With their training camp now just weeks away, the Arizona Cardinals are gearing up for some intense practice-field competition
It’s been an offseason full of change for the Arizona Cardinals. A spanking-new coaching staff has been set in place. A contingent of fresh players have been brought in, particularly at the all-important quarterback position.
While many starting jobs are set in stone, there are others that have yet to be decided. Next month’s training camp will provide the backdrop for some heated competition amongst Cardinals players. Several battles are shaping up to be quite entertaining.
One of the more interesting clashes will be for one of the defensive tackle spots. Head coach Steve Wilks’ preference for a 4-3 defensive alignment has created a need for two starters at the position. Veteran Corey Peters is entrenched at one of the slots, while the other looks to be up for grabs.
Robert Nkemdiche has received high praise for his work this offseason. 2016’s first-round draft pick finally showed flashes of ability last year, after providing practically nothing as a rookie. There are those who think that the highly-touted defender will benefit from a fresh start with a new regime.
Standing in the way of Nkemdiche’s ascent, however, is 26-year old Olsen Pierre. The former undrafted free agent of the Chicago Bears stepped up mightily for Arizona in 2017, registering five and a half sacks in a limited role. Nkemdiche will have to severely outplay Pierre this summer to earn the right to start over him.
The wide receiver job opposite Larry Fitzgerald is unoccupied at the moment. It appears to be a four-horse race for the Cards’ number-two pass-catching role. Christian Kirk, J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler and Chad Williams will all be vying for the assignment.
Many Cardinals fans believe that the trade for Jamar Taylor has solved the squad’s number-two cornerback dilemma. But there are some who contend that 2016 third-round pick Brandon Williams could still be in play for the post. The team may be hoping that the competition between the two will bring out the best in one, if not both, of the cover guys.
Ricky Seals-Jones burst onto the scene during the latter part of 2017, and provided quite a spark for the offense. Jermaine Gresham, the incumbent starter, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered this past December. The veteran is making the big bucks, but Seals-Jones may be the more explosive scoring option.
While fans of quarterback Josh Rosen may feel that the rookie should start in 2018, they more than likely will not get their wish. Sam Bradford can sling it with the best of them when healthy, and deserves the first shot at leading new coordinator Mike McCoy’s offense. In addition, Arizona’s front office would not be thrilled with paying the 30-year old $20 million to be Rosen’s backup.
The Cards’ 2018 training camp is shaping up to be quite an interesting one. Several starting jobs will be there for the taking. Let the battles begin.