Cardinals Team Snapshot

The Cardinals wrapped up their second week of training camp, culminating with a preseason loss against the New Orleans Saints. Although there were many positives to take away from Thursday's game, the coaching staff is still searching for answers in several areas. Brad Wilbricht analyzes the current state of the Cardinals, just one month prior to their first regular season game.

While veteran QB Kurt Warner did not see the field on Thursday, there is no hidden agenda behind that decision. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't want to jeopardize the health of Warner, lining him up behind the team's second unit of offensive lineman. Third-year QB Matt Leinart hadn't played since Week 5 of last season and needed the extra work with the first team offense. Furthermore, Warner is an established professional that has little to proven during the preseason.

Leinart looked extremely sharp in his first action since last October, silencing his critics for the time being. However, the true barometer of his success won't be apparent until he sustains a high level of play throughout the regular season. If he is unable to do so, Warner is a more than capable backup and proved last year that he still has the ability to start in the NFL.

The release of RB Marcel Shipp initially raised some eyebrows, but the performance of rookie RB Tim Hightower quickly eased the loss of Shipp. In limited action, Hightower demonstrated the explosiveness and strength he's exhibited throughout offseason workouts. With RB J.J. Arrington continuing to struggle, Hightower seems destined to be the Cardinals second running back heading into the regular season opener.


WR Steve Breaston
(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty)

WR Steve Breaston continued his recent surge on Thursday night, taking another step towards locking up the third wide receiver spot. However, rookie WR Early Doucet should be recovered from a hamstring injury and will be determined to prove his worth. Additionally, wide receivers Jerheme Urban and Sean Morey will continue to push for playing time. With the depth the Cardinals have acquired at the wide receiver position, expect offensive coordinator Todd Haley to regularly utilize four wide receiver sets.

Questions still remain on the offensive line, especially in the depth department. There is little experience behind the current starting unit, which has already been without center Al Johnson for most of training camp. Undrafted free agent Carlton Medder is also out for an extended period of time after suffering a broken elbow.

Although there was plenty of attention given to improving the defense this offseason, the Cardinals did not reap the benefits in the preseason opener. The Saints moved the ball with ease on their first possession of the game, ending with QB Drew Brees finding WR David Patten for a 7-yard touchdown strike. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast must improve the defense's pass rush and more importantly their tackling ability.

Many think this year's draft class could be something special and Thursday night confirmed those beliefs. Defensive ends Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema will soon become a force to be recognized with. Both defenders boast tremendous athleticism and possess non-stop motors. Furthermore, undrafted free agent LB Ali Highsmith was all over the field. He led the Cardinals with 6 tackles and contributed in several key situations.

First-round draft pick CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie answered questions about his strength and physicality. Although he features below average upper-body strength, he managed to make his presence known in the secondary. Given the lack-luster performance of backup SS Aaron Francisco, Rodgers-Cromartie could find himself in the Cardinals nickel package sooner rather than later.


DT Alan Branch
(Greg Trott/Getty)

Second-year DT Alan Branch has been a mild disappointment during training camp and now the preseason. After DT Gabe Watson suffered a broken kneecap, Branch was expected to make a run at the starting nose tackle position. Instead, veteran DT Bryan Robinson has filled in for Watson with the first-team defense.

Branch was praised by the Cardinals coaching staff following last season and was expected to compete with Watson even before he went down with an injury. Branch, whose desire and work-ethic have previously been questioned, must regain last year's form if he hopes to crack the starting lineup.

Cleary the most frustrating aspect of the Cardinals performance on Thursday were the repeated mental errors. Penalties on both sides of the ball severely derailed the team's momentum. If this trend continues into the regular system, look for numerous changes to be made on the depth chart.


Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at bwill5025@msn.com

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