The Cardinals hope RT Brandon Keith can have a breakout season in 2010.
Training camp approaches, and the first preseason game is a little more than three weeks away. There isn't much time before the Cardinals find out exactly what their revamped roster will mean in 2010.
Success means established stars – guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett and Alan Faneca – continue to play at a high level. But it also means others play at a level they had yet to reach. If the Cards can get others to break out, their hopes to three-peat in the NFC West increase.
Defensive end Calais Campbell seems to be a popular choice for many national types as a breakout player, but Campbell did a pretty good job of that last season. As for the other players in the best position to break out this time around:
There will be a lot of focus on what Faneca still has in the tank, whether Deuce Lutui can control his weight enough to battle for a starting job and how Levi Brown will do moving from right to left tackle. In any other year, the idea that an untested Keith – who has played very little – is moving into the starting lineup at right tackle would draw more attention. But coaches like how Keith has progressed in his first two seasons on the practice field and he hasn't done anything to deter that thought this offseason. If he does become a steady performer, it bodes well for the thought process of taking an offensive lineman late in the draft (Keith was a seventh-rounder) and patiently letting him prepare to play.
The coaches rotated the starters this offseason at cornerback, in part because Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was nursing a bad toe and in part because nothing was going to be handed to Toler. Yet it seems hard to believe Toler won't end up with the starting job across from DRC given the Cards' cornerback situation. He has the size and the tools. He must step up to grab that. If he does, the Cards believe he can turn into another small-school gem like DRC. He may not end up being a Pro Bowler, but if he can be a good No. 2, it'll stop the cornerback merry-go-round (Green, Hood, McFadden) coach Ken Whisenhunt has endured since he arrived.
Steve Breaston should end up as the No. 1 receiver behind Fitzgerald, but he's already shown he can be a 1,000-yard pass catcher. Less proven is Doucet, who has flashed well (he had an excellent playoff game against Green Bay) but between injuries and talent ahead of him hasn't played much. There are still big questions of how much the Cards will throw with Matt Leinart at quarterback, and Fitz will still dominate those statistics. Doucet, though, could emerge this season as deadly inside, the place where Anquan Boldin used to make his money. Doucet also came alive this offseason, working harder than he ever had, knowing he finally has a full opportunity.
It's not like Beanie wasn't good in 2009. He did have less than 800 yards though as the Cards worked him in slowly to the lineup. Most, though felt he showed plenty in what he could become. Not everyone is buying into the Beanie phenomenon, though, so if he does reach the heights he is expecting – 1,200 yards rushing? 1,300 yards? – he will have broken out in a big way. To be fair, Wells doesn't turn 22 until a week into training camp and is still the youngest player on the roster. His biggest impact is yet to come.
It's a boom-or-bust choice to be sure. There is little question Leinart has his detractors going into this season. But he will benefit from knowing he's going to have a chance to reverse some of that sentiment. His inclusion on this list comes down to a simple reasoning: If Leinart doesn't break out this season, the Cardinals likely will be moving in another direction at quarterback. That's supreme motivation. Leinart has countless times talked about how ready he is to have this opportunity. Now we wait to see what he does with it.
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