The Arizona Cardinals could see a few surprises in their starting lineup when they face the Washington Commanders in Week 1 of the 2023 season. A few overlooked names on the roster have extended experience as a starter, and even if they project to be a backup at this point, there is still a chance that they are playing with the first team come September 10th.
Below, however, you will meet three players without much experience starting NFL games. But they all share one common denominator: Few are talking about them, even if they can easily sneak their way into a starting role. Note, however, that the three players listed below are NOT rookies, as we already discussed the topic earlier this offseason.
3 potential surprise starters for the Arizona Cardinals
1 - Keaontay Ingram, RB
Here is a sad fact: James Conner has never played a full season in the NFL, and the injury-prone back is now 28 and heading into his seventh season. For a physical back like Conner, that could be a major red flag.
Enter Keaontay Ingram, who could be the next man up if the Cardinals are looking to replace Conner with a former draft pick should the latter find himself on the injury report early in the regular season. Ingram impressed no one last year, but there is always a chance he makes an impact in camp and the preseason.
2 - Lecitus Smith, C
We are under two weeks from training camp and the Arizona Cardinals still have no pure center on the roster. At this point, it’s unlikely they bring one in, and the competition for the job will boil down to Hjalte Froholdt and Jon Gaines II, or so we’re told.
There is, however, a third possibility in this position battle, with Lecitus Smith, who has seen practice reps at the position. Smith will likely get his chance, and if he can outwork and outplay Froholdt and Gaines, the second-year lineman could wind up getting the gig.
3 - Rashad Fenton, CB
We spoke about the possibility of Rashad Fenton potentially landing the job in an earlier piece, While Fenton struggled in 2022 during stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons, he enjoyed a decent season in 2021.
If Fenton can return to form, the 26-year-old could beat out projected CB2 Antonio Hamilton, second-year player Christian Matthew, and rookies Garrett Williams (when cleared), and Kei’Trel Clark. Fenton may not be a long-term solution at the position given the draft statuses of Williams and Clark, but he could hold things down while the rookies adjust to the NFL.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)