Five Injuries the Cardinals Can Least Afford

The Cardinals struggled with injuries to key players last season and look forward to starting 2008 with a clean bill of health. But what happens if things don't stay that way? Team expert Amberly Richardson takes a look at the five players the Cardinals can least afford to lose to injuries.

1. Edgerrin James: Last season, the Cardinals struggled for every yard on the ground with James spearing the attack. Without him, the run would be lost on Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington. Arizona would be between a rock and a hard place if it had to start either one. Neither has proved what he can do, as the pair combined for 119 yards in 2007. Even Matt Leinart rushed for more yards than Shipp.

2. Levi Brown: Arizona's biggest improvement last season was its offensive line. The big men up front are developing consistency and familiarity to protect the signal-caller. They were in the league's top 10 for least sacks allowed (24) despite attempting the second-most passes (36.9 per game). An injury to Brown would negate the positive changes at the line.

3. Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin: The Cardinals rely on having two big targets to make Leinart look good. If either gets injured, opponents will double-team Arizona's last standing superstar wideout. Last season, the Cardinals passing attack ranked fifth in the league despite Boldin missing four games and Fitzgerald one, but that was with Kurt Warner at the helm. Leinart's arm will be tested after nearly a yearlong absence and he needs his superstars to make plays for him.

4. Adrian Wilson: Arizona was forced to go Wilson-less for seven games last season and the secondary felt the repercussions. With Terrence Holt's departure, it's up to Wilson to carry the safety unit and get Antrel Rolle accustomed to his new role.

5. Darnell Dockett: Arizona loaded up on its defensive front seven this offseason, but Dockett continues to be the man to beat up front. He transitioned effortlessly to the 3-4 scheme and has the Pro Bowl talent the Cardinals need stuffing the run and punishing quarterbacks.

Reader Response

Which players do you think the Cardinals can least afford to lose to injury? Can you construct a top-five list better than the one above? Sound off in the message boards.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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