Cardinals Set Goals for Training Camp

Darnell Dockett (Getty)

Goal No. 1 is to handle prosperity with professionalism: The Cardinals are coming off their first Super Bowl appearance and their first post-season action since 1998. They obviously are more accustomed to coping with the aftermath of failure rather than success. It's important the players realize they haven't arrived, and it's a theme coach Ken Whisenhunt has emphasized throughout the offseason.

While the Cardinals' playoff experience is limited, there are a good number of veterans on the roster who should help keep everyone grounded. Quarterback Kurt Warner plans to play just two more years, so his sense of urgency is as great as ever. No one out-works receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, and the offensive line returns intact.

On defense, the Cardinals also have some stalwarts to turn to in challenging times. Strong safety Adrian Wilson demands a lot of his teammates, and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby is a constant. There are key veteran backups throughout the two-deep -- guys like outside linebackers Clark Haggans and Bertrand Berry -- who aren't going to let young players slide.

Adapt to defensive changes: New defensive coordinator Bill Davis is moving the unit to a more conventional 3-4, but that doesn't mean the Cardinals aren't going to take some changes. Davis challenged his unit mentally throughout the offseason, installing an enlarged playbook that required a decent amount of studying in and out of the classroom.

Davis and his coaching staff will use training camp to help decide what portions of the defense to keep and what parts to discard. Look for the Cardinals to do considerable experimenting in preseason games.

Coaches are quick to downplay the idea that the Cardinals are morphing into the Steelers-West. But Whisenhunt does have great respect for Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, and he has tremendous respect for LeBeau blitz concoctions.

As an offensive coach, Whisenhunt knows the headaches that scheme can cause. So look for the Cardinals to take a look at players in various roles. Wilson, the strong safety, will continue to line up at linebacker in some nickel formations. Free safety Antrel Rolle will move to cover the slot receiver. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby can blitz. Defensive end Darnell Dockett can move to tackle in nickel packages and cause problems. Davis doesn't have an double-digit sack specialist at his disposal, but he does have some versatile players who can line up in different spots. The challenge in preseason will be utilizing those players while not overloading them mentally.

Pick up where they left off on offense:The Cardinals could open the season with only one new starter on offense: fullback Dan Kreider. That's good news considering they were one of the league's most explosive offenses in 2009.

But there have been other changes. Former offensive coordinator Todd Haley left to become head coach of the Chiefs. Whisenhunt has split his duties between assistant head coach Russ Grimm, who will coach the offensive line and coordinate the running game, and Mike Miller, the former receivers coach who will coordinate the passing game.

It's not a new job for Grimm, who did pretty much the same thing the past two years. It's a big step up for Miller, however. Whisenhunt will return to calling plays, something he did for much of the 2008 season, his first as head coach.

Haley's absence will be felt most on the practice field. He was a dynamic and demanding force, and he had a knack of knowing how to motivate players. Sometimes his temper got the best of him, but he leaves a void that needs to be filled.

CAMP CALENDAR: Players report July 29. There is a conditioning test on July 30 and the first practice is July 31. Camp breaks on Aug. 20. On Saturday, Aug. 8, the Cardinals will host a "Red and White" practice that includes an autograph session a live goal-line session. The team will also have two night practices, on Aug. 5 and Aug. 18.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--Strength and conditioning coach John Lott continued a tradition of having the rookies hike a local mountain to conclude summer workouts. It's a steep trail and a solid workout. More importantly, Lott views it a team building exercise.

--ILB Karlos Dansby isn't angry that the club didn't re-sign him a long-team contract. Dansby is working under the franchise tag for the second straight year. Maybe his lack of complaining is due to making nearly $18 million in two seasons playing under the franchise label.

--Ken Whisenhunt might be the best golfer among NFL head coaches. He's going to get a chance to prove it this week as he plays in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe. It's Whisenhunt's first appearance in the event.

--Rookie RB Beanie Wells was a diligent participant in workouts once he was allowed to participate under NFL rules. Wells couldn't participate in practices because classes at Ohio State were in session. But he arrived in Arizona the first day possible and spent a considerable amount of time with receiver Larry Fitzgerald, even staying at Fitzgerald's house.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard to put into words what I feel about you, what you have done for me and this team. I have great respect for how you handled everything, and I thank God we are on this journey together." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt's text message to Kurt Warner after the Super Bowl, as published in Warner's new book "First things First," co-written by Brenda Warner.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Cardinals achieved most of their offseason goals. They re-signed two key veterans, quarterback Kurt Warner and strong safety Adrian Wilson, and are currently trying to do the same with inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

They bolstered a secondary that struggled at times last year and added some young players who could move into starting roles in the future. There are still questions, however. The Cardinals lack an elite pass rusher, don't have a proven tight end and are young at running back.

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