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Arizona Cardinals Training Camp Preview: Safety

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The 'centerfielders' of the defense are critical for not only preventing big plays for opposing offenses but this season they'll also be expected to produce big plays for the defense. Like most positions on the defense, the safeties look to be more talented and deeper than they were not only last season, but any season in quite some time. One position in set in stone and the other position is still in flux but either way the starter looks to be solid. The only question seems to be, just how good can this unit be?

Adrian Wilson: A-dub finished the season on the IR for the first time in his career in  2007 and the defense suffered almost immediately. The defense allowed 21.6 points per game in the 9 games that he played and 29.1 in the 7 games that he didn't. When he's healthy, Wilson can wreak havoc on opposing offenses byRolle_and_wilson_medium supporting the run, rushing the QB and defending the pass. The fact that he's only been to one Pro Bowl is proof that the system simply doesn't work. He'll turn 29 years old during the season but he's keeps himself in tremendous shape so there's no reason to think that he'll slow down anytime soon. He's also playing for a new contract this season since his contract ends after the 2009 season and it's believed that the club wants to extend him before he's allowed to hit free agency.

Antrel Rolle: The former first round pick is being moved to free safety after several up and down years at cornerback. He still has to win the job during camp but for now he's believed to be the front runner. Most scouts believe that Rolle's skill set and size (6'0 208) was always better suited to play safety and that he'll thrive at the new position. One thing is for sure, he's a play-maker and he instantly upgrades the athleticism in the secondary. If he can pick up the finer points of the position fast enough, he should be able to hold off Aaron Francisco. Having a quality safety beside Wilson should allow A-dub to free wheel more often and create even more problems for opposing offenses.

Aaron Francisco: Francisco has opened some eyes during his limited playing Aaron_francisco_mediumtime the past couple of years and looks to be Wilson's main competition at free safety. He filled in for Wilson last year and averaged over 6 tackles a start. He's a big hitter who's still young (just turned 25) but already has some experience (5 starts in 3 seasons). Whether or not he wins the starting job, he'll continue to be a force on special teams. If he does win the starting job it'll be because of his physical style of play and his familiarity with the position. Francisco is signed through 2010.

Oliver Celestin: Celestin started the first four games of his career in 2007 after three seasons of playing primarily on special teams. He's not particularly athletic but he's been around long enough to play intelligent football and get by on veteran savvy. He's best suited as a backup though as he got exposed at time last year while filling in for Wilson. He's a solid special teams player and has the size (6'0 207) to deliver a big hit at times. He signed a one year contract in April of this year.

Matt Ware: Ware is versatile enough that he'll probably compete as a backup safety and at corner. He's built like a safety (6'2 214) and has already been in the league for 4 seasons despite being only 25 years old. Up until now he's played mostly on special teams but he did start a game in 2006 and recorded a career high 4 tackles. He signed a two year contract after the 2007 season.

Dennis Keyes: An undrafted free agent out of UCLA, Keyes is most likely headed to the practice squad if the Cardinals want to keep him. He's a physical player who made a name for himself in the PAC-10 as a big hitter. He's doesn't have great timed speed but he makes plays all over the field and has good instincts. Keyes was a free safety in college but I wouldn't be surprised if the coaching staff took advantage of his tackling prowess by moving him to strong safety.

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The safety position is the only unit on the defensive side of the ball that didn't have at least one addition either through the draft or free agency this offseason. Rolle moved into the position from cornerback and unless injuries ravage the position again, it should be much improved in 2008. A-dub is one of, if not the best, safety in the NFC and after a season lost to injury he should be out to prove that to the league. Is the safety position ready to dominate? Does Fransisco give Rolle a serious run for his money at free safety?