No, the offseason has not yet technically begun because of the NFL lockout, but it is not ever too early to begin thinking about 2011 production from the players on our favorite teams. In fact, Pro Football Weekly featured the NFC West and a likely breakout player for each of the four teams in the division.
After the jump, you can read who they picked as their players and then I want to focus on the Cardinals and give my thoughts on who will take a big step forward in production, excluding the rookie class because they have not yet played at all.
PFW's picks were:
1. NT Dan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
2. CB Bradley Fletcher, St. Louis Rams
3. OT Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers
4. OT Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks
They had this to say about Williams:
Arizona's top draft pick last season steadily improved as the season wore on sharing time at nose tackle with 14-year veteran Bryan Robinson and five-year pro Gabe Watson. Williams is expected to take over the starting NT job in 2011 from Robinson, a free agent who looks like a long shot to remain with the team. Williams admitted to having some problems adjusting to the pro level initially, but by year's end, he was consistently occupying the middle and forcing more than one opposing blocker to keep him from penetrating. The 6-2, 327-pound Williams did his best work near the goal line, clogging up the interior for a Cardinals defense that was the league's best inside the red zone. Williams showed an ability to beat top centers (like Carolina's Ryan Kalil) en route to making plays and figures to be much more consistent in his second season.
Many of us on ROTB have been very high on Williams and how he progressed late in the season, particularly after he was benched one game because of his weight and conditioning. He is poised to make a difference this season.
Here are my other picks for the players to break out and improve:
Wells did well his rookie season, but had injury problems and got into a little trouble by talking to the media instead of addressing issues with the coaches in closed quarters. Some are ready to write him off as a bust.
However, as noted in a recent radio interview, Wells knows this year is important and he has no desire of "striking out." He is also motivated by the drafting of Ryan Williams in the second round of the NFL Draft this past April.
These factors, combined with the likelihood of more rushing attempts as a team (hopefully) and a more effective quarterback as a threat (PLEASE!), will have us seeing a productive Beanie in 2011.
I'm going to say he is going to have a very solid season, whether he is the number two or number three receiver. He made great strides in the second half of last season after being seen as perhaps not making the team, out of training camp. The QB will be better in 2011 and he will get more reps. He is set to step up and produce.
After his first season starting, he was not terrible. He was among the league's best in tackles among defensive backs and he also had the best (lowest) completion rate allowed among his fellow corners, despite being targeted most. He picked off two passes and allowed three TDs. DRC, across the field had only one more INT and also gave up one more TD. DRC allowed more yards despite being targeted less.
Toler will be even better in coverage and will be a solid player in Ray Horton's defense. While he may end up being a number three corner by the end of the season, expect solid contributions in either role (as long as he is still with the team).
CC was supposed to do this in 2010 and for some reason did not. He did lead the team in sacks with six, but he was not the dominating force he was expected to become. Perhaps he was not prepared for be the focus of offensive plans. But with another year under his belt and the experience of that focus, expect to see a much more productive CC in the pass rush.