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Assessing Long and Dykes

In a little more than a week, practices will be underway for the Cards. The big stories and the attention – rightfully so – will be focused on Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, all the big names. In the end, though, barring some injury, those stories are what we all expect. They are the core of the team. In fact, you could probably name, say, 45 (at least) of the final 53 on the roster right this second. Training camp won't change that.

There are always some interesting battles at the end of the roster, however, especially when you look at a couple of players (as I did last week) that spent last season on the practice squad: wide receiver Lance Long and defensive lineman Keilen Dykes. Anyone paying attention to this team knows about Long. Unfortunately for Lance, he plays a position that is loaded. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, some coaching staff shifts could make it difficult to keep Long on the practice squad one more year. Former OC Todd Haley, who loved Long, is coaching a Kansas City team that needs talent at receiver. Long's college coach, Sylvester Croom, is on the Rams' staff – another team that is hurting for wideouts. Those teams could be willing to scoop Long up if the Cards don't keep him with the 53.

"You like to think, 'Oh this coach went here and this coach went here,' like a backup plan," Long said. "It's in the back of your mind, but that's where you need to keep it. I am here in Arizona, the coaches are great, I know the system and I want to stay here."

The Cards have to decide if Long's ceiling is higher than guys they already have, the Sean Moreys and Jerheme Urbans of the roster (Early Doucet, as a third-round pick, is virtually exempt as he develops). The problem for Long is that Morey is a Pro Bowl special teamer, and Urban played well last year (and plays special teams). Long will have to prove he can be solid on special teams.

Dykes is in a little different spot. He seems built for the 3-4 defense and the spots on the defensive line seem a little less in concrete. Can he step in and get the roster spot that opened when Antonio Smith left? His versatility will help him, as will question marks about some of his competition (the gaze will be intense on Alan Branch in camp).

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