AZRedReport.com's Amberly Richardson has ranked the Cardinals top-49 players in a seven-part series.…
Five Schools Channeling Talent to Cardinals
Two of the Cardinals breadwinners were bred out of Pittsburgh. Fitzgerald's capable hands and athleticism are clutch for the Cardinals in the high-flying NFC. He was a Pro Bowl starter last season and has been one of the Cardinals' key players since he was drafted in 2004. His first two seasons out, he started in all 16 games.
Hayes is the Cardinals main defensive force. He tied for top-accolades with 98 tackles last season. He got the best of the opponent's quarterback four times, a career-high in his fifth season in the league.
2.) Miami: DE Calais Campbell, RB Edgerrin James and FS Antrel Rolle
While Campbell has yet to prove his NFL-worth, his alma mater teammates have proved their weight in gold. James enters his 10th season and is still registering numbers like those with half his experience. He tacked on a team-high 1,222 yards and is expected to carry the load for the majority of next season's ground game.
Rolle will make the move from corner to safety this year. He led the team in interceptions last season with five. He returned three for a touchdown.
3.) USC: QB Matt Leinart and RG Deuce Lutui
The Cardinals used their first and sound round choices of the 2006 NFL Draft with Trojan teammates Leinart and Lutui, respectively. Both are expected to play a larger role next year. Lutui's performance aside, his presence does wonders for the continuity the Cardinals will be banking on to protect Leinart next year.
Leinart sat out all but five games last season due to injury, but has been handed back the starting role in his third year out of USC. Much is said about if he can handle the job or not, but the talent that was demonstrated in Los Angeles should have people nodding yes.
4.) Michigan NT Gabe Watson, NT Alan Branch, WR Steve Breaston and TE Jerame Tuman
Watson was drafted out of Michigan in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft. The Cardinals liked what they saw and started him in all 16 games the very next year. He is expected to stay in the starting role moving forward.
The Cardinals enjoyed the Michigan product so much, they picked up Branch the following draft. Sitting behind Watson at nose tackle, Branch saw action in 11 games with zero starts.
Breaston was teammates with Branch and also picked up in 2007. He did extrememly well with return-duties in his rookie season. He is expected to contend for the No. 3 receiver role in his sophomore campaign.
While Tuman was brought in from his ties to Ken Whisenhunt, rather than Michigan, he deserves a note for longevity. If Tuman is any indication, looks like Michigan produces 10-year veteran types of players.
5.) Notre Dame: LT Mike Gandy and DE Bertrand Berry
Notre Dame represents some of the older guys on the Cardinals. Gandy saw a revival of his career when he made his way to the desert, after stints with the Chicago Bears and the Buffalo Bills. He started in all 16 games for the Cardinals last year. He has seven years of his experience under his belt, which is invaluable to the young guys he lines up next to.
In his 11th season, Berry also gets the vet label. He will have more competition than ever this season. Berry has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but is a locker room teammate and no doubt has a lot to still bring to the Cardinals.
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.
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