Arizona Cardinals: 5 Most Underrated Players on Cards' Roster Heading into 2012

Cody MilfordContributor IIIJune 8, 2012

Arizona Cardinals: 5 Most Underrated Players on Cards' Roster Heading into 2012

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    When you play for the Arizona Cardinals, it's easy to get overlooked sometimes.

    The fanbase isn't huge, the team doesn't consistently perform well, and the media just doesn't talk about them as much as they do the more popular teams in the NFL.

    Despite that, the Cards still boast a collection of very talented players that deserve more recognition than they get. They put up the same numbers, command the same attention on the field, and are just as much a force as the premier players on the more well-known teams, but never seem to get the same amount of credit.

    I'm going to shed some light on five of those players right now, and hopefully give them some of the recognition that they most certainly deserve. Enjoy.

5. Paris Lenon

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    For a Cards' defense that has had it's fair share of ups and downs in the past two years, Paris Lenon has been a model of consistency.

    He is never caught out of position, never seems to be confused about what his assignment is and never shows frustration no matter what situation the team is in.

    He is one of the leaders of the locker room, and has compiled an impressive stat sheet (courtesy of ESPN) to go along with his leadership abilities.

    Despite all that, the average NFL fan doesn't even know his name, let alone the impact he makes on the Cardinals' defense.

    Here's to hoping that changes as Arizona looks to improve on their 8-8 record in 2012.

4. Kerry Rhodes

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    In 2010, Kerry Rhodes was by far the Cardinals' best player this side of Larry Fitzgerald.

    His eight turnovers (four interceptions, four fumble recoveries) and two touchdowns were game changers for the Cardinals, and he excelled in both defending the pass and stopping the run.

    Despite all that, Rhodes missed the Pro Bowl in 2010. In his place were two big-name safeties who had down years in Antrell Rolle and Adrian Wilson, with the latter even admitting that Rhodes deserved a Pro Bowl spot over him (via azcardinals.com).

    Rhodes missed eight games in 2011, and the defense missed his ball-hawking abilities, finishing 26th in the league in interceptions with just ten.

    Rhodes will be back in full health in 2012, and will look to be a very important piece in a vastly-improved Cardinals defense.

3. Lyle Sendlein

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    When Lyle Sendlein joined the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2007, there didn't really seem to be a place for him on the offensive line. He was undersized, raw, and was playing the same position as key free-agent pick up Al Johnson.

    Fast forward to 2012, and Johnson is a hazy memory in the minds of Cards fans while Sendlein has been the only consistency in a downright bad offensive line the past few years.

    He has been named a team captain the past two years, and is the only shining success in an otherwise failed attempt to groom quality offensive linemen under Russ Grimm's tutelage.

    The Cardinals have signed two starting caliber guards the past two years in Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder, so Lyle may start getting more recognition around the league as the players around him get better.

2. Beanie Wells

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    Here's a stat line of all four starting running backs in the NFC West last year:

    Frank Gore: 282 carries, 1,211 yards, and 8 touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry

    Marshawn Lynch: 284 carries, 1,204 yards, and 12 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry

    Steven Jackson: 260 carries, 1,145 yards, and 5 touchdowns on 4.4 yards per carry

    Beanie Wells: 245 carries, 1,047 yards, and 10 touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry

    Despite there not being a significant difference in any of the running back's stat lines, Jackson, Gore and Lynch are considered to be premier backs in the league, while Beanie is widely known as an injury-prone first round bust.

    Beanie shouldered the load on offense after rookie Ryan Williams went down for the year in preseason, and blockbuster trade acquisition Kevin Kolb failed to make the impact he was supposed to.

    Let's not forget that he played through the season on a sprained knee, taking multiple shots that would have put lesser men on the bench.

    Beanie Wells is truly one of the most under-appreciated backs in the game today, and will spear head what may become the next great running back duo in the NFL.

1. Daryl Washington

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    Ask the average NFL fan who the Cardinal's best defender is, and you'll get a few different answers: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, maybe Calais Campbell or Patrick Peterson.

    With all due respect to those players and their abilities, the correct answer is Daryl Washington.

    Washington was truly a sight to behold in 2011, using his athletic ability and seemingly superhuman instincts to be everywhere on the field at once, registering a team high 107 tackles and leading all inside linebackers with five sacks.

    Despite that, the only nation wide recognition that Washington seemed to get was when ESPN was flipping out over a play he was involved in. 

    He missed the Pro Bowl in 2011 in favor of Brian Urlacher, who had a less impressive season from all facets of the game and was voted in on name alone.

    Daryl Washington is a superstar, the rest of the NFL just doesn't know it yet.