10 Impact Players for the Arizona Cardinals
Also known as the 10 X-Factors for Arizona.
These are the guys that could essentially make or break Arizona's season. And I'm not just talking about Larry Fitzgerald either, cause Larry's going to do his thing regardless.
These are the guys that you may or may not know, that have the power to make Arizona the NFC West Champ for the third year in a row.
They also have the power to turn Arizona into the laughing stock of the league yet again.
So who are these guys? Check them out...
Let's all be frank here. Is anyone 100% comfortable with Matt Leinart?
I personally think he'll exceed expectations. But what if he doesn't? That's where Anderson comes in. Derek must be ready to take Matt's place should he falter. Otherwise the Arizona Cardinals could easily go from the most wins in their history (while in Arizona—10) to something closer to 3 or 4
Anderson can do it. Cleveland fans may hate him almost as much as LeBron James, but there's a reason he went to the Pro Bowl.
He has the weapons in Arizona, better than what he ever had in Cleveland.
If Matt Leinart doesn't get the job done, look for Derek Anderson to be the surprise of the year.
As strange as this may sound, the second biggest loss for the Cardinals was Karlos Dansby.
Before you react, honestly think about it.
Antrel Rolle was replaced. Sure he was good, but not that good.
Anquan Boldin didn't want to be in Arizona. And Early Doucet looks like a great replacement.
And of course there's Kurt Warner, who's the biggest loss for Arizona obviously.
But the Cardinals are going to have a tough time, at least this season, replacing Dansby.
Lenon can ease the pain by having a great season. Lenon has never had a big role in the system the Cardinals run, a 3-4 hybrid, but has played middle linebacker in a 4-3 with both the Rams and the Lions.
As a side note, the Cardinals don't have a great defense, but surely Lenon will enjoy playing for Arizona's defense as opposed to those two.
Lenon did enjoy moderate success in Detroit and St. Louis, but for the Cardinals defense to excel, the other middle linebacker has to be ready to roam around and create havoc, because Gerald Hayes will do a lot more run-stuffing.
If Lenon is able to do this, the Cardinals defense could be even better than it was last year.
I personally have high hopes for Stephens-Howling this season.
The seventh rounder last year certainly exceeded expectations last season, pulling return kickoff duty and filling the role that J.J. Arrington left behind in the offense.
But then again, nothing was expected of the running back version of Matt Cassell, as he backed up LeRon McCoy all through school at Pitt.
But if LSH can exceed expectations again this year, Arizona could have the best RB crew in the NFC.
Obviously he's fast (see his Madden 11 ratings), but the Cards must find a way to utilize his quickness.
They attempted to do this last year by using him in third down packages along with some spread formations, lining him up at wide receiver.
If LSD can continue his progress as a receiver, he'll greatly help the new QB for the Cards, as there's nothing better than to have a great checkdown option.
And if he continues to do well on kickoff returns, the Cardinals will have better starting field position on average.
That will be a big comfort.
So LSD could have a huge impact this year. Keep an eye on him.
Yes, the tight end isn't used much in the Cards offense.
But that could change slightly this year.
When Leinart was starting for the Cards a few years ago, he actually did throw to the tight ends, although Leonard Pope wasn't really up to par.
This year, I really think that it's Ben Patrick's time to step up.
Sure, he's supposedly not even first on the TE depth chart—Anthony Becht is.
But that could easily change if Patrick can get a handle on his run blocking.
There's no doubt that Patrick is the better receiver, so if he can find a way onto the field more often, he can make a huge impact for Arizona this year.
It looks like the Cardinals may have finally found a great corner on one side of the ball.
On the other side?
Well, as of right now, it's anybody's guess.Greg Toler just may be that guy.
Toler is very similar to DRC is make-up: athletic, and a real ball-winner.
The question is, can he live up to expectations?
If he can, the secondary for Arizona suddenly looks pretty good.
There was a lot of talk whenever the Cardinals signed the cocky Porter.
There hasn't been a whole lot of talk since then.
But for me, Porter may be the biggest question mark on the team other than Matt Leinart.
Is he going to be the All-Pro Joey Porter who racked up sacks?
Or is he going to be the one that caused problems off the field while taking plays off on it?
If he is the former this year, the Cardinals will have possibly the best outside linebacker they've had in years.
And more pressure on the quarterback makes life easier for the secondary, along with taking pressure off Darnell Dockett on the inside.
Oh, please Joey. Be that guy.
Big things are expected of Campbell, who was surprisingly handed the starting job last year as a second-year pro.
That gamble turned out pretty well.
(Makes you trust what the staff is doing doesn't it?)
If Campbell can continue to progress as a defensive end, the Cardinals will no doubt have on of the best one-two punches in the NFC with Dockett and Campbell.
It will also help alleviate the constant double-teams that Dockett will see this season if Campbell can continue to wreak havoc in the opposing team's backfield.
If he takes a step back, though, it could spell disaster for Arizona.
This may be a bit obvious of a selection, but hear me out.
I think Breaston may be underrated this season.
Admit it, you agree. Why?
Because everyone has anointed Early Doucet as the heir apparent to Anquan Boldin.
Everyone, including myself, seems to be leaving Breaston out of the equation.
Sure, Breaston is no Anquan, but he has his own strengths.
For one, the dude is fearless. He's definitely not afraid to go across the middle to get the ball.
And for another, he's got great hands.
Will he make any spectacular plays like Fitzgerald? No, but he'll catch just about anything you throw close to him, which should comfort whoever the QB is.
If Breaston can have a season of two years ago where he got over 1,000 yards it will take tremendous pressure of the quarterback and Fitzgerald.
And it should mean success for Arizona.
Not too many mention Clark Haggans name as an X-Factor for the Cards.
Not even Cardinals fans.
But the veteran Haggans has a big job this year, on and off the field.
Off the field, he must hold together a group of linebackers that has undergone some changes.
He also must provide veteran leadership for a core of young guys (Cody Brown, O'Brien Schofield, Will Davis) that could be special.
And on the field, he must work together with his old college and pro teammate Joey Porter to provide the Cardinals with a better pass rush.
I'd say if Haggans can do all that, the Cardinals defense will be better this year.
I've saved the best for last.
We all know Leinart has the ability.
Sure, he doesn't have a killer arm. But he has a winning mentality that he showed at USC, and even at the pro level on occasion.
He does have the accuracy and smooth release to make it at this level.
The biggest question that everyone is waiting to answer is will he fulfill all these expectations?
That's the question that may define the entire season for Arizona.
He doesn't have to be Kurt Warner. But, Leinart needs to be better than maybe he's ever been.
I believe he can do it.
If he does, mark my words, Arizona, and not San Francisco, will win the NFC West.