Thank God Its July

There are some people that would claim that football season never ends. These people are wrong. I understand that there's the Combine, Free Agency, the NFL Draft, the Supplemental Draft (talk to Bernie Kosar and tell him it doesn't matter), and roughly six or seven dozen owners meetings, Organized Team Activities, mini-camps, and other events that don't involve trying to kill each other.

I understand that they're important.  I do.

It's just that every year, I only get really wrapped up in the Draft.  The off-season is really for the GM and the owner.  Starting in July, we get close to the time that exists for the fans.  The time when Sunday means something.  I also understand that I used the word "God" in the title of this article, so every Sunday is Super Sunday.  But they mean more from September through February.  And anyone that doesn't understand this concept probably isn't reading this right now.

I had a bracket.  I watched pitchers and catchers report.  I woke up one day and realized, "Holy crap!  The NHL is on!  And it's playoff time!"  I put $20 on the Lakers.  That was a mistake.  I even watched the World Cup.  And how, somebody please tell me how does a team win a game that ends in a 0-0 tie?  I still haven't figured that one out.

But that's all behind us now.  Training Camp starts at the end of the month.  The players will be wearing pads and hitting each other.  Football is coming soon to a Sunday near you.

Following that train of thought, here are some key story lines as we start thinking about Training Camp…


Warner vs. Leinart:  Notice that I'm assuming Leinart claims the #2 job.  I make this assumption because I think we can all agree that the Bidwells aren't going to pay Matt $10 million in guaranteed money to back-up the guy that holds the clipboard.

I'm seriously wondering, given all the buzz around Arizona's first round pick, if he can take the #1 job away from Kurt Warner.  I'm not saying it's going to happen, but this is Dennis Green we're talking about.  He'd put Vinny Testaverde's grandfather behind center if he though Pappy Testverde was the best person to run his system.


Guards:  The tackles and center are pretty well set.  They're not All-Pros by any stretch of the imagination, but they also don't have quality players challenging them for their positions.  At guard, the Cardinals have, essentially, two rookies (Elton Brown and Deuce Lutui) trying to unseat two veterans (Jeremy Bridges and Reggie Wells).  Can they do it?  Most teams will take youth, guile, and enthusiasm over age and experience.  But, we'll see.


Tight End:  You have Leonard Pope, a rookie, and a bunch of former undrafted free agents.  I'll admit it's kind of like Alien vs. Predator (whoever wins, we lose), but it'll be interesting to see if Pope (a huge target at 6'7") emerges and brings respectability to the position as far as the Cardinals are concerned.  Then again, with a team that has Boldin, Fitzgerald, Johnson, and Edge, there might not be enough receptions to go around.


Defensive Tackles:  The Cardinals are decidedly soft up the middle on offense and defense.  In a division with Seattle, San Francisco, and suddenly smash-mouth St. Louis, that's a problem.  During the off-season, we brought in Kendrick Clancy and drafted Gabe Watson.  Can they step up?  The season might just depend on it.


Defensive Back:  Antrel Rolle had little or no chance to prove himself last season.  Can he live up to his billing as the most talented player regardless of position from last year's draft?  That's what we need to find out.  Was Adrian Wilson a one year wonder?  Can Robert Griffith hold up?  What about that… other guy… the one that's not Ty Law?  If anyone can test these guys, it's the receivers on this roster.


Defense:  In general.  Clancy Pendergast has done an exceptional job coaching a bunch of guys you haven't heard of into a top-15 offense.  However, that's a top-15 offense statistically, and we all know about statistics and the damn lies.  His group doesn't need to be a dominant unit, they just need to keep the opponent out of the end zone.  If they rank in the bottom third of the league and give up fewer points, it's a net win.  It's their third year in the system.  Time to put it together, get the other team off the field, and let this explosive offense go to work.


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