Arizona Cardinals OTAs: Checking in on key position battles

USA TODAY Sports

September is a long way off but the foundation for a successful season is being built right now.

Unless you already know who your starter is, May is too early to christen a victor of any particular battle on the roster. May does happen to be a good time to re-visit some of the on-going competitions the Cardinals are evaluating, however.

No. 2 WR
Michael Floyd vs. Andre Roberts

Floyd showed promise at the end of the 2012 season and is carrying that momentum into OTAs. He's getting more snaps with the first team than Roberts at this point, and should be the favorite to win the starting job. Roberts is no slouch, himself managing to reel in 115 sailing, off-target passes over the last two seasons and even scoring more fantasy points than Larry Fitzgerald in 2012, but Floyd's talent makes him difficult to match, and his size and speed make him a natural fit in a vertical passing scheme. While Floyd should win the job, both players will hear their numbers called often this season.

No. 2 CB
Jerraud Powers vs. Antoine Cason

Both Powers and Cason struggled in 2012, which probably had a lot to do with why they were available in free agency. Cason's size and press cover ability makes him a more natural fit for an outside cornerback, but Powers has been running with the first team in OTAs. In four seasons, Powers has started every game he has been active for but has yet to complete a full season. Cason started 45 of 48 games over the last three seasons. Both players are experienced. Powers may have a couple slight advantages, having played with head coach Bruce Arians in Indianapolis in 2012 and having signed a three-year contract compared to Cason's one-year deal, but neither of those factors reflect how this battle will play out on the field. The best man needs to play, no exceptions.

ILB
Jasper Brinkley vs. the field

Karlos Dansby will appear in Daryl Washington's place for at least the first four games this season, but who will appear next to him? Profootballfocus.com's 50th-rated ILB from 2012 (ahead of only London Fletcher, Paris Lenon and Rey Maualuga), Jasper Brinkley, has been running with the first team so far. He struggled in his first season as a starter for the Vikings, so it would seem his main advantage right now is experience. It would be an upset if he can hold off the Cardinals second-round pick, Kevin Minter. The Cardinals general manager, Steve Keim, wanted impact players in the first three rounds, and Minter won't be able to have an impact from the bench. The expectation is for him to play. Fifth-year special teams man Reggie Walker appears to be the odd man out.

PR/KR
Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, other

Peterson will be the primary punt returner again, but Mathieu, Javier Arenas, and rookie running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington should all get a chance to show they can be a weapon as a kick returner. Mathieu has been taking snaps at both safety and nickel corner during the Cardinals OTAs, but his biggest impact in 2013 may be on special teams. He took two to the house for LSU in 2011 and is renowned for his playmaking ability and ball skills. Arenas is a reliable return man, but his average yardage per return isn't anything special, and he has never scored a special teams touchdown. Ellington fielded a few for Clemson over the years, while Taylor doesn't have any experience as a returner. More likely, the coaches are looking at it as another way to get him on the field. Should William Powell find a way to make the final roster, he could be a factor as a kick returner as well, having had some success in that role for the Cardinals in 2012. Expect this battle to last through the pre-season.

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