Battles, Injuries, and No Good News So Far

Battles, Injuries, and No Good News So Far

This is supposed to be the year, but the preseason isn't showing it. Without Edge, and with many auditions for the second and third team, will the real Arizona Cardinals please stand up? ALSO: Leinart is challenging Navarre, but that's not the only battle raging in camp; Injuries are starting to mount, but compared to last year this team is the picture of health; Gabe Watson coming on strong.

INSIDE SLANT
--The team brought in one of the game's premier rushers and a couple of a highly-regarded new guards -- a free agent and a second-round draft pick -- in hopes of goosing the league's worst running game.
But midway through the preseason, there have been no signs of improvement at all.
Edgerrin James, who doesn't care to play in preseason contests and has gotten the club to sign off on it, followed a debut of two carries for minus-2 yards vs. Pittsburgh with two carries for 5 yards at New England. He's not yet averaging a yard a carry in limited work and nobody seems very disturbed by it.
Key word is "seems." Behind closed doors, Coach Dennis Green and team management have to be seething.
Free agent Milford Brown has cracked the lineup at right guard, but rookie Deuce Lutui has yet to nudge left guard Reggie Wells.
Starting right tackle Oliver Ross is recovering from knee surgery that could keep him out of the first real game or two, and that spot is being manned by a tag-team of Jeremy Bridges and Fred Wakefield.
Granted, the team has seen two decent rushing defenses -- Super Bowl champ Pittsburgh and former Super Bowl champ New England.
But if the Cardinals are to get where they want to be this year, they have to be able to run the ball against good teams.
"You'd love to go in there every game and be balanced, but you just have to take every situation as it comes," quarterback Kurt Warner said diplomatically. "We tried to force-feed some things because we wanted to get certain guys some touches, get 'Edge' some touches before he gets out. There were some things we could've done."
Against Pittsburgh, Cardinals backs rushed for 26 yards on 11 carries. Against the Patriots, it was 24 yards on 11 rushes.
"It's just not going to be there until Edge is playing the whole game," Green said. "But I think we should be doing better when he's not in there. I'm concerned. I'm concerned about every phase of the offense right now."
CAMP CALENDAR: The Cardinals have broken training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and returned to their Tempe training headquarters for the balance of their preseason work. They visit Chicago on Friday and close preseason play at home vs. Denver the following week.

