Change is Coming in Arizona

Each year questions marks are answered across the depth chart and 2009 will be no different for the Arizona Cardinals. Although the Cardinals have an extremely stable roster already in place, a handful of changes are expected to take place heading into the upcoming season. Brad Wilbricht breaks down which players might be on the way up or down in this exclusive.

With nearly the entire offensive unit back, the Arizona Cardinals have few holes to fill on offense. However, one major area of interest will be at running back. Veteran RB Edgerrin James is no longer in Arizona, leaving the fate of the Cardinals' running game in the hands of Tim Hightower and incoming rookie Chris Wells. Although Hightower will have the inside track towards the starting position, Wells is expected to surpass him at some point during the season.

Luckily for Arizona, things can only get better as the team ranked last in the NFL in rushing a year ago. The Cardinals invested a first-round draft pick in Wells and Hightower, a fifth-round pick in 2008, severely outplayed his draft status a year ago. While Arizona will lose a great deal of experience with the departure of James, Hightower and Wells boast excellent potential and the Cardinals' running game could be poised to improve dramatically.

Gabe Watson

On defense, the majority of change will take place in the trenches. DT Bryan Robinson is currently penciled in as a starter, but the team is hopeful either Gabe Watson or Alan Branch will step up and seize a starting role. Watson may be able to assume that role, now fully healed from a broken kneecap suffered prior to last season. Meanwhile, Branch has been a career underachiever up to this point, but the possibility of a breakout year still remains.

Along the defensive line, movement is also expected to take place on the perimeter thanks to the departure of DE Antonio Smith. Smith left for the Houston Texans and second-year DE Calais Campbell is expected to take his place in the starting lineup. However, Kenny Iwebema will also be heavily involved in the rotation and the versatility of Keilen Dykes could allow him to contribute at a variety of positions.

Although there won't be much jockeying for position within the starting lineup, there's handful of areas that will be under the microscope during training camp and the preseason. Improving Arizona's rushing attack and stopping the run on defense will be major factors in the Cardinals' 2009 success. Given that adjustments are imminent in those two spots, preparations beginning later this month will be extremely important.

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