Mon, Feb. 24

Cardinals have chemistry, optimism and depth

With the second week of the Arizona Cardinals training camp under way, the team is looking more balanced and eager to get the season under way.

A couple new developments from last year are adjustments in the coaching staff, healthy defense and of course the offensive line which proved to be the Achilles heel of the Cardinals team, along with injuries.

Now that just about everyone is back and healthy, the Cardinals are looking at the future with optimism.

By the end of last season, tackles Russell Davis, Kenny King and Langston Moore along with ends Bertrand Berry and Calvin Pace were on the injured list. Even with those injured, the Cardinals were able to put in a respectable performance.

Now with healthy bodies reporting to training camp along with a couple new faces, including a new defensive line coach, the Cardinals are looking better than ever and feeling energized for the new season. The only snag so far is the broken hand of King, who will sit out the next four to six weeks while he recovers.

The new defensive line coach is Larry Brooks, who enters his 21st season as an NFL assistant coach and his first with the Cardinals. Brooks worked the past 12 seasons as a defensive line coach including the previous two seasons with the Detroit Lions.

The offensive line was really the Cardinals weak spot last year. This year's changes which include a new offensive line coach, the Cardinals are looking to up their performance and protection of first-string quarterback Kurt Warner, who took a beating last year and ended up on the injured list.

Steve Loney takes over as offensive line coach for the Cardinals. It will also mark his 30th season of coaching at the pro or college level and his second stint with the Cardinals. Loney came to the Cardinals after spending the past four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings as their offensive line coach (2002-2004) and offensive coordinator/offensive line (2005).

Loney coached the offensive line for the Vikings during the 2002-2004 seasons and then was promoted to offensive coordinator for the 2005 season. The Vikings led the NFL in rushing in 2002, setting a team record with 2,507 rushing yards, which broke the previous mark of 2,279 set in 1965.

The Cardinals still look very strong in their passing game with the return of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, who are prepped to have another stellar season. Both wide-receivers caught over 100 passes last year for over 1400 yards apiece.

With the new addition of Loney, the offensive line looks to be whipping into shape so that they can have more of a running game, which is the goal of Cardinals' third-year head coach Dennis Green.

Green joined the Cardinals in January 2004 and has a career record of 108-83. Green is known for his ability to turn losing programs around.

Besides personnel changes, the team overall looks more in sync according to Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.

"The continuity of the team is so much better than last year," said Warner. "We have been able to pick up from where we left off from last season."

Warner's optimism is shared by his teammates, who he says are all excited for this year and getting the win against their opponents, no matter which team they face.

"Everyone is on and ready to play," said Warner who had no hesitation about the excitement this year's team is generating.

It's very apparent that the players are out there and excited about the new season and with the addition of some new comers, healthy veterans and new coaching staff, the Cardinals organization is looking forward to winning season.

As of Monday night, quarterback Matt Leinart and the Cardinals still haven't come to an agreement on the contract. Once the negotiations are finished up, Leinart will join the Cardinals and is expected to assume the No. 2 quarterback position behind Warner while he gets his feet wet in professional football. No doubt the Cardinals organization will be grooming him for the lead position one Warner plays out his three-year contract.

The team will play its first preseason game against the Steelers on Saturday at the Cardinals' new stadium in Glendale. The game will not be open to the public, but will give a good indication of where the team stands compared to last year's Super Bowl champions.

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