Cards' Five Most Crucial Players in 2010

After losing several key players this offseason, Arizona will need its new starters to step in to make another postseason run.

5. Early Doucet, Wide Receiver – With Anquan Boldin gone, the Cardinals will look to Doucet to help with the loss of production. Injuries and inconsistencies have plagued Doucet during his short NFL career, but he showed flashes late last season. The former LSU standout shined in Arizona's playoff game against Green Bay, catching six passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Doucet will get more repetitions this season lining up as the slot receiver and health permitting, could be a major catalyst for the offense.

4. Greg Toler, Cornerback – When Arizona traded Bryant McFadden during draft weekend, they all but handed Toler the starting cornerback job opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Toler struggled at times in his rookie campaign, adjusting to the speed of the pro game after coming from tiny St. Paul's College. But the Maryland native finished strong, collecting an interception in each of the Cardinals' final two regular season games and another against New Orleans in the playoffs. The coaches love Toler's desire and nose for the ball and he has been picked by many to be the surprise of camp. If Toler's progression continues, he could have a breakout season.

3. Kerry Rhodes, Free Safety – After Antrel Rolle left as a free agent, Arizona filled the gaping hole at free safety by trading for Rhodes. Once a valuable part of the Jets' defense, Rhodes had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Despite this difficulty, Rhodes averaged 83 tackles and three interceptions a year in his five seasons in the league. Rhodes differs from Rolle in several ways. Rhodes is a fast and athletic centerfield-style safety but lacks the big-play ability Rolle possessed. However, playing in the same secondary as Adrian Wilson should grant Rhodes ample opportunities to make plays. The Alabama native has the ability to be successful in this defense, provided he gels with his new teammates.

2. Brandon Keith, Offensive Tackle – Coaches have been enamored with Keith since the team drafted him from Northern Iowa two seasons ago. There is not much film on Keith as he has played in just four games in two years, but has seemingly progressed enough to be named a starting tackle going into training camp. Keith has faced top tier competition as a member of the Oklahoma Sooners before transferring. However, Keith has yet to face a steady diet of professional defenders. The Cardinals will need the Texas native to step up and give new starting quarterback Matt Leinart time to throw.

1. Matt Leinart, Quarterback – The Big Red's record could rise or fall depending on Leinart's play. Succeeding a legend like Kurt Warner is a daunting task for anyone, but Leinart will be expected to do so with several new players against a division hungry to usurp them from the top. Leinart showed flashes of his Heisman Trophy brilliance during his rookie season, but has struggled since. Battling injuries, changes to his technique and Warner's resurgence, Leinart is finally slated to be Arizona's signal caller in 2010. Over the past two years, Leinart has worked a great deal on his footwork and throwing motion to prepare him to be the starter again. It's now up to Leinart to stay healthy, minimize mistakes and play with confidence.

Best of the Rest

  • Joey Porter, Outside Linebacker – On a defense littered with young players, Porter will be depended on to provide a steady veteran presence and a consistent pass rush.

  • Jay Feely, Kicker – The Cardinals should expect to be in several close games this season and a consistent, reliable kicker will be needed for them to be on the happy end of those decisions.

  • Daryl Washington, Inside LinebackerKarlos Dansby's exit will leave a major hole at middle linebacker and Arizona will look to the rookie Washington to help fill the void.


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