Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals certainly got their money's worth with their 2008 NFL Draft class. Most of the 2009 sophomores lived up to their hype and were some of the most productive members on the Cardinals roster. AZRedReport.com dishes out its sophomore rankings...
1. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: It would be difficult to find any signs of a sophomore slump with this pick-happy corner. The golden boy of the secondary earned his first Pro Bowl nod thanks to seven interceptions, 26 passes defensed and three forced fumbles (including playoffs because according to Brett Favre, why wouldn't it?). Unfortunately for the speedster, he suffered a knee injury in his team's big-time loss to the Saints in the NFC divisional playoff game, which will keep him out of the Pro Bowl limelight.
Despite his accolades, the former first-rounder can still improve. He tends to shy away from physical contact and has been accused of guessing in coverage. The Cardinals will take the bad with the good, as he is primed to be a star of the Cardinals secondary for years to come.
2. DE Calais Campbell: The Cardinals former second-round pick is second on our list for his ability to use his near-Shaq size frame (6'8", 290) to pin down the quarterback, get in front of passes and give the Cardinals an opportunity to win from the defensive side of things.
When Arizona drafted Campbell, they needed youth, size and energy in its defensive front seven. The Cardinals received that and more. With the retirement of Bertrand Berry, the uncertain future of Karlos Dansby, Chike Okeafor, Gabe Watson and Bryan Robinson, Campbell will be counted on immensely next season. Campbell will not only need to continue to exhibit his play-making ability, but also bring along Will Davis and Cody Brown. Campbell should have no problem improving on an impressive seven-sack 2009 showing.
3. RB Tim Hightower: As one of the best sleeper picks in the 2008 draft, the ball carrier out of Richmond has paid dividends for Arizona. The former fifth-round pick came to Arizona with a chip on his shoulder. He wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine but proved all the scouts wrong when he rushed for 11-total touchdowns his rookie season. He continued his success in his second year. Hightower became a threat in both the receiving and running game. Early in the season, Hightower led the Cardinals with the most receiving yards. He finished his sophomore campaign (including playoffs) with 10 rushing touchdowns and 476 receiving yards.
Hightower has silently fell on the depth chart to rookie Beanie Wells but shouldn't be counted out. In the Cardinals-Saints playoff game, he exhibited his burst with a 70-yard touchdown run on the first Cardinals play from scrimmage.
One area that Hightower fell short was his six fumbles through the post-season. Hightower, who had some of the surest hands in college football, needs to spend the offseason with the pigskin in his hands.
4. WR Early Doucet: Perhaps the most optimistic part of the Cardinals future is wrapped up in the former LSU standout. Doucet fell victim to injury for much of his first two seasons. When healthy, he's showcased what he can do for the team. The once third-round pick stayed focused despite cause for easy frustration. He's listened to what Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston has to say, which has helped him in the way he prepares for a game and the way he's kept himself to a high standard.
Doucet earned his first career touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in Week 16 of his sophomore season. He made up for lost time, catching two touchdown passes in the playoffs. Doucet is a capable blocker in the run game, has good hands and adds yards after the catch, which are all reasons Arizona was attracted to him in the first place.
5. DE Kenny Iwebema: The Iowa alum has had some injury setbacks in his two years in the league. He's made the most of his playing time with two-key sacks in his second year. He stopped a possible touchdown run with a sack against the Seattle Seahawks and recorded a sack in a too close for comfort win over the Detroit Lions. Again, with the iffy future of the Cardinals defensive front seven, the Cardinals need to see more production and durability from Iwebema.
6. T Brandon Keith: The former seventh-rounder is still a project for Arizona. Since Keith is Russ Grimm's pet project, he's developing and could contend for a starting role next season. Keith has had his work cut out for him since day one, but his work could reap rewards in his junior year.
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