With just three days of training camp remaining in Flagstaff, the Cardinals' player evaluations with intensify in the coming weeks. Whether the competition is for a starting job or simply a spot on the roster, each player who makes the 53-man roster will be vital in the team's quest for a third consecutive NFC West title.
WR Stephen Williams: The obvious choice here as Williams is a classic buy low, sell high candidate. Although his stock has already soared in recent weeks, Williams' ceiling looks to be extremely high. At 6-foot-5, Williams has prototypical size on the perimeter and his hands have proven to be some of the best on the team. Williams has passed incumbents such as Onrea Jones and Ed Gant and can now set his sights higher up the depth chart. With Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet nursing injuries, Williams has even spent time with the first-team offense. While it's unreasonable to think he'll overtake Fitzgerald or even Steve Breaston, Doucet has left himself vulnerable because of consistent injury problems. As an undrafted free agent, Williams has a chance to be one of the most intriguing stories in the NFL this season, making him a definite buy at this point.
OG Deuce Lutui: Lutui entered training camp behind the eight ball, after holding out for a new contract and showing up overweight. However, Lutui's performance thus far will make it difficult to keep him out of the starting lineup at right guard. Lutui is adequate in pass protection but clearly excels in run blocking. The Cardinals are expected to place a much greater emphasis on the ground game this year, following the retirement of QB Kurt Warner and the defection of WR Anquan Boldin. Further confirming the move to a more balanced offense is the dynamic combination of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. Look for Lutui to be a major part in the team's enhanced rushing attack that improved by nearly 20 yards per game a year ago. Although a similar increase isn't likely, surpassing 100 yards per game is and Lutui will help lead the way.
QB Derek Anderson: While it's too early to draw conclusions, especially for a quarterback in a new offensive system, Anderson has been a disappointment so far. Once upon a time, there were thoughts that Anderson could potentially unseat Matt Leinart as the team's starter under center. However, after continued bouts with questionable decision making in practice and in game action, that notion seems farfetched at best. Anderson and Leinart couldn't be more different as quarterbacks, but Leinart has a much better feel for the playbook and his skill-set fits better into Arizona's philosophy on offense. Anderson has tremendous arm strength but his knack for throwing into double coverage resulting in interceptions is something coach Ken Whisenhunt won't stand for. Until proven otherwise, Anderson will remain strictly in a backup role.
LB Monty Beisel: This is no reflection of Beisel as he's the type of player that you know what you're getting. Instead, he's likely to fall victim to the emergence of rookie LB Daryl Washington. Beisel has been long considered a career backup but to his credit he's been an incredibly productive utility man in the linebacking corps. If Washington is able to surpass him on the depth chart, Beisel would return to that role and the Cardinals' coaching staff would more than likely welcome that development. Further complicating Beisel's plan to be the starter is the improved play of Pago Togafau. Togafau has spent multiple stints in Arizona but this time he looks to have found a home, at least for this season. With Washington and Togafau both nipping at Beisel's heals, it's only a matter of time before the veteran returns to his more comfortable role as a top backup.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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