Cardinals: Fourth-Year Players to Watch

The 2006 NFL Draft class boasted unique potential with a possible star-to-be quarterback, a menacing right guard, a beastly defensive tackle, and a huge tight end. Some have failed to live up to the hype, while others have produced consistently. If a player hasn't figured out the NFL by his fourth year, he's in major trouble. Here are five fourth-year players who hope to make an impact in 09'.

DT Gabe Watson

After starting all 16 games in 2007 and making clear progress, Watson suffered a broken kneecap at the beginning of 2008 that forced him to miss the entire season.

Bryan Robinson currently sits atop Watson on the depth chart, but Watson will likely claim the top spot at some point. Watson's body has suffered far less wear and tear than the 13-year veteran Robinson's. If Watson can show he has fully recovered from the injury, he can be a dominant fixture along the Cardinals' D-line.

OG Deuce Lutui

The second-round pick in the 2006 has had a respectable career thus far. In his second year as a full-time starter Lutui showed a level of consistency the Cardinals were looking for. Lutui's play was just a part of the Cardinals' offensive line that collectively played well. Just like other starters along the line, Lutui played considerably better in the latter half of the season. Lutui will look for another strong showing this summer and continue to stay healthy, doing his part to continue the consistency of the Cardinals' O-line.

TE Leonard Pope

Pope entered the NFL with huge potential. At 6'8", it seemed he could become an elite pass-catching tight end. Pope has failed to live up to the expectation. All five of his career touchdowns came in 2007. That was his most productive year, adding 23 receptions for 238 yards. Granted, the tight ends in the Cardinals' offense don't get tons of looks.

Arizona still wants more production from the tight end spot, however, and Pope is the leading candidate in 2009 to get the most snaps.

TE Dominique Byrd

After spending his first two seasons in St. Louis, Byrd took last season off for personal issues. In his fourth-year, he will simply be working to earn a roster spot. Byrd will compete with Pope, Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach, and Anthony Becht. Byrd has produced little in his brief career with just six receptions and one touchdown, working in mainly blocking situations. While Byrd is a long shot to make the roster, the Cardinals are will to give him a chance.

QB Matt Leinart

Matt Leinart's status has dropped so far since he was selected as the 10th pick in the 2006 draft that he may even drop to third on the depth chart. Brian St. Pierre will challenge Leinart this summer for the number two spot. Kurt Warner's re-emergence as a top quarterback has prohibited Leinart from progressing as a starter. Still, Leinart's inability to beat out Warner early in his career showed that his college success was more a product of USC's system rather than personal talent.

The Cardinals are paying millions to both Warner and Leinart, and assuming Warner stays healthy and has a solid 2009 campaign, the Cardinals could part ways with their faulty investment.

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