DAN WILLIAMS, Nosetackle
For a 3--4 scheme to work, it must include a stout noseguard who can command double teams and hold the point of attack. The Cardinals thought they were getting that last year when they selected Williams in the first round out of Tennessee. The 6'2" Williams struggled with weight and stamina issues as a rookie; he was benched in Week 4 for being too heavy. This year he reported to camp at 334 pounds—seven over his playing weight—and admitted he hadn't stayed in shape during the off-season. "I should have done more," he told The Arizona Republic. "Next year, I'll know the proper step and I'll put this behind me."
The coaches are trying to be patient because they know that the 24-year-old was hurt by the lockout. But unless Williams improves his work ethic and upper-body strength—which he's vowed to do—the job might not be his for long. The Cardinals, who were 30th against the run last year, have been impressed with David Carter, a sixth-round draft pick from UCLA, where he started only as a senior. That inexperience scared off several teams, but during training camp one NFC West rival was kicking himself for passing on the 6'5" 300-pounder, who has not only the agility to be effective on the interior but also the attitude. Williams should take note.