Cardinals: Roster Breakdown
Matt Leinart thought he was finally going to get a shot after two years as Kurt Warner's backup. But coach Ken Whisenhunt elected to go with Derek Anderson midway through the preseason and Leinart was released. John Skelton and Max Hall have looked good in preseason, but it's a risk having one of them as the No. 2 quarterback.
Tim Hightower could well hold on to the starting job but have considerably fewer carries than Beanie Wells. Hightower has great versatility, but Wells has more big-play ability. They should form an effective tandem. LaRod Stephens-Howling could play a larger role on third downs, and his quickness in space makes him hard to defend. Wright is a savvy veteran who can also play fullback.
Ben Patrick is a solid all-around starter. He's been hampered by injuries throughout his career and is due for a breakout season. Stephen Spach is a tough blocker. Jim Dray, a rookie, played well late in camp and could make the roster.
Despite trading Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, this remains a position of strength. Larry Fitzgerald might be the best in the game, and Steve Breaston is a more dangerous playmaker than Boldin. Early Doucet, if he can stay healthy, should emerge as a competent No. 3. Things are open after that. Andre Roberts, a third-round pick, has been a disappointment. He had trouble catching the ball in camp. Stephen Williams has been sensational and the undrafted rookie could be on the year's major surprises.
Lyle Sendlein is the only starter from last year who remains in the same position. Levi Brown moves from right to left, and coaches think he's athletic enough to play there. Alan Faneca adds experience and ability, even though he might not be the player he once was. The trade of Reggie Wells moved Deuce Lutui back into a starting role. Brandon Keith, a third-year pro, has never started a game, but Cardinals coaches think he's going to be an impact player. Rex Hadnot is valuable because he can play two spots.
Darnell Dockett is already an elite end, one of the most explosive players in the game. Calais Campbell, who had seven sacks last year in his first season as a starter, could also be on that level. The Cardinals need Dan Williams to make an impact. So far, Bryan Robinson has held him off as the starter but that could change. Gabe Watson has responded to the challenge by Williams by dropping weight. He is difficult to block when he's in condition. Alan Branch, a second-round pick, enters his fourth season with much to prove. He has never been in condition and this could be it for him. He can play both tackle and end and looked good in last year's camp before suffering a season0ending injury. Kenny Iwebema is a solid player, too.
Clark Haggans and Joey Porter are both 33 and nearing the end of their careers. Haggans, however, played well last year, and Porter believes he's every bit the pass rusher he was five years ago. Will Davis is a promising young player, although he didn't do much in the preseason. The concern is inside. Gerald Hayes had back surgery this summer and there is no proven backup at that strong position. Daryl Washington has emerged but he and Reggie Walker are unproven when it counts.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is already an elite player but he's frail and needs to get stronger. Greg Toler, in his second year, has great physical skills but he's raw. He's the favorite to start opposite DRC, but Trumaine McBride looked good this summer. McBride is tough and Adrian Wilson is one of the best in the game. Kerry Rhodes needs to rebound from a disappointing year with the Jets. The weakness of the group is at the cornernacl spot. There is no proven player opposite DRC, and the nickel job is up for grabs as well.
Jay Feely replaces Neil Rackers but it's questionable if that's an upgrade. They are similar in skills. Both have strong legs and make a high percentage during the regular season. Rackers struggled late last season. Ben Graham was one of the best in the league. The Australian has an uncanny ability to stop the ball deal inside the 10. Stephens-Howling doesn't have great speed, but he's quick and elusive. Roberts will be given every chance to win the punt returner's job because coaches don't want to expose Breaston, a starting receiver.
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