Starters sought among young wideouts

Updated: July 31, 2003, 11:53 PM ET

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Forget two-deep. The Arizona Cardinals went six-deep in an attempt to rebuild their receiving corps.

Now, it's competition in the truest sense as 13 young wide receivers battle for a chance to replace three key wideouts who left to join other teams.

None impressed coach Dave McGinnis on Thursday after a practice in which quarterbacks Jeff Blake, Josh McCown and Preston Parsons worked on the deep game without completing many passes.

"The receivers dropped everything that (Blake) hit them with," McGinnis said. "He hit 'em with it, Josh hit 'em with it, Preston hit 'em with it. The receivers have got to catch the football."

McGinnis' agitation is well-founded: The biggest question mark on the team is who, if anyone, can step up to the level of departed stars David Boston, Frank Sanders and MarTay Jenkins.

Offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan believes solid replacements will emerge. He's just not sure if they will be high-round draft picks Bryant Johnson and Anquan Boldin, last year's reserves or newcomers.

"It's nothing set in stone," Sullivan said. "We'll see how each guy goes in practice and make our adjustments."

Rookie Jason McAddley and second-year player Kevin Kasper were starting by the end of last season because of injuries to Boston and Sanders.

McAddley and Larry Foster, acquired from Detroit in a trade on draft day, have been lining up with the first unit.

Not far behind is Bryan Gilmore, who broke his ankle in the seventh game and missed the rest of the season.

The fastest player on the team, Gilmore enjoys unique status -- at 25, he is attending his fourth training camp and has spent more time in McGinnis' system than any of the others, but has only one career catch after spending most of 2002 and 2001 on the practice squad.

That doesn't reduce his expectations, though.

"I have speed, so I have to use it," he said. "It doesn't do you any good to have speed and you can't catch the ball. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the big-play guy, because I know that's what they want out of me. Now, I'm the veteran guy."

Gilmore drew on his medical experience to explain a professional's approach to holding onto the ball.

"If you get paid to catch the ball, you've got to catch it," he said. "You go to a doctor, you don't expect them to have a bad day and do something bad to you. You have to be the same way."

Boldin, a second-round pick, was chagrined by a drop but came back to make several grabs later in the afternoon.

"I think I'm coming along real good," Boldin said. "I'm getting real comfortable with the system and with the guys around me."

Sullivan, a renowned receivers coach who agreed to take over the coordinator's duties this year, met with the receiving corps for five minutes after practice ended.

He explained he's walking a fine line between bringing the prospects along and being stern enough that they understand what's at stake.

"I'm hard on them, but you can't play the violin and sip a glass of wine when you're trying to make a guy a good football player," Sullivan said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index