Falling to the bottom of the NFC West division isn’t a place the Arizona Cardinals envisioned themselves after they started 4-0 in 2012, but the 2013 offseason has instilled a new energy to the Cardinals’ franchise. A new Head Coach in Bruce Arians, new General Manager in Steve Keim and a new quarterback in Carson Palmer are the forces to hopefully bring this franchise back to prominence this season, but there are also about five other players poised to step up in a big way in 2013.
These are the five Arizona Cardinals’ players that can breakout in 2013.
5. Rob Housler
Bruce Arians loves to use tight ends in the passing game. Arians displayed that love of tight ends in his play calling at Pittsburgh with Heath Miller and at Indianapolis with Dwayne Allen. He particularly likes to use tight ends on crossing routes and other routes in the middle to be an escape valve for the quarterback, and Rob Housler has the tools to be that player. The only difference is Housler might be better than Miller and Allen, because of his athleticism. The bottom-line is you should be expect Housler to have a big year in 2013, and he might become one of the most important pieces of the offense as a whole.
4. Rashad Johnson
It took Rashad Johnson a couple of seasons to develop into an every down starting safety, but Johnson is ready to take the world by storm. His best attribute is the ball skills he proved he still had from Alabama with two interceptions in 2012 in limited action and managed to return one 87 yards to the house. The Cardinals thought enough of Johnson to finally release Adrian Wilson and re-sign Johnson to a three-year contract. This will be the first season Johnson will be alone of the depth chart and I’m positive he’ll take advantage of it in a major way.
3. Kevin Minter
The LSU linebacker Kevin Minter will have some competition to earn an inside linebacker spot with Jasper Brinkley in the fold, but Minter has the leadership qualities to step in immediately and contribute. I don’t even see it as a competition with Brinkley, because Brinkley has always been a one note linebacker who is only effective in run defense. Minter on the other hand is a smart player in zone coverage and brings the same skills that Brinkley does as an enforcer on the strongside. There is still a lot of time for this linebacker corps to flesh itself out, but Minter has the opportunity to emerge as an impact player in his rookie season. It’s just up to Minter to work hard and beat out his competition before Week 1 arrives.
2. Michael Floyd
It’s a lot to ask a sophomore player to blow people’s minds in their second year and especially at the wide receiver position that is notoriously difficult to adjust quickly to for college receivers. However, Michael Floyd despite poor quarterback play in 2012 had a serviceable rookie season with 45 catches for 562 yards and two touchdowns. With Carson Palmer, an improved offensive line and Bruce Arians calling the plays, Floyd should have a monster year. He can easily hit a 1,000 yard season mark and be a major difference maker when Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts are covered.
1. Stepfan Taylor
I might be a little crazy in saying I believe Stepfan Taylor will win the Cardinals’ running back spot, but you have to look at the competition. Rashard Mendenhall hasn’t proven to be anything other than a journeyman back with his spin move. Ryan Williams was running scared last season, and Andre Ellington is too raw to play in a power running offense just yet. While Taylor is a solid runner with enough subtle moves and fakes to get the extra yards necessary in the NFL. He still might not be the most talented back on the depth chart, but neither Mendenhall, Williams nor Ellington have proved the ability to maximize their physical gifts. Taylor has, and he could be the biggest surprise of the season to a position that needs somebody to step up.
This concludes the top five Arizona Cardinals’ players poised to breakout in 2013. Feel free to leave a comment on my blog and follow me on twitter @Jmcobern1.
James Cobern is a NFC West Division Leader for TPF and can be contacted at JCobern@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com