Arizona Cardinals: Position battles to watch

arizona cardinalsAs 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.

Third receiver

Key players
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?

Tight end

Key players
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.

Outside linebacker

Key players
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.

  • drfabul

    There are also some interesting battles going on for the starting right OG and OT. Additionally, the starting SS spot is up for grabs with the recent draft. And there is some doubt as to how long Cromatie will be able to hold onto the starting CB spot b/c Justin Bethel seems to be “balling” according to coach Arias.

    • Juneac

      You’re right that the whole right side of the line is basically fighting for their careers. But personally, I feel they are all but decided; Watford is the better long term option, as is Massie at guard and tackle, respectively. I guess I’m curious to see if Anthony Steen can beat out Fanaika for the backup guard spot, but I don’t think that has much effect on the 2014 outcome.

      The threesome of Rashad Johnson, Deone Bucannon and Tony Jefferson is definitely intriguing — but the drafting of Bucannon alone tells me that the coaching staff doesn’t have quite the faith in Jefferson, despite playing well in limited time. Of course, depth never hurts.

      And Bethel will not supplant Cromartie unless he’s hurt. I don’t doubt Bethel’s skills, but Cromartie is a relatively proven commodity. I see Bethel more as a high-priority backup and contingency plan for 2015 when Cromartie’s deal ends than a guy who can legitimately make Cromartie expendable. Why bring him in if Bethel is better?

      Thank you for commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed the article.