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Cardinal vs. Cardinal: Checking in on position battles

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A few important position battles are being waged this preseason for the Cardinals. What did we learn against the Chargers?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
Can Christian Kirk climb the depth chart this preseason?
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals got the win against the Chargers last Saturday, but W’s and L’s don’t matter in the preseason. What matters is the effort, the execution, the reps. That experience—as individual players, as a team—is much more valuable than the meaningless result of an exhibition matchup. (Although I’m sure the players and coaches would both tell you that a W still feels pretty good, even in the preseason.)

So while the battle between the opposing teams ultimately doesn’t matter, the battles within the teams do matter. On the Cardinals, there are several important position battles being waged. So with one preseason game in the books, let’s check in on those battles and see where they stand.

Position Battle – CB2

This is the most important position battle on the team, and one that’s been seemingly unsettled for years. The Cardinals have plugged this hole in the secondary with stopgap guys like Marcus Cooper and Tramon Williams in years past. Will this year’s crop of CBs be more of the same, or can someone step up and plug that hole for good? Let’s run through the contenders.

  • Jamar Taylor: Acquired from the Browns in the offseason, Taylor is the guy listed atop the depth chart. He played well enough in his 15 snaps against the Chargers, recording a stop and a pass breakup, but he also had a penalty that resulted in a first down. Still, he’s young (27) and has starting experience. It’ll be hard to knock him out of the gig. Trending: Steady ↔
  • Bene Benwikere: Former Carolina Panther Benwikere is nominally the Redbirds’ slot CB, but he had a couple nice plays that led to turnovers while playing outside—a tipped pass that A.J. Howard snagged for an INT, and a forced fumble that Jeremy Cash scooped up and returned for a TD. The Cardinals may want to keep Benwikere in the slot, but it’s hard to ignore his production against the Chargers. Trending: Up ↑
  • Chris Campbell: The rookie played a bunch Saturday night (44 snaps) and generally acquitted himself well, making 6 tackles (5 solo), contributing on defense and special teams. However, he was also the victim of a Geno Smith (ugh) to Geremy Davis (who?) TD bomb. He was in position to make the play, but was simply beaten by Davis. Not his finest moment, but he showed potential. Trending: Steady ↔
  • Brandon Williams: Williams played the most of any Cardinals CB against the Chargers (60 snaps) but had an absolutely horrific night—he gave up several catches, missed tackles, and committed key penalties. By the end of the night, it felt like Wilks kept him out there like a baseball manager using a position player at pitcher—you don’t want to tax any of the guys that actually matter. At this point, Williams isn’t battling for the CB2 spot… he’s battling for a roster spot. Trending: Down ↓

Position Battle – WR2

There’s also a spot to fill opposite a perennial Pro Bowler on the offensive side of the ball. But unlike the CB2 battle, we didn’t get much to go on from the Chargers game, as Cardinals QBs only completed 12 passes. Did anyone take advantage of limited opportunities to make an impression? (Narrator: They did not.)

  • Brice Butler: Like Taylor, Butler is the incumbent name atop the depth chart. He played just 9 snaps and didn’t see a target, as Sam Bradford only attempted a single pass. Unfortunately, we won’t have a chance to see what Butler can do against the Saints, although he doesn’t figure to lose his spot on the depth chart. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field soon. Trending: Steady ↔
  • J.J. Nelson: Directly behind Butler on the depth chart is Nelson, who played a bit more (13 snaps), but dropped his lone target. Nelson has made some big plays in the past, but consistency has never been part of his game. I don’t see that changing this year given his size and issues with drops, but he’ll have a role. Trending: Steady ↔
  • Chad Williams: Williams has been dealing with minor injuries lately and managed only 6 snaps against the Chargers (0 targets). Hard to make a name for yourself if you can’t get onto the field and are anonymous once you do. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals cutting Williams after one season, but Wilks wasn’t around when Williams was drafted… Trending: Down ↓
  • Christian Kirk: Kirk is listed on the third team on the depth chart, but he saw 3 targets on Saturday, catching 2 for 9 yards (and making a big play on a punt return). But he played almost exclusively in the slot against the Chargers, and there’s some guy named Larry Fitzgerald who plays there for the Redbirds. But Fitz can still play outside on occasion, so I’m sure new OC Mike McCoy can find a way to get the two of them on the field at the same time. Trending: Up ↑

Position Battle – QB3

The first two spots on the depth chart are clear-cut: Bradford is the starter and Josh Rosen is the backup. That leaves free agent signing Mike Glennon and UDFA Chad Kanoff fighting for the #3 spot. How did they do against the Bolts?

  • Mike Glennon: As you probably know by now, Glennon was putrid—2/7 for 11 yards, a pick, a sack taken, and a QB rating of 0.0. He just looked out of sorts all night (although like with Rosen, the O-line and WRs didn’t help). Walter Mitchell has been gunning for a Glennon trade, and I can’t say I disagree… provided he still has value after Saturday night. You hate to see anyone get injured, but a desperate team might trade for Daddy Longneck. Otherwise, he might not survive the September cutdown. Trending: Down ↓
  • Chad Kanoff: Kanoff looked great in his first NFL action, throwing a perfect bomb to Jalen Tolliver, then later throwing the game-winning TD to Bryce Williams. He looked comfortable and confident. The only downside is that he might not get much playing time the next two preseason games (unless he truly leapfrogs Glennon on the depth chart). This battle might be decided on the field against the Broncos in the final game of the preseason. Trending: Up ↑

Other Position Battles

  • Starting C: Mason Cole (Steady ↔) vs. Daniel Munyer (Down ↓) – Just kidding!
  • Starting DE: Benson Mayowa (Steady ↔) vs. Cap Capi (Up ↑) – Mayowa played well enough, and it may be presumptuous to say Capi has a shot at starting while Markus Golden recovers, but he was a monster last week.
  • Kicker: Phil Dawson (Steady ↔) vs. Matt McCrane (Steady ↔) – It’ll be hard to unseat Dawson, but McCrane did knock in a chip-shot FG. McCrane was more impressive on kickoffs as well.

Final Thoughts

After one preseason game, these battles are far from decided, but we have a bit more clarity in some of these battles—although WR2 is still way up in the air. Tonight’s game in New Orleans should put things a bit more into focus before things are truly decided in the Week 3 dress rehearsal game in Dallas.

So what did you take away from the game against the Chargers? Are there any particular position battles you’re keeping an eye on? What are you looking for tonight against the Saints?