Leinart, Williams Heading Opposite Directions

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Quarterback Matt Leinart admitted he needs a productive preseason not only to bolster his confidence but also to make his teammates more confident as the transition from retired Pro Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner to Leinart approaches takeoff.

That's has become more difficult for Leinart with the Cardinals likely playing without two of their top three receivers for the rest of the preseason.

Larry Fitzgerald is likely to miss all of the preseason after suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee in the preseason opener. That normally would mean a starting position and more playing time for Early Doucet, the No. 3 receiver, but he is expected to miss a couple of games with an abdominal strain.

His injury isn't believed to be serious, but coaches want to be cautious in order to have him for the regular season. It's no sure thing that Fitzgerald is going to be ready, although that's the hope, so the Cardinals don't want to open the season with two of their top three receivers out.

"We don't want to overdo it to where it becomes something lingering," Doucet said.

The downside to all of this is that Leinart is losing valuable practice time with his top receivers. Fitzgerald is one of the team's hardest workers, and these are the first practices he's missed in a couple of seasons.

"It's unfortunate because he was probably having his best camp since we've been here," said Ken Whisenhunt, who has been head coach since 2007. "It's going to be hard to keep Larry from wanting to do things. Larry would never take a break, so maybe this is a good thing from the standpoint of giving some of the other guys some reps."

The injuries do give coaches, and Leinart, a long look at the young receivers competing for a spot in the rotation.

Andre Roberts

Andre Roberts, a third-round pick, entered camp as the favorite to hold down the No. 4 spot. But he's struggled catching the ball throughout the three weeks in Flagstaff.

Roberts had been fine catching punts, so his problem with drops might be in his head. Whisenhunt thinks it's a result of information overload. Roberts is concentrating so much on learning plays, lining up correctly and making route adjustments that his head is spinning.

Still, there is no getting around the fact that he has been a disappointment.

Stephen Williams, an undrafted rookie from Toledo, has been anything but disappointing.

Williams has made sensational plays throughout camp and in the first preseason game. It's hard to conjure a reason why he wasn't drafted. He's 6-feet-5-inches, 208 pounds and has good speed.

He's been so impressive that a spot on the 53-man roster seems assured. Not only that, Williams could easily be the No. 4 receiver to begin the season if he continues to play well.

Williams' performance has been a pleasant surprise, given the injuries to Fitzgerald and Doucet and Roberts' struggles. Fitzgerald has become a mentor to Williams, and is something of a graduate assistant coach now that he's out with a knee injury.

Wearing a knee brace, Fitzgerald gets every play call in practice and often stands 10-15 yards behind Williams, giving him pointers before and after a play.

Also figuring into the mix are Onrea Jones, Max Komar and Ed Gant. Gant, however, is suspended for the first four games for violating league policy on performance enhancing drugs.

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