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Three People Who Need to Step Up If The Cardinals Are To Contend

Jonathan SlotterCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 28:  Running back Tim Hightower #34 of the Arizona Cardinals runs for a first down during the quarter against the Green Bay Packers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 28, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

After the most successful season in Arizona Cardinals history, the Cardinals look to repeat as not only NFC West champs, but NFC champs in general. However a few departures have left some holes in the Cardinals starting lineups and some key people must fill in to be able to give the Cards a chance to contend with the big boys once again.

We all know about Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, DRC, and Antrell Rolle, but who are some other X-Factors who are going to have to play a key role for the Cardinals in 2009.

1. Tim  Hightower

The departure of Edgerrin James leaves a whole in the running back department for Arizona. They drafted Chris "Beanie" Wells to help mitigate some of this loss, but because he is injury prone it is looking like Hightower will have to carry the majority of the load. 

Here are the stats from last year:

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att/ yds/ td/ avg

James: 133/ 514/ 3/ 3.9

Hightower: 143/ 399/ 10/ 2.8

The stat that REALLY jumps off the page for me is Hightower's 2.8 yards per carry. He will have to improve this to James' 3.9 if he is going to be at all effective this upcoming season. One thing that you have to like is 10 touchdowns. He can punch it in when he is near the goal line, which should help the Cards if they struggle near the goal line again. 

If he gets close to Edge's 3.9 yds per carry, lets say 3.3, keeps his 10 touchdowns, and gets about 250 carries here is what his stats would look like:

250/ 825/ 10/ 3.3

This is a good line that will definitely help the cards win, take pressure off the passing game, open things up for Boldin and Fitzgerald, and give time for Chris Wells to develop. 

2. Calais Campbell

Campbell will be in his third year in the league and will have some big shoes to fill, after the departure of Antonio Smith. Smith played a critical role in the Cardinals super bowl run, creating pressure in pass defense and help filling up gaps in the running game. 

Last year Smith had four sacks, 41 tackles, and two forced fumbles. He could have a career year for Houston, being on the other side of Mario Williams (who wouldn't want to do that). Campbell is a younger, more monstrous (6'7" 290 lbs) version of Smith who has a lot of potential and talent but needs to utilize it this year in a big way. 

With more playing time Campbell could get around 50 tackles and five or six sacks, compared to his 28 and zero sacks from a year ago. With Darnell Dockett on the other side he will have plenty of one on one's to do damage. All the experts predict him to have a good year, the Cardinals faithful should he more than fills in for Smith.

3. Bryant McFadden

After letting their second and third corners go Bryant McFadden was a solid pickup for the Cards. He will be asked to be the final piece of a strong secondary, already featuring Adrian Wilson, Dominique Rogers Cromartie, and Antrell Rolle. The Cards also lack depth in the corner back position so McFadden will need to play big.

Last year with the Steelers McFadden recorded 41 tackles, two interceptions, and eight pass deflections in 10 games. The Cardinals will be counting on him to play all 16 games. If he can solidify the corner spot then the front seven can focus on stopping the run, where the Cardinals are a little thin, which would help immensely. 

If the Cardinals can stop the run and make people throw into the strength of their defense, it can cause turnovers, play loose and cause momentum shifts. This can lead to a very successful year for the Arizona Cardinals. And if they are successful again, these three players will have to play a critical role in this success. 

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