Matt Leinart (Getty)
With training camp just weeks away, the Arizona Cardinals will soon begin the quest to repeat as NFC champions. There are sure to be several different story lines taking place later this month that will help shape the mold of the Cardinals’ 2009 campaign. Brad Wilbricht outlines what to watch for when training camp kicks off in Flagstaff, AZ.
At the quarterback position, Kurt Warner is firmly planted as the team’s starter but backup Matt Leinart has a great deal to prove this season and beyond. Leinart’s career has been up and down thus far but he’s dedicated himself this offseason to getting in better shape while mastering the offense. With Warner likely to play only two more seasons, the Cardinals need a successor in place and are hopeful Leinart is still the answer.
The departure of RB Edgerrin James isn’t a tremendous blow, but it leaves Arizona with little experience in the backfield. Tim Hightower emerged in a exceptional rookie season a year ago and along with Chris Wells will need to provide consistency at the running back position. Wells has all the tools to develop into an every down back at the NFL level but staying on the field will be crucial. Wells’ battle with injuries will start during training camp as he needs all the practice he can get as a first-year player.
The saga of WR Anquan Boldin seems destined to continue into training camp but the Cardinals are expecting the three-time Pro Bowler to be present for all activities in Flagstaff. DT Darnell Dockett had also been lobbying for a new contract but recently announced his dedication towards the organization and remains optimistic the two parties will reach a new deal in the future. With LB Karlos Dansby not receiving an extension and SS Adrian Wilson locked up for the long haul, Boldin’s situation should be next in line to be addressed.
On defense, Arizona will need to continue to progress in order to repeat its Super Bowl run of last season. The pieces are in place to experience more growth but improving the pass rush and performance in the secondary will be vital towards that development. The Cardinals allowed over 220 yards per game through the air last year and totaled only 31 sacks. Lucky, the two aspects of the defense work cohesively and improving one should also benefit the other.
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