Big Red Goes to Camp: Storylines for the Arizona Cardinals

Steven SmithCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2009

PHOENIX - MARCH 28:  The University of Phoenix Stadium before a game between the Missouri Tigers and the Connecticut Huskies in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament on March 28, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hallelujah! Camps are beginning to open!

Time for position battles, in-house scraps, and preseason games to wet our appetite for the 16 weeks that is the NFL regular season. There are plenty of storylines to go around, but here are some of the less talked about issues for the Arizona Cardinals:


Where’s the Pass Rush?

Although the defense stepped up in last year’s playoff run, there are still holes and questions that need to be answered. The most prominent is the pass rush and the personnel who have to generate it.

Betrand Berry led the team with five sacks and wants a new contract. Unfortunately for him, the Cards drafted two players who will get time at the outside linebacker positions. While Berry was testing the waters, the Cardinals used their cap space for other players, which in turn reduced their offer to Berry.

He’ll still get plenty of chances to catch the QB, but who else will help bring the heat?

Can the Cardinals Find More Production at Tight End?

With such a potent trio of receivers, you tend to forget that the tight end position is still a little shaky. Last year, the Cardinals' roster of tight ends combined for only 25 receptions. Leonard Pope is the starter, but struggles on the inside to block. Stephen Spach would be a great addition if he were back 100 percent from his ACL injury.

The most intriguing prospect is Dominique Byrd. A third round pick in 2007 out of USC, Byrd might have the best hands at the position and we all know Kurt Warner wouldn’t mind another pair of mitts to throw to.

A Guy To Root for: Elliot Vallejo

If there’s one guy on the roster you should look for, it’s the third year player Elliot Vallejo. Some roster readers know him as the backup left tackle. Others know him as the worst player at the Super Bowl as deemed by ESPN’s roster rankings last year. I know him as the courageous player who saved a man by climbing up a cliff in Tucson, Arizona.

This is most likely his last chance to make a good enough impression in order to keep him on the roster. His versatility is welcomed, as he can play both tackle positions.


Can the Cardinals Keep Winning?

Probably the most simple, blunt, yet vague question you could ask, but based on the Cardinals' past it’s not a thought that’s out of range for fans and spectators of their improbably Super Bowl run.

Forget all the curses from Pottsville citizens, Madden video games, and Super Bowl losses—the Cardinals have enough problems fighting their own losing history without such trivial annoyances. Prior to last year, the Birds' last playoff appearance was in 1998. Adding to that, the Cardinals haven’t won 10 or more games since 1976.

Until last year, Seattle dominated the NFC West. The Seahawks will be back at full strength and the Cardinals will have to prove to skeptics that last year's playoff run was not a mirage.

Not to mention they go into training camp with new coordinators, a couple disgruntled star players, a target on their back from opposing teams, and the media spotlight shining brighter than it has in years.

Let’s find out if the Cardinals have staying power.

Bonus Question: Will Steve Go to the Cardinals Training Camp?

Due to a bunch of phone calls, a few pulled strings, extra favors, kept promises, and pawning off my own body for a series of experiments, I’ll be a guest at the Cardinals' training camp…maybe.

If I do end up going, at best I’ll get some brief interviews with some of the players. At worst, I’ll at least let you guys know the vibe of the training camp and any observations I notice. I’ll be the guest of somebody, so I’ll have to play it by ear depending on how much access I get.

It’s not guaranteed, so I’ll apologize in advance if I got your hopes up and it doesn’t happen. Other than that, wish me luck that I do get some coverage.