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Arizona Cardinals: 5 Players That Underperformed in 2011 and Need to Step Up

Shaun ChurchContributor IMarch 26, 2012

Arizona Cardinals: 5 Players That Underperformed in 2011 and Need to Step Up

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    The Arizona Cardinals fought arduously to turn what was shaping up to be a complete disaster of a 2011 season into something less awful to reflect upon. Through it all there were a handful of players who earned the respect of teammates and coaches with their heroic performances despite their seasons being fraught with peril.

    This list is not for those players.

    This list is dedicated to the players who were expected to perform, no matter their situation, and failed to do so. The players listed in the next five slides need to step up their game in 2012. If they perform to the level at which they are capable, they will give their team a better shot at winning games and winning the NFC West.

Levi Brown, OT

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    2007’s No. 5 overall pick has underperformed the majority of his career, and last year was no different.

    Despite finishing the season strong, Brown allowed the third-most sacks (11) in the NFL, behind only Guy Whimper of Jacksonville (14) and J’Marcus Webb of Chicago (12). He was No. 50 among tackles in pass blocking efficiency (ProFootballFocus.com), and if he has another season like that he may be looking for work in 2013.

    He comes at a cheaper price tag than what he was originally slated to earn. Arizona released Brown on the day in which it had to comply with the salary cap, only to sign him to a five-year contract that will be worth significantly less money just three days later.

    The entire organization and fans everywhere are hoping he can build upon the solid end to the 2011 season he had in which he allowed only two sacks over the final seven games.

Kevin Kolb, QB

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    Arizona’s most expensive addition during the lockout-shortened 2011 offseason had an inaugural season to forget in Cardinal Red.

    His year was cut short due to multiple foot injuries and a concussion.

    He was disappointing in the games in which he did play, helping create what is now an official quarterback controversy heading into the offseason.

    Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked recently if there would be a fair competition between Kolb and third-year QB John Skelton. Here’s what he had to say:

    “Of course it will be a fair competition. I think John did a great job for us over the last half of the season when he was forced to play because of Kevin’s injury. That’s what you want. He did the job that we asked him to do. He showed improvement as the season went on. We’re excited about his prospects as a quarterback.”

    Since the Cardinals missed out on signing Peyton Manning, Kolb and Skelton will duke it out in camp and in the preseason to determine who deserves the Week 1 starting job.

    With a full offseason to work with the offense, its coaches and the playbook, Kolb could look like what he was originally acquired from Philly to be: An answer to the questions left at the position after Kurt Warner retired.

    But how much better will Skelton be after his first offseason as a potential starter? Get ready to hear much, much more on this as the offseason wares on.

Stewart Bradley, LB

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    Another former member of the Eagles that underperformed in his first season in the desert, Bradley was not able to grasp the new defense he signed on to be a part of.

    He possesses a large contract, and at this point has been nothing more than a special teams player and part-time linebacker. While in Philadelphia, Bradley started 29 games in four years in the Eagles’ 4-3 defense as the Mike linebacker, but missed the entire 2009 season with a torn ACL.

    The switch to the 3-4 scheme has been difficult for Bradley, and this season—should he remain on the team and not become a cap casualty—will be important for his future with the team.

Andre Roberts, WR

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    In just his second season in the NFL, Roberts hauled in 51 passes for 586 (11.5 YPC) yards and two touchdowns.

    Seems adequate for a third round pick, right? After all, his production doubled between his rookie and sophomore seasons.

    As the anointed No. 2 receiver from day one of the 2011 season, Roberts seemed out of place at times. Against more talented corners—opposing teams’ second best outside defenders—he was regularly tackled immediately following a catch.

    There was zero threat of a long reception as he was unable to create any separation down the field, even with Larry Fitzgerald commanding bracket and double coverage the vast majority of the time.

    If Roberts intends on remaining the No. 2, he needs to have a better year in 2012 at getting deep and scoring. Two touchdowns will not cut it from the player said to be the second-best receiver on the team.

Rob Housler, TE

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    Another third-round pick that underperformed in 2011, Housler has a truckload of potential.

    His rookie campaign was shortened slightly due to injury, but the opportunities he was given were squandered away game-in and game-out. He tied for second on the team with six dropped passes despite being targeted only 24 times—with only 18 of the targets being deemed “catchable” (PFF.com).

    He collected just 12 catches for 133 yards (11.1 YPC) and no TD. He should have scored at least twice, but two of his drops came on potential touchdown opportunities.

    Coming out of college, where he caught 78 passes for 1,228 yards (15.7 YPC) and eight TDs, the 6'5", 248 pound Housler was thought to be among the best tight ends in his draft class. He (supposedly) has great hands and blazing speed (Housler ran an official 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine—best at his position), but he rarely showed off either of those tools as a rookie.

    Jeff King, primarily known for his blocking, was the best receiving tight end on the team last season. Todd Heap was injured most of the season in his first year back home and was largely ineffective.

    With Heap nearing the end of his career and King still on the roster, Housler has to step up and be the receiving threat he was thought to be when the Cardinals drafted him at No. 69 overall.

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