This isn’t necessarily about starters, since I have already addressed that directly. But the battles of training camp aren’t always about who plays first or the most. Sometimes it’s about roster battles and depth and who plays more than who. Some competition will come seemingly from nowhere — going into camp last season, no one would have guess Paul Fanaika would have gotten into the mix, but the Daryn Colledge injury helped that come into focus — so there will be other players to watch.
But for now, here is some of the competition I will be watching:
Guards Earl Watford, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen and Anthony Steen. Larsen has been backing up Lyle Sendlein at center while Steen, who can also back up both spots, didn’t do anything in the offseason recovering from injuries. Someone will be the starting right guard. The Cardinals would like for Watford to step up. It very well could be Fanaika for a second straight season. Watford should be on the roster regardless, so if he’s not starting, that will be a spot that must be won. The Cards likely will only dress seven on game days, making those swing interior guys valuable.
Tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. OK, everyone knows this one. It doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Like Watford, Massie is the guy the Cardinals would like to win the job. But he’s got to win it. Sowell isn’t going away without a fight. Sowell, however, can be a valuable game-day backup since he played left tackle all last season and can play the right. That’s a one-for-two guy on your bench.
Cornerbacks Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers. With Tyrann Mathieu still hurt, Powers is an important piece in nickle coverage to start the season. But when Mathieu gets back, can Bethel — who got so much love for his potential this offseason — find a way past Powers on the depth chart? Bethel still has much to prove. Powers has his limitations, but his smarts make him a favorite of Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians.
Inside linebackers Ernie Sims and Kenny Demens. Sims has the experience, but he also has the reputation of struggling the past couple of seasons, which is why he finds himself bouncing around the league. The Cardinals have been intrigued with Demens since his (undrafted) rookie year last year, when he spent most of his time on the practice squad. Sims came in late and is trying to catch up. Losing Daryl Washington sent a lot of things into flux at inside linebacker. One of these guys are vying for a depth role probably behind Kevin Minter, Larry Foote and Lorenzo Alexander.
Kickers Jay Feely, Chandler Catanzaro and Danny Hrapmann. This is another obvious one. Still it’s one to watch. It’s definitely a subject that seems to get the fans riled up — and looking around the league, it’s a position that tends to do that with the fan base, for whatever reason.
Running backs Robert Hughes, Jalen Parmele and Zach Bauman. Arians came out praising Hughes. He figures to be the top choice as the fourth running back behind Ellington, Dwyer and Taylor. But Parmele is another big guy who has played in the league and could sneak his way into the spot instead. What will be interesting is if the Cardinals want less of a bruiser as a fourth, like a Bauman, considering Dwyer is a big back and Taylor is more of a between-the-tackles guy too.
Wide receivers Jaron Brown, Walt Powell and Brittan Golden. The top four receiving spots are taken. Fitz is Fitz and Floyd is Floyd. Ted Ginn will have a role, as will third-round pick John Brown. Brown flashed last year but again, he’s got competition. He’s bigger than Powell and definitely Golden — Golden would seem to be in trouble given the arrival of Brown and Ginn — but Powell is a draft pick and that usually ends up playing a role if it’s close.
Quarterbacks Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley. It’s hard to believe that, barring a meltdown, Thomas doesn’t find a way on to the roster. But you never know, and both players figure to get plenty of playing time in the preseason to let any battle play out in front of us.
Tags: Anthony Steen, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Brittan Golden, Chandler Catanzaro, Danny Hrapmann, Earl Watford, Ernie Sims, Jalen Parmele, Jaron Brown, Jay Feely, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, Logan Thomas, Paul Fanaika, Robert Hughes, Roster, Ryan Lindley, Ted Larsen, training camp, Walt Powell, Zach Bauman
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Bruce Arians said Tuesday’s minicamp practice was the Cardinals’ “best practice so far,” which it notable from the standpoint a) it was pretty freaking hot out there and b) it went longer than an OTA because it’s minicamp and they can go longer. Some of the quick hit notes before I post a Patrick Peterson story later this afternoon:
– Rookie TE Troy Niklas is sidelined again. He had actually returned to the practice field following his hernia surgery that kept him out of the first few OTAs but then got a finger caught and twisted in a jersey last week and broke his hand. And so Niklas goes back to the mental reps, although Arians said Niklas should be ready for training camp.
“It kind of sucks I’m missing out of the reps,” Niklas said. “It’s frustrating. … I feel like I know the offense and I know what to do. Now it’s about teaching my body how to do it.”
– Some good news from the injury front: First-round pick Deone Bucannon was on the field after missing some time with a turf toe. “He needs it psychologically and just to get out and play,” Arians said.
– A couple of high-profile guys out: LB John Abraham, who has sat out almost every OTA so as to not overextend his aging body, reported for minicamp, “threw up a few times,” Arians said, and was sent home. The Cards hope to have him back Wednesday. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald worked out on the side with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to protect a hamstring that had been giving him some issues.
