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Arizona Cardinals

Updated Jul 24, 2014 - 10:42 am

The 5: Top storylines heading into Arizona Cardinals training camp

As the Arizona Cardinals open training camp in 2014, the setting has a decidedly different vibe from past years.

There is no uncertainty at quarterback, as Carson Palmer not only has the job, but has proven he can handle it.

The coaching staff is back for another go round, and Bruce Arians' seat could not be any cooler.

And though the past two NFC Champions reside in the division, there is optimism that the Cardinals, who won 10 games last season, can make a postseason run.

But as is with every team this time of year, there are some questions facing the team. Here is a look at five of the top storylines:

Who will excel now that 'soccer' is done with?


The World Cup is gone, which means fans are free to focus on football rather than futbol. All throughout OTAs and minicamp Cards coach Bruce Arians was hesitant to praise players because without pads on what they were doing was more like soccer than the sport they are paid to play, but now the pads are on and it's time to really see what these guys have.

Will John Brown, who starred in minicamp, continue to look good now that he can get hit? Will linemen like Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell look better now that they can actually put a body on a defender and move them off the line?

Arians kept the same refrain that battles aren't won until the pads are on, so now it's time to see who steps up and earns a role with the team.

New left side, uncertain right side of the O-line


It's very possible the Cardinals will have four new starters along their offensive line this season. Left tackle Jared Veldheer comes over from the Raiders and left guard Jonathan Cooper is back from a broken leg that cost him the 2013 season, so there's plenty of confidence there even if no one is quite sure what the team will get.

The right side of the line, however, is a different story. Eric Winston is no longer at right tackle and Paul Fanaika is not guaranteed to return to his spot at right guard. Who from a collection of Fanaika, Sowell, Bobby Massie, Earl Watford and Nate Potter is going to earn a spot? Stay tuned.

Changes on defense


It's the elephant in the room, and boy is it a big one. How will the Cardinals fare without both of their starting inside linebackers from last season, as Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland as a free agent and Daryl Washington was suspended for violating the league's policy on substance abuse.

The first crack at the job(s) would appear to go to second-year pro Kevin Minter and veteran Larry Foote. Is Minter ready to lead the defense? Does Foote have enough left in the tank? Is anyone on the roster capable of coming close to the production that both Dansby and Washington brought?

For what it's worth, the team is confident they'll be fine without them. If Antonio Cromartie and Deone Bucannon prove to be good additions to the secondary and John Abraham along with Calais Campbell and others can lead an effective pass rush, they may be right.

Housler's last stand?


Pretty much from the moment he was selected with the 69th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Rob Housler has been expected to develop into a key weapon in the passing game. At 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds with good speed, he looked the part of a playmaker at tight end. Unfortunately Housler has been slow to get going in the NFL, catching just 96 passes for 1,004 yards in three seasons. Though he did reach the end zone for the first time last season, he's done nothing to "claim" the job for himself.

The Cardinals bringing in veteran John Carlson and drafting Troy Niklas out of Notre Dame in the second-round only furthers the notion that Housler's role is a bit tenuous. The good news for Housler, 26, is that by all accounts he had a good offseason and appears ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

Michael Floyd's emergence


The Cardinals selected Floyd with the 13th pick in the 2012 draft with the idea that he'd become an excellent complement to Larry Fitzgerald. Toward the end of the 2013 season, he was starting to look like Fitz's replacement.

Floyd finished the season with 1,041 yards and five touchdowns on 65 receptions, but showed a knack for making the big play and coming up with catches when the team needed him most, as he had 25 consecutive receptions for first downs between Weeks 10-16. He didn't lead the Cardinals in receptions, but he tallied the most yards and looked more and more like Carson Palmer's favorite target as the season wore on.

Everyone raved about Floyd's performance during offseason camps, and from the looks of it he is on the cusp of truly breaking out as a star in 2014. Given Fitzgerald's contract status and slight decline, Arizona may need him to.

About the Author


School: University of Arizona

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: Fall 2008, right before Cardinals Super Bowl run

Favorite sports memory: Being at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with my dad

Favorite all-time athlete: Larry Centers

Favorite sports movies: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Jerry Maguire

Most crushing sports moment: Grew up in Arizona and went to UA from 2002-06. In short, there are too many to name just one.

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