NOTES, QUOTES
--It was nice that Matt Leinart finally got to go to an NFL game.
Leinart signed a six-year, $51 million contract and then on a short week of practice, the first-round draft pick made his pro debut at New England, showing surprising acumen regarding where to go with the ball, and even more surprising mobility that he likely had all along but rarely needed to use at Southern California.
"In this day and age, you get a lot of work in April, May and June," Coach Dennis Green said, "and, of course, he's a very talented player. He's been in a pro system. I think he'll make it up pretty quick. He'll have a chance to play in three preseason games, and I think he'll be ready when the season starts.
"The guy's real smart. We've done two-minute drills with him. We've done four-minute drills. We've done goal line, short yardage, base. We've done everything as far as a game plan is concerned, so he has a lot of information. Now what he's missed out on is this not being his second game. It was his first game."
Leinart completed four of 11 passes for 45 yards. Two of those passes were dropped by receivers. He scrambled twice for 29 yards, making him the team's leading rusher.
"I always knew I could run around, I just didn't have the opportunity at USC," Leinart said. "I didn't have to. I know here that I'm not going to have to do that a lot. But they were in two-man (zone defense), and there's no one who accounts for the quarterback in that situation. There were some big holes."
Leinart's first pass, a swing to RB J.J. Arrington, was a completion for 11 yards. Playing the final 1:09 of the first half, Leinart rallied the Cardinals to a 54-yard drive against New England's first defense that resulted in a field goal -- their only points in the 30-3 drubbing by the Patriots.
"Two-minute drill, my first series was pretty cool," Leinart said. "I felt all right. I've only been practicing for a few days, so I have to get better. It's obviously not college anymore. It's different. I'm playing the best of the best."
And if Leinart is to be believed, it was the first pro game he'd ever attended.
It didn't take the vets long to begin teasing the rookie QB.
"I made sure he stayed out and signed all the fans' autographs (after his first practice) because he missed 16 days," said QB Kurt Warner. "We're pushing his buttons a little bit. His wallet is a little thicker now. He'll be able to handle it."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm very disappointed simply because it is a long way to come and not be sharp. You don't want to travel all that way and not be sharp. I don't think I saw anybody sharp out there." -- Cardinals Coach Dennis Green on a 30-3 preseason drubbing on a cross-country trip to New England.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Matt Leinart, the last unsigned player from the 2006 draft in the NFL, agreed to a six-year, $51 million contract with about $14 million guaranteed. Chosen 10th overall in the first round, Leinart is expected to be Kurt Warner's backup this season while learning the team and the league, and then compete to be the team's franchise QB for many years to come.
The signing came one day after Coach Dennis Green angrily proclaimed to reporters, "When you put $14 million (guaranteed) on the table for the 10th pick in the draft, that is a lot more than anybody you've ever heard of as the 10th pick."
Leinart was projected in many mock drafts to go as high as third overall, but he wasn't even the first QB chosen. Vince Young of Texas was.
Leinart likely would have been a top 5 pick in the 2005 draft but he chose to stay in school for his senior season, a decision that might have cost him some money.
Leinart was quickly prepared and he made his pro debut Saturday night at New England, leading a drive in the closing 1:09 of the first half that produced the team's only points, a field goal.
In his debut, Leinart completed four of 11 passes, but two were dropped. He also scrambled twice for 29 yards in the drive for the field goal.
--DE Garrett McIntyre signed a one-year contract, largely for camp depth. McIntyre was a three-year starter at Fresno State. He was signed as an undrafted rookie by Seattle in May and was released in June.
--OT Kellen Davis, low on the depth chart and a long shot, was released.
--G Rolando Cantu (knee), a Mexican native and among the growing number of foreign players finding a niche in the NFL, was placed on Injured Reserve, the team's first player to go on the list this season. In 2005, the Cardinals had a league-high 14 players on IR by year's end.
--OLB Karlos Dansby, the strong-side starter who had three interceptions and four sacks last season, will not need surgery on a sore toe. He received a second opinion in Birmingham, Ala. Dansby, however, has not yet returned to practice and the Cardinals are irked. Upon his return, he might be moved to the weak side because his strong-side replacement, Calvin Pace, has dazzled the coaches.
--CB David Macklin is working with the first unit on the right side opposite Antrel Rolle, continued to solidify his position ahead of veteran Robert Tate with his work against the Patriots. Macklin had a nice breakup on a deep throw by Tom Brady.
--PR-KR Micheal Spurlock took a step forward in a battle with Bryant Johnson and Todd Watkins to become the return specialist. Spurlock returned three kickoffs for 76 yards and a punt for seven yards when given his opportunity against New England.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Matt Leinart vs. John Navarre for backup QB: With Leinart now signed and at practice, the battle begins. In his debut vs. New England, Leinart at times looked sharp for a raw rookie, and at times looked exactly like a raw rookie in his pro debut. Navarre has had two lackluster appearances and now must step it up a notch if he's going to hold off the rookie first-round pick.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: James Darling vs. Gerald Hayes for starting MLB. The competition remains robust in the most hotly contested starting position battle on the team. Each player has had his moments. Hayes, however, appears to be inching toward the job, each week getting a few more reps wit the first unit, and each week making the most of them. Darling, however, has done nothing to lose the job and continues to perform well himself. This one will be a fight to the finish, and more than likely they'll both see extensive playing time during the season.
--Micheal Spurlock vs. Bryant Johnson vs. LeRon McCoy vs. Troy Walters vs. Todd Watkins for KR-PR. Spurlock was given his chance against New England in the second preseason game and literally ran with it. Walters, however, averaged more than 15 yards a punt return in the opener against Pittsburgh. Others will get their chances in the final two preseason games. It remains a wide-open competition.
ROOKIE REPORT: QB Matt Leinart, chosen 10th in the first round, signed a six-year, $51 million contract with $14 million guaranteed on Tuesday, and then on Saturday, in his pro debut in a 2-minute situation, led the team to its only points -- a field goal -- against New England.
--G Deuce Lutui, a second-round pick, is working with the second unit on the left side but has yet to challenge veteran Reggie Wells for the job.
--TE Leonard Pope, a third-round pick who is big (6-8, 265), athletic, can catch and block, made his first pro grab -- a 10-yard reception at New England. He is listed third on the depth chart but is expected to grow into a challenger to Eric Edwards and Adam Bergen, the tag-team starters last year.
--NT Gabe Watson, a fourth-round pick, has the physical tools to challenge Kendrick Clancy for the starting job, but Clancy's experience has him firmly on the first unit early with Langston Moore listed second, ahead of Watson, who is on the third level. The key will be Watson's mindset.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Matt Leinart, signed on Tuesday, was tossed into a two-minute situation against New England's formidable defense in his pro debut Saturday and promptly directed a 54-yard drive to a field goal. Most surprising were Leinart's two scrambles for 29 yards to keep it going, a trait he rarely had to use in college at Southern California, leading many to the assumption that Leinart had no wheels. He was decent with the arm, too, all things considered.
INJURY REPORT: DE Bertrand Berry (knee), the right-side starter, left the New England preseason game in the first half and did not return. He will undergo an MRI as a precaution but the injury is not believed to be serious.
--C Alex Stepanovich, the starter who struggled through an injury-plagued 2005 after starting every game in 2004 as a rookie, suffered a chest bruise against the Patriots and did not return. The injury, however, is not believed to be serious.
--OLB Karlos Dansby (toe, thumb), the strong-side starter, got a second opinion on the toe and evidently will not need surgery. But he has yet to return to practice and the team is irked.
--RT Oliver Ross (knee), the right-side starter, had surgery on a torn meniscus and could miss the first couple of weeks of the regular season.
--DE-DT Kenny King, the first backup at under tackle and right-side DE, had surgery to remove a plate from his wrist and is out about 10 weeks. Given that he missed each of the past two seasons, there is doubt that the team will keep a roster spot warm for him.
--RB Roger Robinson, who set an NFL Europe season rushing record in the spring, suffered a toe injury early in the opening workout and will miss about a month. He appeared to be a long-shot to make the roster but is a strong practice-squad candidate.
--FB James Hodgins (knee) was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He missed all of last season. The team was hoping that the big-body (6-1, 275), who was Marshall Faulk's lead blocker when St. Louis won the Super Bowl, would be able to return to lead for Edgerrin James.
--G Rolando Cantu (knee) became the team's first player this season to be placed on Injured Reserve.
 

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