As training camp rounds the corner and the football season draws closer, the Arizona Cardinals have some big questions heading in. The Daryl Washington suspension spoils what was otherwise great offseason with a solid draft and even more solid free agency period. After a 10-6 finish last season that wasn’t good enough for the playoffs, this may be the most important offseason in franchise history.
Sure, that may be hyperbole. But with the Super Bowl in Glendale and a team that’s as hungry as ever, the feeling definitely permeates the fanbase. The time is now.
In the meantime, the normal routine is still intact. So here’s the position battles that have sizeable implications as it stands right now.
Ted Ginn, John Brown, Walt Powell, Dan Buckner, Brittan Golden
Ted Ginn was paid a hefty sum to be the Cardinals’ third receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. As great as those two are, Ginn brought an element of speed the Cardinals were searching so desperately for to blow the top off of opposing defenses. So when there are reports that your third round draft pick may be that guy instead, all of a sudden you have two roster spots lined up for one role. Not that I think John Brown will surpass Ginn in camp, but the fate of that position battle trickles down to the fourth and fifth receiver spots, where four players will fight for two spots. Can draft pick Walt Powell fend off Buckner and Golden, both of whom saw time last year?
John Carlson, Troy Niklaus, Rob Housler, Jake Ballard
Coach Arians loves his tight ends. They are asked to a lot in his system, and the Cardinals stocked this position up pretty well in the offseason, signing Carlson and drafting Niklaus. What once was a position of need is now crowded on the depth chart. The big question for this group is whether or not the Cards will carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster. If the answer is no, then Rob Housler may be one the way out, as I suggested earlier this offseason. A strong training camp would do him some good in particular.
John Abraham, Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, Alex Okafor
For starters, I think all of these guys will make the roster. What’s left to determine, however, is how the playing time will be split. Last season, Abraham and Shaughnessy were the two that saw the most playing time but only after injuries to the other three. If healthy, what is to be expected of special teams ace Alexander as he embraces a positional role? How much time will the aging Abraham see? Can Acho return to form after his injury? And just what do the Cardinals have in Okafor? These are the same questions asked coming into last offseason, and they all bear weight in this offseason as well. So this position battle is interesting due mostly to the fluidity of the position.