Matt Leinart (Getty)
Following a tumultuous offseason, the Arizona Cardinals are ready to debut their 2010 squad at the year’s initial minicamp action. Several intriguing storylines are beginning to take form, most notably at the quarterback position and in the secondary. Brad Wilbricht wraps up this weekend’s minicamp happenings and sets the table for the rest of the Cardinals’ preseason preparations.
One of the most important positional battles heading into the 2010 campaign clearly resides at quarterback. As of now it’s Matt Leinart’s job to lose but given his inconsistent performance in the past it wouldn’t be shocking if Derek Anderson got a look under center. Rookie John Skelton is also a possibility but the chances of him working with the first team are slim. A scenario with Anderson stepping in is much more likely. Anderson has performed at a Pro Bowl level in the past and his new opportunity with Arizona might allow him to recapture that caliber of play.
At running back, Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower continue to split carries out of the backfield. While Hightower has proved to be a major weapon both running and receiving, Wells has game-breaking abilities that few other runners in the league possess. Look for the Cardinals to continue Wells’ transition to the feature back while Hightower moves into more of a closer role ala Dallas Cowboys RB Marion Barber earlier in his career. The value of having both Wells and Hightower can’t be overstated given the short lifespan of NFL running backs and the probability that injuries occur.
WR Anquan Boldin has moved on to the Baltimore Ravens but there are still plenty of perimeter weapons at the Cardinals’ disposal. Wideouts Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will get the first shot to replace Boldin with incoming rookie Andre Roberts also in the mix. Doucet has been labeled a Boldin clone and might start opposite of Larry Fitzgerald while Breaston works as the slot receiver, a role where he thrives. No matter how the wide receiver depth ends up, Arizona will need production out of the other receivers in order to limit double teams against Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals’ secondary is somewhat uncertain at this point but the team’s conglomerate of pass rushers should help. LB Joey Porter offers dominate individual pass-rushing abilities while second-year LB Cody Brown returns from a season-long injury a year ago. Will Davis is another up and coming pass-rushing specialist and veteran Clark Haggans remains an option.
Reports from minicamp have CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie practicing at 65 percent and his health will be vital to the team’s success this year. Rodgers-Cromartie enters 2010 after a solid but unspectacular sophomore campaign. DRC continues to show flashes of brilliance but was also exploited at times, particularly deep in coverage. His importance became even great after Bryant McFadden was traded back to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the draft. McFadden’s departure bumps up second-year CB Greg Toler into the starting lineup.
Along with replacing future Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner, an improving running game and the development of the Arizona’s secondary will be the main areas to watch during OTA’s and training camp. If all of those current question marks are answered by the regular season opener, look for the Cardinals to continue their winning ways of the past two seasons.
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