Rookies: Countdown to Camp

For the Arizona Cardinals new crop of rookies, the intimidation factor of NFL training camp is here. If it isn't, they are doing something wrong. In just a week, rookies — draft picks 1-7 and those without a round attached to their name — will arrive in Flagstaff, Ariz. And, unlike Week 1 when all 32 teams are 0-0, players show up to training camp with a record. Whose will improve?

The Arizona Cardinals entered the offseason bracing the departure of key players in prominent roles. In just one Friday, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby and Anquan Boldin departed the desert. Famed quarterback Kurt Warner had already said his goodbyes. A new era in Cardinals football was born.

The Cardinals looked to the draft to help fill in some gaps.

"Well, this year is probably going to be as important of a year for us, in our time there, because of losing some players like we have," Whisenhunt said at the Rookie Symposium. "It becomes more important for your draft picks to step up and make contributions, and I really like what I've seen from ‘em in the minicamp and the OTAs and the time that they've put in working out."

Time Is Ticking

With Gerald Hayes set to miss the start of training camp due to back surgery, slim pickings at linebacker just got slimmer. Paris Lenon stands in the way of Daryl Washington becoming a rookie starter, but with Hayes out, Washington will garner even more attention. He just needs to get signed and show up to camp on time or asap. The Cardinals should be even higher on Washington at the end of camp.

Rookie linebacker O'Brien Schofield (knee) will miss the extra snaps and the extra attention. Darren Urban, from the team's official website, reports Schofield will likely be on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start camp, which mean's he'd sit out the first six games of the season and not be counted on the 53-man roster. With his chips down, he needs to let his determination and character shine.

First-round pick Dan Williams has the luxury of shining on the field, hopefully, on time. He'll vie for his spot at nose tackle against the incumbent veterans Gabe Watson and Bryan Robinson. Williams is expected to pick up what the veterans are throwing down in terms of learning the NFL ropes, while competing at the same time.

Relying on rookies isn't new to the Whisenhunt era.

"If you just look at our team over the last couple years, we've had significant contributions from some of these young guys," Whisenhunt said.

QB John Skelton has the convenience of time. With Matt Leinart slated to start and Derek Anderson as insurance, Skelton's most imminent threat is UFA Max Hall. But the Cardinals see a future with Skelton.

Will Work For Punts, Blocks

While WR Andre Roberts isn't expected to get out of the big-time shadows of Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet any time soon, he needs to be focused on securing a punt-returning role and beating out Onrea Jones for the No. 4 slot.

Competing with Roberts for return time is DB Jorrick Calvin. After missing his senior season, he'll have to kick off the dust. But he's hungry for the game. His drive and talent earned him a spot in the NFL despite personal setbacks, so that, coupled with a thinned-out secondary, could give him a fighting chance.

TE Jim Dray is also a fighter. He rebounded from a knee injury in college and will compete against a trio of tight ends. Dray's blocking is to be commended, especially run blocking, which is good for Dray since the Cardinals are expected to do a lot more running. Dray could even bring out his old running back skills, since he was a back until his sophomore year of high school. After all, it's all in the name of making the team.

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