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NFL team preview: Arizona Cardinals

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INSIDE SLANT

One of the main goals of training camp was to find stability on offense, and that started with quarterback Matt Leinart, who was taking over for Kurt Warner.

But as camp progress, coach Ken Whisenhunt because troubled of the offense's lack of productivity. While Leinart was accurate in the preseason, it seemed to Whisenhunt that he was failing to inspire confidence in teammates.

Whisenhunt has chosen his words carefully regarding Leinart, but there is no question that his benching would not have happened had Whisenhunt felt Leinart's teammates were behind him.

Now, the Cardinals will open the season with Derek Anderson at quarterback, and Leinart is in limbo. The team is open to trading him, which means that either Max Hall or John Skelton, both rookies, would be the backup.

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"I feel like I've outplayed the competition, training camp, preseason," he said. "I think my play speaks about that. For me, this goes beyond the football field.

"The philosophy is you want the best 11 guys to play. I feel like I've proved that with my performance. I don't really know what else I could possibly do, so it probably goes beyond football. For me, I just really want an explanation and I haven't been given one."

Anderson took over the starting job in the third preseason game and played reasonably well. So did Leinart. Most importantly to Whisenhunt, the offense seemed more cohesive and productive. So Whisenhunt is not inclined to switch back to Leinart.

"I've been with Matt for four years now, I have great respect for how Matt's worked," Whisenhunt said. "I think what we've been consistent with is ... always trying to pick the best team. That's what this process is about. It's not about whether you like somebody or don't like somebody."

COACHING: Ken Whisenhunt, 4th year, 4th with Cardinals (31-23).
REMEMBERING: 2009 record: 10-6 (1st in NFC West); lost in divisional round to Saints, 45-14.
PREDICTING: 2010 regular-season record: 9-7 (1st in NFC West); lose in wildcard round.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Cardinals will listen to trade offers for QB Matt Leinart, provided there are any. The phone doesn't appear to be ringing off the hook at midweek when reports broke about the former first-round pick being put on the trade block.

The club would be taking a risk dealing Leinart because that would leave a rookie, either John Skelton or Max Hall, backing up Derek Anderson.

But coaches are very high on the youngsters, especially Hall, who they think has many similar qualities to Warner. Tough. Mature. Quick release. Smart.

PLAYER NOTES

--RG Reggie Wells has started throughout preseason but could be replaced by Deuce Lutui. Lutui has struggled with his weight but has played well.

--FB Reagan Maui'a apparently will be the starter. He's also the only FB on the roster. The club obtained Charles Scott from the Eagles in a trade this week, but he's more of a running back. They gave up CB Jorrick Calvin, also a sixth-round pick.

--TE Ben Patrick has returned to practice after missing nearly a month with a displaced kneecap. He should be able to play in the opener.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald is running with a smaller brace on his left knee and should be ready for the opener. He's been out with a sprained MCL.

--ILB Gerald Hayes is likely to miss the season opener after undergoing back surgery in July.

--OLB O'Brien Schofield is on the reserved/non football injury list. He is recovering from knee surgery and is hoping to play this season.

DRAFT PICKS TO STICK

Rd. 1/26, NT Dan Williams, Tennessee -- He hasn't passed Bryan Robinson on the depth chart but he should see plenty of action.

Rd. 2/47, ILB Daryl Washington, TCU -- Moved into the starting lineup on the weak side. Fast and tough, he'll be a playmaker once he learns the system.

Rd. 3/88, WR Andre Roberts, The Citadel -- Struggled to catch the ball in camp but did a decent job on punt returns. He's out with a sprained shoulder and has been a bit of a disappointment so far.

Rd. 4/130, OLB O'Brien Schofield, Wisconsin -- He's recovering from knee surgery and will start the year on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Rd. 5/155, QB John Skelton, Fordham -- He's played well in the preseason and is competing with Max Hall for a roster spot.

UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Derek Anderson. Backups -- Matt Leinart, John Skelton, Max Hall.

Leinart thought he was finally going to get a shot after two years as Kurt Warner's backup. But Whisenhunt elected to go with Derek Anderson midway through the preseason. Now Leinart could be traded or released. Skelton and Hall have looked good in preseason, but it's a risk having one of them as the No. 2 quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Tim Hightower, FB Reagan Maui'a. Backups -- Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, LaRod Stephens-Howling.

Hightower could well hold on to 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. Maui'a is untested.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Ben Patrick. Backups -- Anthony Becht, Stephen Spach, 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, played well late in camp and could make the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston. Backups -- Early Doucet, Andre Roberts, Onrea Jones, Stephen Williams.

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, has been a disappointment. He had trouble catching the ball in camp. Williams has been sensational and the undrafted rookie could be on the year's major surprises. Jones could gain a spot if the club keeps six receivers.

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.

