For the first time in recent memory, we're looking at a relatively young, untested group of linebackers going into the draft.
Of the current group, who do you think will have the biggest chip on their shoulder this year?
2009 Stats: N/A
The rule of thumb for first and second round picks is that they are capable of coming in and contributing to the team right away. Obviously, Brown wasn't able to do that, due to a wrist fracture. With a year of meetings and light conditioning under his belt, will he now be able to make the impact the FO anticipated?
2009 (CFL) Stats: 55 TAK, 12 Sacks, 1 Int, 2 Fumb
Baggs is old (28) for an NFL rookie, but played in the CFL for 5 years before coming to the Cardinals. However, 2009 was the first year he got significant playing time: For his career he has 80 Tackles and 16 Sacks. Not exactly a proven commodity. There are a lot of questions around "Shakespeare," but he's bound to be motivated to prove he can succeed here.
2009 Stats: 9 TAK
2009 may have been even more disappointing for Highsmith than his rookie year, when he was taken out early with a knee injury. He got a chance to play with the D, and struggled on all accounts. There are a lot of knocks on Highsmith like his size or his ability to rebound from that injury, but with a constantly depleted LB corps he still has a chance. He'll be motivated, too -- he played in too many games in 2009 to be eligible for the practice squad again, so he'll have to earn an actual roster spot.
2009 Stats: 49 TAK, 1 FF
Hayes has sort of defaulted to the mainstay of the group, but there'll be pressure on him this year to both improve on a disappointing 2009 campaign, and to do it without Dansby. Add to that the fact that he'll be the newest member of the 30+ Club in October and 2010 could be a significant year for Hayes.
2009 Stats: N/A
Walker earned a surprise roster spot by his strong preseason play. It was even more surprising when he held on to that spot all year, despite rarely (never?) being active on game days, and with little regard to the injury-related turmoil at the position. When Highsmith was demoted to the practice squad at the end of the year, Walker apparently moved above him on the depth chart by simply showing up. He's had a year for Lott to mold him for success, and hopefully has learned enough to get more involved.
2009 Stats: N/A
Washington, from what I can tell, began a journeyman's career in 2007 when he recorded 1 TAK in a span of 3 games for Miami. Since, he's bounced from practice squad to practice squad, but there seems to be a feeling that he may have found a home in Arizona. Have to like his size at 6'3" 250 lbs and the FO is high on him, but he has a lot to prove at a crowded position.
2009 Stats: 16 TAK, 2 Sacks
Expectations were low for the 6th-round draft pick, but Davis was able to show enough both on special teams and defense that he'll be entrenched in the competition to play more this year. Will he be able to turn into an every-down contributor?
2009 Stats: 35 TAK, 3 FF, 1 PD
Despite only having been signed a couple days ago, Lenon's reception has been lukewarm (even hostile). Originally the intent was to bring him in for depth, but with Foote signing in Pittsburgh, it looks more likely that he will have a chance to contribute right away. Lenon's been around awhile (this will be his 9th year in the NFL). He is undersized but athletic, despite being 32, but it's unclear if he's got the durability or skill-set to succeed in a 3-4 defense.
2009 Stats: 57 TAK, 5 Sacks, 2 FF, 1 PD
Presently the oldest player of the group, Haggans provided a steady presence in 2009 and the hope is that he'll be able to do it again in 2010. However, age is only a friend for children and Haggans has passed that mark by quite a margin. With all the young talent behind him, there's an expectation that he'll steadily lose playing time as the season progresses.