I'm sure that fans throughout the Valley of the Sun are rejoicing in the news that there is not an open competition for the job of starting tailback for the Arizona Cardinals. For years, it was, "this is the year Thomas Jones steps up," or, "it's either Marcell Shipp, or…" or, "yes, that's right, Emmit Smith is still alive." But this year, it's all Edge, all the time. Well, most of the time.
Edgerrin James is most likely the most significant free agent acquisition in Cardinals history. I'm sure that everyone is aware of his storied career with the Indianapolis Colts and his potential to be a salve for the anemic Arizona rushing attack. And I agree. I think Edge will do well as a Cardinal. He'll make sure he at least gets his thousand yards. And that will almost be more than the Cardinals gained all of last season as a team.
One of the reasons Arizona failed in the running game was because of a subpar offensive line. One of the other reasons was J.J. Arrington, the man who, ostensibly, will back up James. Arrington is hesitant to the hole, ineffective after contact, and a liability in pass protection. He is, essentially, the anti-James. He's been dangled in trade talks, but that is akin to asking other members of your family if they'd be willing to take your cousin to the senior prom instead of you.
However, Marcell Shipp, the man who is backing up these two gentlemen, was unable to claim the starting job for many years. The hope here is that Shipp will embrace his new role as a "change of pace" back and excel at it.
At tight end, it's a three-way race between Adam Bergen, Eric Edwards, and Leonard Pope. Bergen and Edwards are former undrafted free agents that have made the roster in large part because someone needs to start at tight end. I mean, you can't not have tight ends on the roster, can you?
After all, with all the passes that went in the direction of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Bryant Johnson last year, what was left for the tight end? Not to mention the fact that James is quite the accomplished receiver himself. Meanwhile Edwards and Bergen combined for 40 receptions last season. Therefore, the tight end is a largely ignored position in a Cardinals offense that is focused on its wide receivers.
But, the x-factor in all of this is Pope. As someone at the position that was actually drafted (3rd round, Georgia) and someone that has the size (6'8", 257) to be effective in the red zone, Pope could emerge as a safety net for whoever lines up at quarterback in 2006. After all, the tight end does not need to capture all the glory, he simply needs to haul in a few touchdown passes after the play fake has done its job and everyone is looking at the wideouts.
Overall, for the system they run, the Cardinals are pretty well set at both positions. Edge doesn't take too many plays off, so Shipp and Arrington should be able to hold down the fort in his absence. If the tight ends are only blockers and targets when the Cardinals get inside the 20, then they have the perfect mix of players. The only possible issue could be if Shipp's and/or Arrington's egos are damaged by the presence of James. Or, if the former undrafted free agents decide to rise up against the only player on the depth chart specifically drafted to play the position.
In other words, no real worries. We're all professionals here.