Sendlein is the only starter from last year who remains in the same position. Brown moves from right to left, 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. Lutui could replace him and Wells could be released or traded. Keith, a third-year pro, has never started a game, but Cardinals coaches think he's going to be an impact player. 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.

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. So far, Robinson has held him off as the starter but that could change. Watson has responded to the challenge by Williams by dropping weight. He is difficult to block when he's in 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. He can play both tackle and end and looked good in last year's camp before suffering a season0ending injury. Iwebema is a solid player, too.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Clark Haggans, ILB Paris Lenon, ILB Daryl Washington, OLB Joey Porter. Backups -- OLB Will Davis, OLB Cody Brown, OLB Stevie Baggs, OLB Mark Washington, ILB Paris Lenon, 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, although neither did much in the preseason. The concern is inside. Hayes had back surgery this summer and there is no proven backup at that strong position. Walker is unproven.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, RCB Greg Toler, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes. Backups -- CB Michael Adams, CB Trumaine McBride, CB Marshay Green, 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 DRC, but McBride looked good this summer. McBride is tough and 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 DRC, 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 besting in the league. The Australian has an uncanny ability to stop the ball deal 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.

Tagged: Bills, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Titans, Raiders, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints, Redskins, Ravens, Cardinals, Steelers, Chargers, Keith Brooking, Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield, Bryan Robinson, Jon Kitna, Brett Favre, Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, Craig Hentrich, Kurt Warner, Jim Kleinsasser, Leonard Davis, Joey Porter, Kendrick Clancy, Clark Haggans, Alan Faneca, Drew Brees, Heath Evans, Steve Hutchinson, Sage Rosenfels, Kyle Kosier, Lito Sheppard, Alex Brown, Will Witherspoon, Jeremy Shockey, Javon Walker, Bryant McKinnie, Chris Hope, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, Ben Leber, Patrick Ramsey, Jonathan Goodwin, Paris Lenon, Nick Harper, Jason Witten, Gerald Hayes, Terence Newman, Kevin Williams, Jimmy Kennedy, Jon Stinchcomb, E.J. Henderson, Scott Shanle, Reggie Wells, Jimmy Wilkerson, Justin Gage, Montrae Holland, Bradie James, Greg Lewis, Tony Romo, Ken Amato, Tony Brown, Anthony Hargrove, Igor Olshansky, Devery Henderson, Madieu Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Jason Babin, Bernard Berrian, Matthew Ware, Jeff Dugan, Jared Allen, Dave Ball, Nick Leckey, Mat McBriar, Benny Sapp, Anthony Herrera, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Michael Roos, Courtney Roby, Jovan Haye, Derek Anderson, Jeremiah Ratliff, Vincent Fuller, Marion Barber, Bo Scaife, Rob Bironas, Stephen Spach, Ben Graham, Chris Kluwe, Nate Washington, Greg Camarillo, Tarvaris Jackson, Brandon Williams, David Thomas, Jason Hatcher, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Chad Greenway, Deuce Lutui, Roman Harper, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook, Marques Colston, Zach Strief, Cortland Finnegan, Jahri Evans, Stephen Tulloch, Ray Edwards, Miles Austin, Stephen Bowen, Remi Ayodele, Mike Otto, Alan Ball, Steve Breaston, Reagan Maui'a, Ben Patrick, Trumaine McBride, Leroy Harris, Doug Free, Jermon Bushrod, Levi Brown, Adrian Peterson, Michael Griffin, Anthony Spencer, Robert Meachem, Alan Branch, Sidney Rice, Pierre Thomas, Mark Washington, Felix Jones, Chris Johnson, Mike Jenkins, Tyrell Johnson, Jason Jones, Martellus Bennett, William Hayes, Tashard Choice, Tim Hightower, John Sullivan, Early Doucet, Craig Stevens, Erin Henderson, Brett Kern, Darius Reynaud, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Nick Schommer, Jasper Brinkley, Thomas Morstead, Herman Johnson, Jason McCourty, Will Davis, John Phillips, Cody Brown, Jason Williams, Asher Allen, Jared Cook, Rashad Johnson, Stephen McGee, Victor Butler, Gerald McRath, Percy Harvin, Kenny Britt, Beanie Wells, Phil Loadholt, Kevin Ogletree, Jonathan Casillas, Reggie Walker, Chase Daniel, Derrick Morgan, Robert Johnson, Dez Bryant, Rennie Curran, Everson Griffen, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Chris DeGeare, Matt Tennant, Jimmy Graham, Joe Webb, Charles Brown, O'Brien Schofield, Dan Williams, Chris Cook, Sean Lee, Al Woods, Patrick Robinson, Rusty Smith, John Skelton, Marc Mariani, Andre Roberts, Alterraun Verner, Toby Gerhart, Daryl Washington, Damian Williams, Sam Young, Max Hall, Danny McCray, Stephen Williams, Bryan McCann, Barry Church

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