Position battles few and far between for Cardinals’ starting slots
GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Arizona Sports’ Mike Jurecki rolled out his annual prediction for the Cardinals’ 53-man roster on Friday, one theme stood out. There are few true position battles for the starting lineups; less than either of us could remember in recent years.
That’s the way coach Bruce Arians likes it.
“If you’re competing for starting positions you probably have a hole somewhere,” Arians said. “We’ve been very fortunate. Steve [Keim]’s done such a great job of loading the roster.”
When training camp began on Friday, the most intriguing starter’s battle was at punter between CFL veteran Richie Leone and Matt Wile, who has served stints with three other NFL clubs. All this is to say, we’re desperate for stories.
Justin Bethel has not won the right cornerback spot yet over Brandon Williams, there is still the possibility that defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche could supplant Josh Mauro (13 starts last season), and Tyvon Branch isn’t a lock at safety, but all three current starters are expected to hold those positions for now.
The other positions are all but locked in with most of camp still ahead.
“I don’t consider our right corner a hole,” Arians said. “I just consider it good competition between two really good young players, but you really hope you’ve got 22 starters or 26 starters (special teams included) and you’re just plugging depth, knowing that there’s competition, that a young guy could always take a job.”
There are plenty of battles lower on the roster. The Cardinals still haven’t decided how many receivers and defensive backs they will keep, CB Brandon Flowers’ reported visit on Wednesday adds another possibility to that depth chart decision and Drew Stanton is trying to hold off Blaine Gabbert for the backup quarterback slot.
For now, the Cardinals appear to be in the luxury shopping business.
“We’re always looking,” Arians said. “Do we need a third this, a fifth that and finding a veteran player that can come in and knows how to play football that you’re not teaching how to play football at this level?”
The Cardinals have had some success on that front, signing veteran pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham in the Arians era, and Arizona made it clear that it will always be on the hunt for that type of impact player.
“We’re always looking for the Freeneys, the Abrahams, those type of guys,” Arians said. “But I like where this team is at.”
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