippi quarterback Micheal Spurlock. . . .
Green said Darryl Blackstock will have the chance to beat out Orlando Huff to be the starting weakside linebacker. . . .
Az-Zahir Hakim’s agent, Chuck Price — who is also one of Matt Leinart’s advisers — said Hakim was in contact with him after the first day of the draft looking to see if the Cards might still be interested. The Cards already signed a similar veteran in Troy Walters. . . .
Green said he expected full attendance from his veterans in today’s voluntary organized team workouts.