In just a few short days, football is, in a sense, back. The end of this week marks the opening of the Arizona Cardinals training camp. The team’s stars are already beginning to descend on Tempe as the full off-season program looms. After a fruitful off-season in terms of acquisitions, the Cardinals will now look to develop their roster and evaluate their talent ahead of final cuts on August 31st. For Arizona, there are still several big questions unanswered, questions hopefully answered in the coming weeks. Ahead of a massive year in the desert, these are the biggest storylines heading into Cardinals training camp.
Important Storylines To Watch In Arizona Cardinals Training Camp
Will Larry Fitzgerald Show Up At Cardinals Training Camp?
Larry Fitzgerald will never truly leave the Arizona Cardinals. As one of the greatest wide receivers of all-time, Larry Legend is a Cardinals icon. Deeply rooted in Arizona, he is a constant fixture in the valley, and has been this off-season. For all his presence in Arizona though, he has given no indication towards his immediate future. As a part-owner of the Phoenix Suns, Fitzgerald’s attention has been tied up in the NBA Finals, but now the pressure is back on for a decision.
Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury have made it clear that there will always be a space for Fitzgerald, should he choose to return. However, his role within the roster is far less clear. With the addition of A.J. Green and Rondale Moore, Fitzgerald would slide down the depth chart. Some have theorized a move to tight end. Others are projecting a wide receiver-heavy spread formation that requires more depth at wideout. Regardless, it’s Fitzgerald’s decision to make. If he doesn’t show, and hangs up his cleats, he can ride off satisfied into the beautiful Arizona sunset as one of the greatest to ever do it.
Open Competition For Number Two Cornerback Spot
The Cardinals have a number one corner in Malcolm Butler. Their best corner is the nickelback Byron Murphy. Opposite Butler, though, is more than up for grabs. Heading in, the perpetually-injured Robert Alford is the tentative favorite. Aside from his experience in the system, he has impressed in the last two camps prior to his season-ending injuries. Unfortunately, after missing two years, his health is always going to be an underlying factor.
Rounding out the rest of the group is veteran Darqueze Dennard and rookies Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan. Working out what the Cardinals have in their rookie duo is the priority before pressing them into starting roles. In the same vein, Dennard is largely expected to just provide veteran depth in an otherwise inexperienced room. Some Cardinals media members also believe, in the event that no one shines in training camp, that Byron Murphy could slide outside. Nevertheless, in the spirit of true competition, all will have a chance to challenge Alford for the spot in what looks to be one of training camp’s hottest position battles.
Four Stars Out Of Five On The Offensive Line
There has been minimal turnover on the Cardinals offensive line. Bookend tackles D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum return, with Justin Pugh back on a restructured deal. At center, the Cardinals jettisoned under-performer Mason Cole for arguably the league’s best center in Rodney Hudson, who is a plug-and-play guy on the interior. Four spots on the offensive line are cemented. However, at right guard, it’s open season.
The franchise released veteran J.R. Sweezy after replacing him midway through the2020 season. The two primary contenders for the spot are Justin Murray, who usurped Sweezy in 2020, and new face Brian Winters. Murray has been the team’s swing tackle recently, but Josh Jones could fill that spot, allowing Murray to start at guard. Conversely, Winters, who spent last season with the Buffalo Bills, has a relationship with right tackle Beachum, having been teammates with him on the New York Jets. With the unit expected to be a strength of the offense in 2021, securing the final starting spot is going to be an integral part of Cardinals training camp.
Splitting Snaps on Offense
The Cardinals offense has some real players. Tight end aside, the team has stars all over. It is still unclear though, how two newcomers fit in. First, James Conner ostensibly comes into the Cardinals backfield as backup to Chase Edmonds and a short-yardage power back. Despite the franchise handing Edmonds the ‘bell cow’ tag, some around the organization believe the two could be used as a tandem rather than having a clear hierarchy between the pair. How the pair are deployed throughout training camp could give some indication as to how new run game coordinator Sean Kugler will use the duo.
Similarly, draftee Rondale Moore comes into a wide receiver room that already boasts two All-Pro wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. Moore was college football’s most versatile player. In an offense as supposedly innovative as Kingsbury’s, Moore will have a role. The evolution of Kingsbury’s scheme, however, (the potential of a spread offense), will ultimately define whether Moore will be a starter as the fourth wide receiver, or more of a gadget player in his first season with Arizona. Whilst A.J. Green will draw much of the attention in the wide receiver group, Moore’s trajectory is worth following throughout the coming weeks.
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