Cardinals Top-Two Hits and Misses

Simply put, the Cardinals have underperformed so far this season. Both sides of the ball have clearly had their struggles, but some players have emerged. Here is a look at a couple players who have earned good grades early this year, and a couple that need to improve if they want to avoid failing.

Arizona's performance against Indianapolis in Week 3 was reminiscent of some of the beat downs they received a year ago—think Philadelphia, Minnesota, and New England. It's hard to find bright spots on a Cardinals team that has been mostly uninspiring thus far. Nevertheless, some do exist. Here are two players that have found success early this season…

S Antrel Rolle

When people think of Arizona's best safety, Adrian Wilson generally comes to mind. But so far this season it's been free safety Antrel Rolle. He has created turnovers and constantly been in the middle of the action. It was Rolle who came up with this season'sbiggest game-changing play when he returned a blocked field goal for 83 yards in Week 2.

Rolle hasn't been perfect of course. He has missed some assignments and gotten beaten, but overall he has been solid. With other members of the secondary struggling, the Cardinals need continued consistency from Rolle, who seems to be settling comfortably into his roll as free safety.

RB Tim Hightower

Despite his costly fumble against Indianapolis, Hightower has been the most productive offensive player in Arizona. He is averaging 93.7 yards from scrimmage a game. Hightower has become a legitimate threat both carrying and receiving the ball. With defenses limiting the Cardinals' downfield playmakers, Hightower has gotten plenty of screens and check down throws. He leads the team in receptions with 20.

Hightower won't be a 1,500 yard running back because Arizona has a mediocre offensive line and a propensity to pass so much. The presence of rookie Beanie Wells doesn't help his chances either. Wells is expected to get more carries this week, a trend that could continue this season. Hightower has made his case, however, that the starting running back position is his to lose.

After highlighting a couple players that have made a positive impact so far in 2009, let's take a look at two players that have struggled and need to get their act together…

OT Mike Gandy

It was hard to watch Week 3's game as Dwight Freeney was simply toying with Mike Gandy. It seemed no matter what Gandy did, Freeney would one-up him. Gandy has really struggled all season and needs to get his act together, along with the rest of Arizona's offensive line. He better do it quickly, because Houston's Mario Williams is coming to town this week.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Peyton Manning did the same thing to sophomore Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie that Freeney did to Gandy; he owned him. Rodgers-Cromartie has tremendous athleticism, but this is still not enough to keep from getting beat. He has struggled all season, but it was most evident against the future Hall of Famer Manning. Rodgers-Cromartie's play so far this season has shown that he is far away from elite status in this league. Things don't get much easier when Andre Johnson and crew visit this week.


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