– Big praise from Arians about safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Justin Bethel. He even said Bethel could become the Cardinals’ best cornerback at some point given his skill set. We’ll see with Peterson there, but it’s nice to have the confidence of the head coach.
– Who emerges as the starters at right tackle, right guard and tight end can only be determined when the pads go on, Arians reiterated, although he did say Bobby Massie has been “much better” with mental mistakes at right tackle.
– Arians said the reason the Cardinals tried out vet RT Tyson Clabo is because the team is going to look at available bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they would sign someone with the sole reason to be the starter.
– Asked to assess what he had seen out of newly signed linebacker Ernie Sims, Arians had a five-second or so pause before saying “OK. OK.” A ringing endorsement it was not.
– The Cardinals have two more days of minicamp before the veterans are released until training camp.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Deone Bucannon, Ernie Sims, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, minicamp, Tony Jefferson, Troy Niklas, Tyson Clabo
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It’s been well reported by now former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is visiting the Cardinals. Kent Somers reported Cromartie will stay until Friday, which was the original plan. Negotiations are ongoing. Will he sign? I don’t know. I’m guessing there is a chance the Cards have at last set parameters about what they want to offer, and Cromartie has to decide if that is good enough. GM Steve Keim and his group spend a lot of time breaking down their free agent targets and what they are worth. They go into every negotiation with a player with a number in mind. I don’t see why Cromartie is any different.
The Cardinals need and want to add a cornerback. Cromartie might be at or near the top of the list, but I’m sure he’s not the only one on the list. As Keim has said a few times, they will extend offers they think make sense. If the player decides it doesn’t work, the Cards move on. Sometimes it can be revisited — I think Karlos Dansby was in that boat last offseason — but the Cards and Keim won’t be rash and they won’t panic into spending more than they should or want to.
If he did sign, you’d think he’d drop right into the other starting spot with Patrick Peterson. Reserves would be Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers, and there is still the draft and guys you could look at later in free agency. If he doesn’t sign, there are others on Keim’s board. (No, other than the much speculated upon Mike Jenkins, I have not heard any names.) Cromartie would be a nice addition, but it’ll be on the Cards’ terms if it happens.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, free agency, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Mike Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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Patrick Peterson is a Pro Bowler, and with Jerraud Powers, the Cardinals are “very solid” at starting cornerback, coach Bruce Arians said. Tyrann Mathieu, when he finally returns from his knee injury, will work the slot. But, especially given the Mathieu question mark, there will be depth questions heading into free agency with both Javier Arenas and Antoine Cason at unrestricted status.
The Cardinals will have to bring in somebody. But the wild card is someone who is already on the roster, and who has already made a Pro Bowl.
“I think the guy who really should make the big move is Justin Bethel,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s as talented probably as Patrick. He just has to start believing it and play corner the way he plays special teams and we’ll really be set back there.”
During the season, Bethel said he felt like he already was ready to contribute on defense. He’s incredibly valuable as a Pro Bowl special teamer. Could he become something similar as a cornerback? I don’t know if it is fair to compare him, even talent-wise, to Peterson, but Bethel does look the part and had a steeper learning curve coming out of tiny Presbyterian College.
– One other note from Arians, who said every player who is rehabbing injuries is on schedule save for linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who suffered a right foot Lisfranc injury. “I’m a little concerned with Lorenzo’s foot right now,” Arians said. “Hopefully it will show improvement.”
Tags: Antoine Cason, Bruce Arians, Javier Arenas, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Lorenzo Alexander, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cadinals, AZ Cards, Justin Bethel, NFL
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Defensive end Calais Campbell had a Pro Bowl year, although he didn’t make the team. (He was an alternate, but alas, no bump up.) Linebacker Karlos Dansby had a Pro Bowl year (yet, stunningly, he wasn’t even an alternate). But they haven’t been completely overlooked, with both showing up on a couple of more all-star-type postseason lists.
Profootballfocus.com did their all-NFC West team, and given the strengths of the defenses in the division, cracking that lineup is impressive. Campbell and Dansby did, along with cornerback Patrick Peterson (and there was also a mention of Daryl Washington as a strong candidate, too.) Offensively, the Cardinals got wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Andre Ellington on the team, as well as special teamer Justin Bethel, whom PFF considers the best special teams player in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the USA Today has put out its annual “All-Joe” team, which is a nod to the under-appreciated around the league. Two Cards found their way on to that list: Campbell and Dansby.
The line on Campbell: “The best 3-4 end in the NFL not named J.J. Watt, Campbell posted a career-best nine sacks while crushing tailbacks for the NFL’s top run defense. He also excels at blocking kicks with his 6-8 frame.” The line on Dansby: “Returned to the desert after three years in Miami and turned in his best season. His career-high 114 solo tackles complemented 6.5 sacks. He also picked off four passes (returning two for scores) and broke up 19 passes, tied for most among linebackers.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Calais Campbell, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Pro Football Focus, USA Today
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