The Arizona Cardinals feature 13 players with eight-plus years of experience in the NFL. Some of…
Cardinals: Training Camp Goals
Leinart has shown great patience in waiting behind Kurt Warner the past two years. By all accounts, his work ethic has been strong, and he learned under Warner what it takes to become a successful quarterback. But can he make the plays he needs to on the field? He was shaky in mop-up duty last season, throwing poor passes and making poor reads. But he was impressive in his only extended action, a last-second loss in Tennessee. With little preparation time, Leinart started and played well enough for the Cardinals to win.
His teammates need to see more of that in training camp and through the preseason. Leinart needs to avoid a disastrous performance, like the one he had in Oakland in 2008. That dismal showing basically handed the starting job to Warner, who kept a tight grip on it for two seasons. If Leinart falters, coach Ken Whisenhunt will turn to Derek Anderson, who was inconsistent as a starter in Cleveland.
Develop an identity on defense: It's not a stretch to envision at least five new starters in a unit that flamed out in the playoffs last season. The different faces are both new and old. The Cardinals signed outside linebacker Joey Porter, 33, in the hopes that he could provide the outside rush the club has missed. Last year, the Cardinals had to manufacture ways to pressure the quarterback. They are hoping Porter can do it the old-fashioned way -- by beating offensive tackles off the edge. The defense played well at times last year, but lacked a consistent nastiness. Porter has been known to bristle when he thinks he isn't being used correctly, but the Cardinals need both his attitude and pass-rush skills. If Porter hasn't lost too much at his age, he could help the Cardinals get to the quarterback with just four rushers. Ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett are impact players, and it's hoped that rookie nose tackle Dan Williams can provide a push inside.
Embrace change: The Cardinals had minimal changes in 2009 and won their second consecutive division title. In 2010, there are changes everywhere. Warner has retired. Left guard Alan Faneca was signed, and the offensive line has been revamped. There should be at least five new defensive starters. Molding this group into a playoff contender will be Whisenhunt's biggest challenge since 2007, his first season in Arizona. With a new contract and continuity on his staff, Whisenhunt is confident the franchise has the talent to win, and the acumen to develop that talent. Certainly, winning a third NFC West title is not out of the question. But there are considerable personnel changes on the defense, and Warner's retirement is likely to change the direction of the offense. Not many people are picking the Cardinals to win the division, and Whisenhunt will use the disrespect angle often this season. In his three years, the Cardinals have played better when expectations were low.
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