NFL Nation: Bryant Johnston

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals got key contributions from newcomers during their 23-13 victory over the 49ers in the season opener. Players in new roles also contributed. A quick look at their impact:

  • Clark Haggans, LB. The former Steelers starter downed a punt at the 1-yard line to open the second quarter. The play helped the Cardinals get the ball back at the San Francisco 42, setting up a touchdown.
  • Steve Breaston, WR. Breaston is not new to the Cardinals, but he is new to the third receiving role now that Bryant Johnson is with the 49ers. Breaston's 40-yard reception on third-and-7 marked one of the Cardinals' few big plays. Kurt Warner found Larry Fitzgerald for a 1-yard scoring pass on the next play.
  • Travis LaBoy, DE. The former Titans pass rusher started ahead of Bert Berry and finished with four tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Berry, 33, seemed to benefit from the reduced role. He had a key sack and forced fumble.
  • Bryan Robinson, NT. The 49ers ran the ball effectively up the middle. They moved Robinson out of the way more than once. The Cardinals would have been worse off without the 34-year-old veteran newcomer. Injuries sidelined starter Gabe Watson and third-stringer Alan Branch, leaving Robinson as the last man standing.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB. The rookie first-round choice stood out for running a deep pattern as part of the offense. That's not a bad thing for a first game. The Cardinals' defense wasn't on the field much.
  • Antrel Rolle, FS. The Cardinals moved Rolle from cornerback to safety. The 49ers would have liked a few more chances to test his instincts at a new position. Rolle made the tackle after a 16-yard pass to Johnson.
  • Tim Hightower, RB. The rookie fifth-round choice from Richmond converted twice on fourth-and-1, including for a touchdown. He also made an impact as a receiver, gaining 12 yards on a first-and-20 play as the Cardinals moved toward a field goal.
  • Early Doucet, WR. The rookie third-round choice was not active. Injuries limited him during camp, allowing Breaston and Jerheme Urban to move past him on the depth chart. Fellow receiver Sean Morey was active for his special-teams ability.
  • Jerame Tuman, TE. The former Steelers backup was not active.
  • Kenny Iwebema and Calais Campbell, DL. The rookie draft choices finished with one tackle apiece. I didn't watch either player closely. The Cardinals' defense spent only 8 minutes of the second half on the field.
All told, I thought the Cardinals benefited quite a bit from the players they added during the offseason. One key will be keeping LaBoy healthy. The Titans let him go partly over concussion concerns.

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