QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Matt Leinart.
Backups -- Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall.
A changing of the guard is taking place, with Kurt Warner retiring and Leinart replacing him. It's a critical year for Leinart, who is due a huge pay raise in 2011. This is the best chance he's had to prove himself and he knows he can't blow it. Anderson is big and has a strong arm, but tends to be erratic. If he can conquer his problems with accuracy, he'll push Leinart. Hall, an undrafted rookie, will push Skelton, a fifth-round pick, for a roster spot. Hall doesn't have a strong arm, but he's smart and delivers the ball on time. Whisenhunt has not kept a quarterback on the practice squad in his previous three seasons.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Tim Hightower, FB Nehemiah Broughton.
Backups -- Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith, FB Reagan Maui'a.
Hightower could well hold onto the starting job, but have considerably fewer carries than Wells. Hightower has great versatility, but Wells has more big-play ability. They should form an effective tandem. Stephens-Howling could play a larger role on third downs, and his quickness in space makes him hard to defend. Wright is a savvy veteran who can also play fullback. He excels on special teams, too. Maui'a should push Broughton for a roster spot.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Ben Patrick.
Backups -- Anthony Becht, Stephen Spach, Dominique Byrd, Jim Dray.
Patrick is a solid all-around starter. He's been hampered by injuries throughout his career and is due for a breakout season. Becht is a blocking specialist, and Spach is a tough blocker. Byrd has great hands, but isn't a great blocker. Dray, a rookie, needs a good camp to overtake Spach and Byrd for a roster spot.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston.
Backups -- Early Doucet, Andre Roberts, Onrea Jones, Ed Gant, Stephen Williams, Deryn Bowser, Max Komar, Darren Mougey, Juamorris Stewart.
Despite trading Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, this remains a position of strength. Fitzgerald might be the best in the game, and Breaston is a more dangerous playmaker than Boldin. Doucet, if he can stay healthy, should emerge as a competent No. 3. Things are open after that. Roberts, a third-round pick, should contribute as a No. 4 receiver and punt returner. Onrea Jones is in the lead for the fifth spot. The others need to make an impression early in camp.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Levi Brown, LG Alan Faneca, C Lyle Sendlein, RG Reggie Wells, RT Brandon Keith.
Backups -- G Deuce Lutui, G/C Rex Hadnot, G/T Herman Johnson, G/T Jeremy Bridges, C Ben Claxton, G Jonathan Palmer.
Sendlein is the only starter from last year that remains in the same position. Brown moves from right to left tackle, and coaches think he's athletic enough to play there. Faneca adds experience and ability, even though he might not be the player he once was. Wells moves from left guard to right, and he's coming off a disappointing season. Keith, a third-year pro, has never started a game, but Cardinals coaches think he's going to be an impact player. Lutui and Hadnot will compete with Wells. Lutui or Wells could be traded or released if they lose out. Both are working under one-year deals. Hadnot is valuable because he can play two spots. Johnson, in his second year, is a bit of a project but has the tools.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Darnell Dockett, NT Dan Williams, RE Calais Campbell.
Backups -- NT Bryan Robinson, DE Kenny Iwebema, NT Gabe Watson, DE Alan Branch, DT/DE Keilen Dykes.
Dockett is already an elite end, one of the most explosive players in the game. Campbell, who had seven sacks last year in his first season as a starter, could also be on that level. The Cardinals need Williams to make an impact. Watson has responded to the challenge by Williams by dropping weight. He is difficult to block when he's in good condition. Branch, a second-round pick, enters his fourth season with much to prove. He has never been in condition and this could be it for him. Dykes could surprise in a backup role. He can play both tackle and end and looked good in last year's camp before suffering a season-ending injury. Iwebema is a solid player, too.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Clark Haggans, ILB Gerald Hayes, ILB Daryl Washington, OLB Joey Porter.
Backups -- OLB Willis Davis, OLB Cody Brown, OLB Stevie Baggs, OLB Mark Washington, ILB Paris Lenon, ILB Ali Highsmith, ILB Reggie Walker, ILB/OLB Monty Beisel.
Haggans and Porter are both 33 and nearing the end of their careers. Haggans, however, played well last year, and Porter believes he's every bit the pass rusher he was five years ago. We'll see. Davis and Brown give the team two promising young players. The concern is inside. Hayes had back surgery this summer and there is no proven backup at that strong position. The club could move Lenon from weak inside linebacker to strong. Walker is unproven. Beisel can play all four positions. Washington and Baggs need to show pass-rushing skills to make the club.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, RCB Greg Toler, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes.
Backups -- CB Michael Adams, CB Trumaine McBride, CB Justin Miller, CB A.J. Jefferson, CB Marshay Green, CB Jorrick Calvin, CB Rashad Barksdale, S Matt Ware, S Rashad Johnson, S Hamza Abdullah.
Rodgers-Cromartie is already an elite player, but he's frail and needs to get stronger. Toler, in his second year, has great physical skills but he's raw. He's the favorite to start opposite Rodgers-Cromartie, but McBride looked good this summer. Calvin, a sixth-round pick, has skill but is rusty after missing his senior year. Wilson is one of the best in the game, and Rhodes needs to rebound from a disappointing year with the Jets. The weakness of the group is at the corner spot. There is no proven player opposite Rodgers-Cromartie, and the nickel job is up for grabs as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS -- K Jay Feely, P Ben Graham, LS Mike Leach, KR LaRod Stephens-Howling, PR Andre Roberts, PR Steve Breaston.
Feely replaces Neil Rackers, but it's questionable if that's an upgrade. They are similar in skills. Both have strong legs and make a high percentage during the regular season. Rackers struggled late last season. Graham was one of the best in the league. The Australian has an uncanny ability to stop the ball dead inside the 10. Stephens-Howling doesn't have great speed, but he's quick and elusive. Roberts will be given every chance to win the punt returner's job because coaches don't want to expose Breaston, a starting receiver.
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