5 Questions the Arizona Cardinals Still Must Answer in Training Camp
Heading into training camp, the Arizona Cardinals still have five questions they must answer about their roster.
They have done a nice job this offseason adding talented players to key positions on both offense and defense. Most free-agent additions will at least be in the conversation for starting jobs, while there are two rookies who have a shot to do the same—and one more who could earn it by season’s end.
Follow the slideshow to find out what questions the Cardinals must answer.
Who Will Start at Quarterback?
The most obvious and popular question around gets first ups.
Both quarterbacks have a real shot to win the competition, and whichever man wins will have earned it to the fullest.
Kevin Kolb and John Skelton both are experiencing the first “quarterback controversy” of their NFL careers. It will be important for coaches to see an early winner, because if this drags on all throughout the preseason until the week before the home opener, there could be a problem.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt recently told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com how tough it is to go through a competition at that position:
“As a quarterback, in that competition, it is difficult,” Whisenhunt said. “They are extremely competitive by nature—that’s why they are quarterbacks, and they want to be ‘The Guy’—and it’s tough. That’s why there is a lot of drama and attention. But these guys have a solid friendship and respect for each other; they support each other, at least on the surface, that they understand what’s coming.”
It is possible the team can win with either quarterback, but one of them still must earn the job.
Where Is Beanie Wells in His Rehab?
Beanie Wells missed only two games during the 2011 season.
He played through the pain of a knee injury most of the year, one that forced him to undergo surgery shortly after the season ended.
Wells has not said much on the state of his surgically repaired knee, only that he hopes to be ready for training camp.
According to AZCardinals.com, Wells said: “I am hopeful, but it’s offseason stuff. Being ready for training camp is the most important thing.”
And he’s right.
There is another running back on the roster just itching to take his spot as the starter. Second-year RB Ryan Williams missed his entire rookie season with a ruptured patella tendon, and he’s nearly back to full-health.
Following the Cardinals’ Fan Fest at University of Phoenix stadium, Williams told Urban he is almost ready for a full return. “I haven’t run that fast since I got hurt,” Williams said. “They sprinkled me in there. My first carry, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m almost back. I’m almost back.’“
Whisenhunt said Wells needs to be ready to go for training camp, and he hinted to Urban that he may lose his job if he is not.
“We’ve done the right thing with Beanie as far as the offseason and making sure he is healthy. He’s got to bust his tail the next few weeks to be ready for training camp because some guys have looked good there.”
Wells is confident he will be ready for camp. That makes for a good duo if he and Williams can stay healthy.
Who Will Emerge as the No. 2 Cornerback?
There could be a three-man fight for the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson this preseason.
William Gay, though new to the team, could win it because of his familiarity with defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s system from their years together in Pittsburgh.
Greg Toler could earn it if he shows his knee (torn ACL) is healthy enough to hold up.
Rookie Jamell Fleming has impressed thus far and could factor into the role as well.
Coach Whisenhunt told Kent Somers of AZCentral.com he’s liked what he has seen out of Fleming. “It seems like every day he’s made a play on a ball out here, knocking it down or making an interception,” he said during a mid-June minicamp.
While it’s plausible Fleming could win the No. 2 corner job out of preseason, we should expect him to be used in more sub packages early on.
Gay and Toler have the best shot at the position, and this competition could end up being a platoon role for the two. It could depend on weekly matchups to determine who gets the start. We should not be surprised to see Toler start one week, only to see Gay starting the next.
When Will Michael Floyd Be the No. 2 Wide Receiver?
Arizona drafted Michael Floyd at No. 13 overall with the intention of him contributing to the offense sooner rather than later.
But according to Paola Boivin of AZCentral.com, Floyd could potentially enter his rookie season as the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver.
This could all be smoke and mirrors to get the young man to work as hard as he possibly can; however, Coach Whisenhunt has been known to be apprehensive about starting rookies too early in fear that they are not ready for NFL life.
Andre Roberts and Early Doucet both produced career-high numbers in 2011, but both also looked bad at times. Partly because the quarterbacks failed them, perhaps. But it could also have been a lack of protection around them.
Floyd is a true starter. He has the physical stature, athletic ability and work ethic every coach wants from a receiver.
Learning from his long-time friend, Larry Fitzgerald, will also play a large role in Floyd’s early years. Fitzgerald told Boivin he likes what he has seen from the 22-year-old rookie.
“He is a hard worker, smart. He is retaining info very well,” he said. “He is eager to improve and is coachable, everything you can ask for in a rookie. We have some very good coaches here that will help him be ready mentally. He will be just fine.”
Whether Floyd is mentally prepared or not, he needs to be the No. 2 receiver as soon as possible. The way he plays the game is perfect for the Cardinals offense, and he will help take coverage away from Fitzgerald while also freeing Roberts from having the second-best cornerback on opposing defenses shadowing him.
The mismatches Roberts will have make Floyd as the No. 2 an even better choice right away.
How Soon Can Bobby Massie Be Ready to Start at Right Tackle?
For now, it appears as though 10-year veteran Jeremy Bridges will hold the starting right tackle position.
Rookie Bobby Massie was drafted by the Cardinals in the fourth round, and many believe it is only a matter of time before he is penned in as the starting right tackle.
How much time that takes is now up to Massie.
The 6’6”, 316-pound mass of humanity is eagerly awaiting his chance to pad-up and hit someone, and he made that clear in an interview with Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
“I just want to be a part of [the] team,” Massie said. “You want your teammates to like you. I like to joke around, have fun. But when it is time to put on the helmet and hit somebody, that’s what I will do.”
Massie comes into the league as an impressive pass blocker. His nimble feet and strong upper body make him a perfect candidate for the starting right tackle position early, as the spot has been an issue in recent years.
This writer believes that once he earns the role as a starter, the job will be his for many, many years. Right tackle is all he played in college, and it’s what he will play in the NFL.
That kind of solidity will help the offense become more potent—and offensive potency is one thing the Arizona Cardinals have lacked the past two years.