Three To Watch: Juniors

With the season opener just around the corner,'s Ryan Burian takes a look at three third-year players on the Cardinals roster who have a chance to fine tune their game this season. With three years of experience with the Cardinals, a few 2006 draft picks should be the upcoming leaders of this season's roster. Here are the players leading the juniors to the upcoming season.

1.) Quarterback Matt Leinart

As the 2006 NFL Draft's 10th overall pick, Leinart came to the Cardinals with an impressive collegiate resume. At USC he led the Trojans to two back-to-back National Championships and broke the school and Pac-10 record for most touch down passes with 99.

In his rookie campaign with the Cardinals, Leinart had 2,547 passing yards, with one game against Minnesota where he passed for 405 yards. In 2007, Leinart only started five games after being after a serious collarbone injury, which kept him out for the rest of the season.

This offseason, Leinart attempted to prove he still has what it takes to lead the Cardinals the way he did in the past, but Kurt Warner held off the young player and won the starting role. With an unfortunate game against the Oakland Raiders, he redeemed himself in the preseason finale, but it was a day late and a buck short.

Leinart will have clipboard holder duties and wait for his turn to once again lead the Cardinals. With an injury prone Warner at the helms, his chance could come sooner than most think.

2.) Offensive Guard Deuce Lutui

As a player out of Mesa High School in Arizona, Lutui was a part of Leinart's offensive line at USC for two years. Drafted in the second round, 41st overall, he started in the final nine games of his rookie's season as Leainart's right guard.

In his sophomore campaign, he was a member of the line that only allowed just 24 sacks all season. Not only did he protect the quarterback but also assisted Edgerrin James earn more 1,200 yards on the ground. This season, as a junior for the Cardinals he is once again a part of the strong offensive line and is also responsible for protecting Leinart and his running backs.

3.) Tight End Leonard Pope

Pope was selected in the third round in 2006, 72nd overall. He was the only rookie in 2006 to play all 16 games for the Cardinal. In his two years he has started 17 games overall. He performed well in 2007 with 23 receptions and five touchdowns, until he was put out in Week 14 with an ankle injury. This season he is once again on top sitting in the starting tight end position with another chance to pass up touch down record holder Robert Awalt with six in 1987.

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