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Just days after completing the NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals were back on the playing field for this season’s first minicamp. There are several reasons for optimism in the desert, including talented new draft picks and undrafted free agents that have made their way to Arizona. Brad Wilbricht updates the Cardinals recent happenings and wraps up this weekend’s minicamp action.
In the midst of ongoing contract issues regarding WR Anquan Boldin and DT Darnell Dockett, the Arizona Cardinals kicked of minicamp action earlier this week. Although these are non-contact drills, the Cardinals’ coaching staff can gauge the progress of returning players and get a first-hand look at the potential ability of this year’s newcomers. After reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history a year ago, Arizona has even larger goals entering the 2009 season.
Boldin and Dockett have opted out of workouts up to this point, citing hamstring injuries as the cause. However, it’s well known that both players are searching for a new contract and that’s likely the true reason for their absence on the field. With the Arizona front office currently focusing on new deals for SS Adrian Wilson and LB Karlos Dansby, it’s uncertain when Boldin and Dockett’s situations will be addressed. Dansby is particularly important because of his $9.7 million cap number. If a long-term deal can be worked out, it would free up much needed cap room to be utilized elsewhere.
For rookies, it’s been an information overload since they arrived in the desert and that theme will continue for some time. There is little time to spare and the learning curve starts immediately in this day and age in the NFL. Additionally, the Cardinals’ transition to the 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis means more work for the veterans. Learning and becoming comfortable with the new schemes being put in place will be vital to returning players and the ultimate success of Arizona’s defense.
On the injury front, DE/OLB Bertrand Berry and backup QB Brian St Pierre are nicked up but neither injury is serious. Seventh-round draft pick RB LaRod Stephens-Howling has been slowed by a bad hamstring, something that’s been lingering since his Pro Day workout. Although he’s no lock to make the active roster, hopes are high that Stephens-Howling will take the reigns as Arizona’s third-down specialist in the wake of the departed J.J. Arrington. RB Jason Wright was also brought in to help in that role, but his main offerings are expected to come on special teams.
There will be multiple positions of interest during offseason workouts, particularly the offensive line and in the secondary. Coach Russ Grimm continues to develop the Cardinals’ offensive line and significant progress has been made since he took over in 2007. After being released last season, OT Oliver Ross is back in Arizona for another stint. His role is still to be determined but he provides depth at multiple positions along the offensive line.
In the secondary, cornerbacks Roderick Hood and Eric Green are gone, each of whom entered last year as noteworthy contributors. Hood and Green will be replaced by former Pittsburgh Steelers CB Bryant McFadden and journey Ralph Brown. Rookie CB Greg Toler will also be in the mix but he’ll need to adjust to the speed of the game coming from tiny St Paul’s University.
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