Nose tackle David Carter is a star in the making.
This list of four Arizona Cardinals backups who would start for other teams could grow to as many as six or seven by the end of the 2012 season.
But questions on certain players have yet to be answered, so four is a good number for now.
These players were not determined to be starter-worthy with other clubs based on numbers alone, but rather on potential, talent and previous experience—as you will see.
The four Cardinals players who would start elsewhere are ahead of you. Do yourself a favor and put them in front of you.
When Stewart Bradley signed as a free-agent with Arizona, he left the 4-3 defense employed by the Philadelphia Eagles and moved to a very intricate 3-4 attacking defense.
With no offseason due to the lockout, Bradley struggled to understand the scheme and ultimately became a five-year, $25 million special teams player.
Coaches did everything they could do to get him on the field and contributing on defense, moving him around from the inside to the outside on pass-rushing situations.
He did not fare well.
Bradley can still become a valuable member of the defense; but as of now, he sits behind 34-year-old Paris Lenon, who has been a rock in the Cardinals’ linebacking corps since he arrived before the 2010 season.
Bradley plays better as a 4-3 middle linebacker, and if the Cardinals find he's not worthy of a roster spot, a franchise that runs a three-linebacker set would be wise to make a trade for the 28-year-old sixth-year Utah native.
Initially, Groves will back up Sam Acho because of veteran Clark Haggans' return (who will now backup O’Brien Schofield), but moving around to find his ideal spot is a possibility.
Groves has started 22 games through four seasons, and if both Acho and Schofield turn out to be productive pass-rushers, he may spend only one season in Cardinal Red (his contract is one year for $700,000). If the current state of the Arizona pass rush were different, Groves would likely become the primary focus at outside linebacker.
This is the most important season of Groves’ career. If he performs well, he can earn a lucrative contract next offseason with a team in need of a 3-4 pass-rusher. It starts with training camp, where he needs to show he’s learned defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s scheme.
Earning a backup role and finding the field—in any capacity—is crucial for his future.
As a rookie filling in for a former first-round pick, David Carter proved he belongs in the trenches of an NFL defense.
Dan Williams’ injury allowed Arizona to discover just what they have in the sixth-round pick, and what they have is a disruptive mammoth with a high motor and a knack for sniffing out run plays.
Although his playing time didn’t increase much (he took part in 18.9 percent of plays during Weeks 1-10 and 23.9 percent of plays during Weeks 11-17), his impact certainly did.
Carter flashed the ability to shed blockers and find the ball-carrier quickly, but he was also the Cards' most adept nose tackle at getting to the quarterback, creating pressure once every 3.8 pass-rush snaps in which he took part (via ProFootballFocus).
If the Cardinals were to switch to a 4-3 and use two defensive tackles, Carter would undoubtedly start with Williams this season. Since the Cards are sticking with the 3-4, he needs to make the most of every snap he gets.
Carter would start on roughly half the current NFL defensive lines regardless of scheme because of his versatility—he backed up Calais Campbell at defensive end before moving to NT when the Cardinals lost Williams.
He reminds me of a young Jay Ratliff, who also began his career as a defensive end and has been one of the premier run-stuffing nose tackles in the NFC for a half-decade.
Carter could become one of the best nose tackles around if he’s developed properly. The potential is there.
A rookie season lost to injury would crush many players.
But many players are not Ryan Williams.
The undersized running back is on schedule to be ready when it matters, and if Beanie Wells is not ready to return from his own knee injury, Williams will be Arizona’s starter.
I nearly left him off this list based on that fact, but Wells will be just fine when real football is upon us, so here he is.
The 5’9” lightning rod has yet to take a snap during a regular-season game, and already he would be able to step into roughly 10-12 NFL offenses and take most of the snaps.
He’s that good.
At least before his injury, he was. It remains to be seen whether he can make the same cuts now that he was making at the Cards’ training camp last summer.
If he can, the NFC West will have a terror on its hands with Williams and Wells.
There are faster NFL backs, and there are stronger NFL backs. But not many are as shifty.
His small-but-stacked frame provides plenty of speed and power to compliment his array of juke moves. He brought camp practice to a halt on one occasion last summer while everyone stood in awe of the move he had just put on his new teammates.
Think Darren Sproles with more power.