Karlos Dansby (Getty Images)
AZRedReport.com's Amberly Richardson continues to rank Arizona's top-49 players. Part VI of this seven-part series examines spots 8-14, a grouping that includes all returning players that have the chance of making an even bigger impact in the 2008.
Click here for Part V
14. C Al Johnson (6’5”, 311) will be expected to man the center next season for his second year in red and sixth season in the league. His presence will help bring the continuity the Cardinals are hoping for at the line. The offensive line took care of the quarterback last season. Johnson was a big part of that.
13. K Neil Rackers (6’1”, 207) is in a league of his own, in terms of bringing out the long kicks. Over the past five years, he and the St. Louis Rams’ Jeff Wilkins have effectively made more 50-plus field goal kicks than any other kickers in the league. Rackers has 15 and Wilkins has 18. Rackers has had three blocked kicks in eight seasons.
12. ILB Karlos Dansby (6’4”, 240) is a core member of the Cardinals organization; he got the franchise tag to prove it. Dansby may or may not be in red come 2009, but he’s locked down through the season and will need to continue his massive contributions on defense to get the money he deserves, whether it’s from the Cardinals or the open market. He enters his fifth season. Dansby posted a career-best last year with 97 tackles. His production on sacks slipped a little from 2006 when he posted eight, that number fell to 3.5 in 2007.
11. FS Antrel Rolle (6’0”, 208) will move back to free safety this season. Entering his third season, the Cardinals will rely on Rolle to explode alongside Adrian Wilson. The last line of defense is much stronger with those two leading the unit. The defensive backs were a teetering group last year, but he did his part. He appeared in all 16 games with eight starts at corner. He tallied 52 tackles with five interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.
10. RG Deuce Lutui (6’4”, 338) enters his third season in the league. He’s in good shape heading into next year. He has his USC teammate at the realms again. The Cardinals hope the familiarity will help the already vastly improved offensive line. Lutui has little to no depth behind him, he could be a make or break it player at guard.
9. Kurt Warner (6’2”, 222) sits in the top-10 under extenuating circumstances. While typically a backup quarterback making his way into his 11th season, wouldn’t have the same accolades, the situation is atypical. He carried the Cardinals to an even .500 last season when Leinart went down and is major insurance for Arizona going forward.
The Cardinals will have Warner take a step back to see if Leinart can do it on his own this season, but if that proves to be a fallacy, Warner is more than ready to lead the team as he did when Leinart was injured in the fifth week in 2007.
8. ILB Gerald Hayes (6’1”, 253) tied Calvin Pace with the most tackles last season (98) and came to a draw with Dansby for second-most sacks (four). He is chomping at the bit looking for a third straight season with 90 or more tackles. He took the starting reigns in 2006 and has been a workhorse ever since. He is a key member of the Cardinals defensive front seven. Hayes is primed and pumped and won’t be competing with the rookies or newcomers for the primetime.
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.