What a difference a season makes. The Rams are led by their big-buck rookie Sam Bradford, while the Cardinals lost Kurt Warner to retirement and ditched their supposed-to-be starter Matt Leinart. The Cardinals will look to prove the last few years of success weren’t all Warner, and the Rams want to be known as contenders.
5. Adrian Wilson
Look for Wilson to play close to the line of scrimmage to force the Rams' young quarterback to throw rather than hand off to the his major offensive threat. RB Steven Jackson broke the 1,400-yard mark last season (only RB Chris Johnson ran for more) and has surpassed 1,000 yards every year since 2005. Last season, the Cardinals ranked mid-league in run defense.
4. Tim Hightower
Running mate Beanie Wells is nursing a knee injury and could be a no-go against the Rams. Hightower will have to pick up the slack with the help of LaRod Stephens-Howling. If Wells isn’t close to 100 percent, don’t expect the Cardinals to push their luck on the injury front, especially against a team that’s been less than a formidable opponent in recent years.
The Cardinals will likely utilize the chance to see what Derek Anderson has to offer, and for him to build a rapport among him and his receivers. But, the Cardinals will also rely on Hightower to help move the chains. Hightower remains the named starter, and he can use the extra carries to keep it that way.
3. Joey Porter
Expect any combination of the Cardinals' defense to give Bradford a “welcome to the NFL” moment on Sunday. Porter may not be a spring chicken, but it was just two seasons ago when he bagged 17 sacks. The Cardinals are banking on the idea that guy is still in there, at 33 years old.
2. Levi Brown
Brown will continue to draw attention to himself, as he acclimates himself to the left side. Whether it will be positive or negative attention can’t be determined from the preseason. His transition was praised in practices and shunned in games. If history is any indication, the Rams should give Brown a cushion to work with, but the training wheels will come off there.
1. Derek Anderson
The buzz surrounding Anderson is palpable. The weapons he has at his disposable are enviable. The opponent he’ll face his first time as a full-fledged starter for the Arizona Cardinals, ideal. The Rams pass-rush was non-existent last year and shouldn’t worry Anderson too much on Sunday even with the questions on the Arizona offensive line. Ken Whisenhunt will likely use the Rams to showcase Anderson’s abilities and prove to Cardinal nation he’s still the guy to trust.
Amberly Dressler is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America and has contributed to Scout.com since 2007. Her work has been published on FoxSports.com and MySpace Sports, with appearances on NFL Network, ESPN Radio and Pro Football Central.
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