Under-the-Radar Arizona Cardinals Ready to Breakout in 2012

Jesse ReynoldsContributor IAugust 1, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 06:  Patrick Peterson #21 and teammate O'Brien Schofield #50 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate a good play against the St Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 6, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL season is fast approaching. Cardinal fans are a lucky bunch, with the Hall of Fame game being played this Sunday, a week before the rest of the league starts their preseason action. The extra preseason game will give Cardinal fans the opportunity to see the roster and all the pieces in action.

The Cardinals defense was ranked first in third-down defense, second in red-zone defense and seventh in sacks last season.

The team has kept its core together, and young players like Patrick Peterson, Daryl Washington and Sam Acho have added a year of age and experience.

Here are three defensive players who should experience a breakout season in 2012 and join the youth movement on defense.


Greg Toler 

Many forget that Toler had over 90 tackles, one sack, two FF’s and two INT his first season starting. At 27, with four years of experience in the league, Toler has the ability to be a prototypical DB for Ray Horton’s defensive scheme.

If he comes back 100 percent, he should quickly overtake William Gay for the second CB spot.


O’Brien Schofield

After missing his first preseason with a knee injury and having the second shortened due to the lockout, Schofield will finally have an entire offseason with OTAs, training camp and preseason.

With the extra reps and an increased understanding of the defense, he will finally be able to showcase the talent that once had him considered a late first-round pick.


Dan Williams 

Coming into camp at 315 pounds is an impressive feat for a man who has a history of weight management problems. Williams, also entering his third year, finally seems to get it. If the videos from Cardinals camp are any indication of Dan Williams’ ability, he could be in for a dominating season.

Watching him manhandle Sendlein was inspiring.

The Arizona Cardinal offense is a muscle car without a driver. If you look at the size of the line and the coaching philosophy shared by both Coach Grimm and Coach Whisenhunt, you can see that this team is designed to grind.

Many of the other offensive positions are also very physical. Both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are big wide receivers who can fight in space, leap and run block.

With a physical runner like Beanie Wells and a physical, change-of-pace back, this team will be able to run the ball and tire out defenses.

Here are three offensive players expected to break out on offense and help get this team back to the playoffs.


Ryan Williams

Okay, so this is pretty obvious and unoriginal, but it seems to be undeniable. Ryan Williams is coming back, and he looks like he is going to be very dynamic.

Remember Earth, Wind and Fire from the Giants: Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw?

Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams and Larod Stephens-Hollowing. You saw it here first.


Rob Housler

In the emerging era of dominating tight ends, Housler comes at the right time. At 6’5” with a 4.4 40, Housler has impressive measurements.

Like a lot of raw small-school athletes, he struggled early, but like former Cardinals Steve Breaston, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Stephens-Howlings, Housler could turn into a late-round gem.


Andre Roberts

At the end of the season, we may look back and find that Roberts benefited more from drafting Floyd than Fitzgerald did. Roberts struggled early last season, but started to make plays later on in the season despite uneven QB play.

He had three six-catch games, both his TDs and over 300 yards receiving the last five games of the season.

If players from both of these lists step forward this coming season, this team will be a tough competitor across the board.


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