QB still working on drops, footwork

8/19/2004 - Arizona Cardinals

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Five observations on the Arizona Cardinals, based on practices.

1. Quarterback Josh McCown isn't a finished product at quarterback, but he has some intriguing potential. His athletic ability is his biggest asset. If receivers are covered with the first two reads, McCown can make a first down by running. He does tend to be a little gun shy of unloading the long pass, but a lot of that has to do with the newness of the receivers. McCown is still working on his timing while dropping back in three- and five-step drops and getting his footwork right.

2. Bertrand Berry was a great addition at defensive end, but not just for his potential to beat tackles for sacks about 10 times a season. Berry shows a good work ethic in practice. On Monday, he worked hard on every play trying to get pressure on the quarterback. He jumped inside and batted passes behind the line of scrimmage. With so many failed high draft choices, it's nice to see a hard-working overachiever set a good standard for the younger players.

3. The return of a healthy Duane Starks at cornerback is encouraging for the secondary. Starks is the team's only potential shutdown corner, but he's suffered through two injury-plagued seasons. Starks is still trying to regain all of the burst in his catch-up speed to receivers in man-to-man, but his techniques still remain sharp.

4. The Cardinals need to find another running back to take the pressure off Emmitt Smith. Though he's 35 years old and in great shape, Smith can't be asked to have 20 or more carries for 16 games. That's a lot to ask. Marcel Shipp is likely out for the season with a fractured leg. Backups Josh Scobey and Damien Anderson don't show the explosiveness to have a decent rushing average filling in for Smith.

5. There is a lot of pressure on Alex Stepanovich to make people forget about popular center Pete Kendall. Stepanovich played some center early in his college career, but he was drafted after playing mostly guard. Coach Dennis Green has completely revamped the interior of offensive line going with Stepanovich at center and Reggie Wells and Cameron Spikes at guard.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com.