Will the Cardinals' playmakers bounce back?

The Cardinals' usual suspects weren't so usual this year in Arizona, and will need to bounce back in 2011.

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Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett and, yes, even Larry Fitzgerald. All three players have been part of the Arizona Cardinals' heart and soul in recent years. All three players have been – and still are – considered elite players that suffered through lackluster seasons in 2010.

While their less than stellar performances can be blamed on many different variables – a downright dreadful offense or a lame duck defensive coordinator – all three players must rebound in a big way heading into next year.

Of the former All-Pro's mentioned above, Wilson had to be considered the biggest disappointment.

In Wilson's case, it could be due to misuse by former defensive coordinator Bill Davis. Wilson is at his best being utilized in blitz packages while roaming near the line of scrimmage. However, Wilson often found himself back in coverage, something that isn't one of his strong points.

Wilson did make the Pro Bowl, but the four-time participant was apologetic after the news and was clearly undeserving of the honor following a season not up to snuff with his past work.

Dockett and Fitzgerald still put forth reasonable efforts in 2010, just not quite up to the high standards they've set for themselves.

Dockett was injured off and on throughout the year, and his disruptiveness in the trenches in turn took a hit. Dockett still managed to have his moments and after signing a lucrative, multi-year contract extension last offseason, he'll have plenty to prove in 2011.

Fitzgerald was the toughest to put on this list for a variety of reasons. 1) His stat line wasn't that bad but, as always, stats don't always tell the story. 2) Fitzgerald had a pitiful group of quarterbacks throwing him the ball.

Larry Fitzgerald

Nonetheless, Fitzgerald was a shell of his former self throughout a disappointing season in the desert. Fitzgerald's playmaking ability was limited and he even lacked concentration at times, dropping more passes than usual. Fitzgerald tied his career low in touchdown receptions (6) and his longest catch of the season resulted in only 41 yards.

But again, the Cardinals' quarterbacks did Fitzgerald no favors with their inauspicious play. The combination of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Richard Bartel completed just over 50 percent of their passes while maintaining a QB rating of 60.5.

Fitzgerald should come back hungrier than ever next year, providing that Arizona addresses the situation under center.

Additional players such as Beanie Wells and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – who were on the cusp of breaking out – also need to recover in 2011.

Rodgers-Cromartie was expected to take another step towards being the NFL's latest shut-down cornerback. That didn't happen and DRC, in fact, was often picked on by the opposition.

Rodgers-Cromartie lacks a killer instinct and losses his focus too often on the field. Furthermore, his inability to contribute against the run makes him a liability at times. Rodgers-Cromartie must perfect his technique and cover skills this offseason in order to reach his full potential.

Wells is in almost an identical situation as Rodgers-Cromartie, except on the offensive side of the ball. Wells appeared to be on track to develop into one of the top backs in the NFC but those plans were derailed during an ineffective season.

After racking up 793 yards rushing on 4.5 yards per carry in a promising rookie campaign, Wells suffered a sophomore slump in 2010. He missed three games because of a knee injury and was limited to only 397 yards rushing on the year. The most alarming stat was an extremely pedestrian 3.4 yards per carry.

The Cardinals have plenty of work to do in order to resurface as a playoff contender. Much of the heavy lifting, however, can be done by an existing group of core players, so long as they can return to their elite status.

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com


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