After covering the Arizona Cardinals' centers earlier in the week, today we look at another position along the offensive line. We turn our attention today to the guards, two positions held down by guys who have started 31 of last 32 regular season games, but that does not necessarily mean that the starters are set in stone or that there won't be a great deal of competition for the backup spots during training camp. There is quite a bit of young talent in the mix here and we'll try to straighten all of the guard/tackle combos on this current squad.
On the Bubble
Before we get into this, we'll mention that Herman Johnson could be listed as a guard but he was exclusively running at tackle during OTA's so for now we'll assume that he is going to stay at tackle. As for the guys we're focusing on here, Wells is the unquestioned starter but you're probably scratching your head (or maybe stomping your feet) as to why Keith would be listed as a lock while Lutui, who's started 40 games over the past three seasons, is on our bubble. Well look below for our explanation on his status. Keith ran with the second team at right guard, instead of tackle, during OTA's so we'll assume that he's staying at guard for training camp. He is the team's most promising young lineman and the consensus thought is that his days as a starter are a matter of when, not if. As for our bubble and no chance guys, Canfield and Medder are practice squad eligible but Lutui and Brown are not.
Deuce Lutui: Lutui's started 40 of the team's last 41 regular season games but most still consider him the weak link of the offensive line. He's narrowly held onto his starting job the past two training camp by beating Elton Brown but during OTA's the coaching staff moved Brandon Keith over to right guard and it'll take a better effort from Lutui to keep Keith on the bench. Now even if Keith does win the job that doesn't necessarily mean that Lutui will be cut but he'd be older and more expensive than any other backup lineman and for a team that's right up against the cap, his salary of just over one million could be a decent savings. Lutui will have to show the consistency that the coaching staff has been looking for this training camp or his days could be numbered.
Elton Brown: You might wonder why the top offensive line backup of the past couple of seasons wouldn't have a guaranteed roster spot but it's pretty clear that the coaching staff doesn't view him as starting material and there is a handful of young talent behind him who might have that potential. Brown's versatility is his biggest asset as he's started games at guard and tackle during his career so far and that limited starting experience should be enough for him to start training camp as the top reserve lineman. He'll have to prove that he's noticeably better than guys like Keith, Johnson or Canfield though.
Trevor Canfield: The Cardinals seventh round pick this year will try to copy the success of last year's seventh round pick by impressing during camp and earning a spot on the final 53. Canfield's playing experience is at guard but he's also expected to try his craft at the center spot and that might be his best chance at getting one of the final chairs. If he can prove that he's reliable at center his chances of securing a spot might be pretty decent but if he's strictly a guard, his most likely landing spot will be on the practice squad for a season.
Carlton Medder: Medder, an undrafted free agent from a year ago, played right tackle in college but the Cardinals quickly moved him to guard once it was obvious that he struggled mightily with speed rushers. He was running the second team last year during camp before an elbow injury ended his season before it ever got off the ground. He's got size (6-5, 316) but with so much young talent ahead of him, he needs to have a good camp just to make the practice squad.
I'm thinking that there might be some debate on this one so I'll open it up for everyone to throw in their two cents. Should Lutui be watching his back and do you think his roster spot is really in jeopardy? Is Keith really ready to unseat him and should Elton Brown get one last shot at taking the job? Where does Canfield figure into the mix?