RB Edgerrin James (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty)
Few people are thrilled when they turn 30, and that's especially true for NFL running backs. At 30, NFL backs are supposed to begin to show decline, at least that's the conventional wisdom.Cardinals running back Edgerrin James isn't buying that. Of course, you wouldn't expect him to since he turned 30 on Aug. 1.
"That's like a cliche now," Edgerrin James said. "I don't think that applies to me, because after all I've done and the way I take care of my body, I'm not even concerned with that. I see some guys who haven't even played as long as I've played, they're missing practices and not able to play every game."
There are two schools of thought when it comes to evaluating James, and each has some validity. The first one holds that James' accomplishments the last two years can't be discounted. He's gained more than 1,000 yards in each of those seasons, and his 1,222 rushing yards was the most by a Cardinals since the team moved to Arizona in 1988.
But it's also true that James lacks big-play ability. He had only four runs last year of 20 yards or more. While he's excellent at getting decent gains out of almost every carry, he has a hard time breaking tackles in the secondary, or pulling away from defenders.
James' two years in Arizona have been frustrating for him, but he has refused to second-guess his decision to sign with the Cardinals. Of course, he didn't have a lot of choices because the Cardinals weren't bidding against any other teams to get him.
James' goal is to finish his career in the top 5 all-time rushers, and that's possible if he stays healthy.
"I'm aware of where I'm at because that was one of things that was important to me when I came into the game," he said. "I feel good. I'm still interested in it, so I'll be in one of those top fives, no doubt. I'm not worried about that."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp ends Aug. 21.
--Quarterback Kurt Warner didn't play in the preseason opener. Coaches wanted Matt Leinart to get plenty of work, and they didn't want Warner to play behind the second-team offensive line. "I just hope in some way, shape or form, it doesn't work against you in the competition part of it," Warner said. "I don't think it will. I think the audition process is more for Matt, to show where he is at and what he's capable of. I just think they know what they've got with me."
--Coach Ken Whisenhunt is out of patience with his team's propensity to commit penalties. The Cardinals led the league last year with 137 penalties and had eight in their preseason opener.
"The tank is pretty much on empty as far as patience goes with that," Whisenhunt said. "There are going to be penalties. I understand that. But when there are selfish penalties, when there are penalties where guys' emotions are getting the best of them, unsportsmanlike conducts or personal fouls, those things we are not going to tolerate."
--Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the first-round draft pick, knows the rap against him is that he's not a willing tackler. He tried to dispel that with a big hit against Saints tight end Mark Campbell.
"Most teams when they're scouting me say I'm not very physical and they're going to come at me to see if I'll hit," he said. "So I'm just waiting on that opportunity."
"I mean, look at what's going on with our offensive line right now," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, referring to the rash of injuries there. "You just can't afford to use one of those spots for an extra kicker or an extra punter and take away from a receiver, a DB (defensive back), a lineman."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Like an old coach used to say, don't put him in Canton yet." -- Running backs coach Maurice Carthon on Tim Hightower's performance in the first game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
C Al Johnson is going to miss a month after undergoing knee surgery early in camp. Backup Lyle Sendlein is a solid player, so the Cardinals are fine at the position as long as Sendlein stays healthy. The club picked up Pat Ross as a backup.
Coaches are very pleased with the development of the two drafted defensive ends, Calais Campbell (second round) and Kenny Iwebema (fourth round). Both made nice plays in the preseason openers, and look like they can at least be rotational players this year.
TE Leonard Pope looks rusty after missing all of the off-season work while recovering from a dislocated ankle and fractured leg. He doesn't look like he's running smoothly, and he had a false start in the preseason opener. Pope had seven false starts in 13 games last year. Ben Patrick could overtake Pope for the starting job.
WR Steve Breaston solidified his hold on the No. 3 job with a good performance against the Saints. Breaston made two nice catches, including a 34-yard run gain on a short crossing route. He has more speed than the starters, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and could stretch the field for the Cardinals.
DL Bryan Robinson, a 12-year veteran, is one of the most important additions of the off-season. He's starting at the nose with Gabe Watson out and he can also play defensive end. His versatility gives the club more depth than it had last year.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Tim Hightower appears to have overtaken J.J. Arrington as the backup to starting running back Edgerrin James. Arrington is the team's fastest back and the club would like to see him take more advantage of it. Arrington needs to prove he can run between the tackles to be more than a third down back. Hightower, a rookie, appears to be a tough runner with a nice burst.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Antrel Rolle solidified his spot as the starter at free safety. Aaron Francisco, who had battled him, didn't play well against the Saints, giving up a touchdown and a long pass that nearly set up another score.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Matt Leinart was sharp in the opener, completing 8 of 9 passes for 91 yards, including a 34-yarder. Leinart held in the pocket when pressured and delivered a couple of nice throws.
ROOKIE REPORT: OL Brandon Keith, a seventh-round pick, is having an impressive camp. He moved from tackle to guard last week because of injuries there and played well in the preseason opener.
DE Kenny Iwebema, a fourth-round pick, could figure into the rotation on first and second downs. Iwebema is strong, according to the team's offensive lineman. Iwebema had a sack in the preseason opener.
DE Calais Campbell, a second-round pick, is moving from end to tackle in nickel situations. Coaches hope Campbell, at 6-8, could bat down some passes.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the first-round pick, might be the fastest player on the team. His speed is eye-popping. He needs some technique work, but his speed will allow him to recover from some mistakes.
INJURY REPORT: C Al Johnson recently underwent knee surgery and could miss a month or so. The club is hoping he can return in time for the opener or at least by the second game. Lyle Sendlein will start in his place.
WR Anquan Boldin has slight strain in his right hamstring but should be able to return to practice soon.
NT Gabe Watson probably will miss all of training camp while recovering from a fractured kneecap in the off-season. Watson is progressing well, but the medical team wants him to build the muscles around the knee. Watson has kept his weight down. He weighs 323, the least amount he's weighed since high school.
LB Monty Beisel is recovering from back surgery and hopes to begin practice soon.
WR Early Doucet has a hamstring strain but it's hoped he will return to practice in time to play in the second or third preseason game.
FB Dionte Johnson has a high ankle sprain and could miss more time.