Cards' Positional Battles to Watch: Offense

Matt Leinart (Getty)

The Arizona Cardinals featured one of the most potent offensive attacks in the NFL last year and the majority of that unit returns in 2009. Nearly all of the Cardinals' skill players are back and the offensive line continues to improve. While most of the jockeying for position will take place down the depth chart, Brad Wilbricht outlines which matchups to watch during the coming months.

Although veteran QB Kurt Warner is a lock to start under center, there's a heated battle expected to take place for the top backup spot. Many believe Matt Leinart is a given as the second-string signal caller but Brian St. Pierre thinks differently. St. Pierre recently went on record stating his desire to have a fair shot to backup Warner.

If Leinart continues to struggle in training camp and the preseason, St. Pierre could jump the former first-round pick on the depth chart. If that scenario takes place, Leinart's time in the desert will undoubtedly be coming to an end.

At running back, Tim Hightower had an extremely productive rookie season in Arizona but may find it difficult to hold off incoming rookie Chris Wells as the starter. The Cardinals selected Wells with their first-round pick this year and fully expect him to contribute immediately.

While Hightower surged to the top of depth chart midseason a year ago, he might revert back to his role as a change of pace back and goal-line specialist. However, given Wells' history of injuries, Hightower could once again see time as the feature back.


Anquan Boldin
(Getty)

The fate of the wide receiver position lies in the hands of disgruntled wideout Anquan Boldin. Boldin remains a no show at voluntary workouts in Arizona and is still demanding a new contract. If he ends up leaving the desert, there will be a fierce competition to start opposite of Larry Fitzgerald.

Steve Breaston, Jerheme Urban and Early Doucet will all be in the running if Boldin winds up elsewhere. Additionally, Lance Long has been turning heads during OTA's and could be in the mix. If Boldin and the Cardinals can come to an agreement, Boldin will reclaim his spot in arguably the top wide receiving tandem in the game.

With a logjam of tight ends for the second consecutive season, Arizona is hopeful at least one option will emerge as a viable option downfield. Tight ends Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick missed that opportunity a year ago and GM Rod Graves added two veteran players at the position.

TE Anthony Becht will get a shot as will Dominique Byrd. Becht is a seasoned vet while Byrd has been out of the league due to personal issues. If Pope and Patrick's talents continue to plateau, there's a good chance the team will go with experience over potential. Stephen Spach could be a wildcard, particularly if he picks up where he left off last year prior to an injury.

The Cardinals' offensive line is in stable condition but the center position could be more wide open than most realize. Center Lyle Sendlein did an admirable job in the middle last year but is not a guarantee to continue his starting duties.

Backups Donovan Raiola and Ben Claxton could push Sendlein for playing time as the season progresses. If Sendlein manages to hold them off, he'll likely be in Arizona for the long haul anchoring the Cardinals' offensive line for years to come.


Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com
or click here to access the AZRedReport.com message boards.

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