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Cardinals training camp: 3 position battles to watch

Opportunities are plentiful on a roster filled with new faces and ample competition

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

As a rebuilding football team, the Arizona Cardinals have competition at almost every position group with starting and backup jobs up for the taking on their roster. After an abysmal 2022 season that resulted in the firing of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim stepping down as general manager, the Cardinals went in a completely new direction in the hiring of GM Monti Ossenfort and former Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their next head coach.

The offseason was flooded with DeAndre Hopkins and Budda Baker trade speculation. Now that the smoke has cleared, Ossenfort can focus solely on building a winning football team from the ground up. He did add 34 new players to the Cardinals’ roster since February with a combination of transactions in free agency and the NFL Draft.

Training camp for the Cardinals will start on July 25 as there are so many unknowns with their current group of players.

Here are three position battles to keep in mind:

NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Backup Quarterback

Unlike many NFL teams, the Cardinals’ backup quarterback will play a lot in 2023 with Kyler Murray still recovering from his torn ACL last December. As it stands, Murray is not expected to be healthy enough to play the regular season opener on September 10 versus the Washington Commanders.

13-year veteran Colt McCoy has been the No. 2 quarterback on the Cardinals’ roster the last two seasons but he is far from a lock to be the top backup this year considering the coaching staff changes. This team re-signed David Blough and added free agent Jeff Driskel during the offseason as both are former Lions that assistant general manager Dave Sears is familiar with in his time in Detroit. Unfortunately Blough and Driskel have a combined 1-16 win-loss record. The Cardinals did select a quarterback in the fifth-round in Clayton Tune, who threw 40 touchdowns in his final year at the University of Houston.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

Change-of-Pace Running Back

James Conner will be the Cardinals’ starting running back for a third consecutive season. He is coming off a year where he gained 1,082 scrimmage yards but with Conner’s extensive injury history dating back to his rookie year in 2017, the Cardinals need a change-of-pace running back to take some of his workload to boost effectiveness and longevity.

Cardinals did not add a veteran running back in free agency. Their current group consists of six-year veteran Corey Clement and other roster holdovers such as former Ravens’ running back Ty’Son Williams and last year’s sixth-round pick Keaontay Ingram. Arizona added TCU running back Emari Demercado as an undrafted free agent. For now, Clement figures to have the lead for the top backup job due to his experience. However, there is no guarantee a No. 2 running back is currently on their roster.

Arizona Cardinals v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Interior Defensive Line

As the football saying goes, it starts in the trenches and that is where champions can be made. The last two Super Bowls featured teams with disruptive interior defensive linemen such as Rams’ Aaron Donald, Chiefs’ Chris Jones, and Eagles’ Javon Hargraves. Regardless of the defensive alignment Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Nick Rallis will run, every position along the interior defensive line will have wide-open competition but their current depth lacks quality.

The Cardinals lost two top-notch defensive linemen this offseason in Zach Allen and future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt. 2020 fourth-round pick Rashard Lawrence might be the Cardinals’ best interior player on defense but missed 27 games over the last three seasons. Arizona added former first-round pick L.J. Collier, Jacob Slade, Ben Stille, Kevin Strong Jr and Carlos Watkins in free agency but they lack production. Sixth-round pick Dante Stills might make an impact early considering he is West Virginia’s record holder in tackles for loss (52.5) and the overall talent at this position is underwhelming. Holdovers from last year’s roster include Eric Banks, Leki Fotu and Jonathan Ledbetter. Among the veterans, the group had a combined one sack in 2022.


Competition on the roster will be at an all-time high for the Arizona Cardinals. Center remains a position of weakness on the Cardinals’ roster as neither Hjalte Froholdt and rookie fourth-round pick Jon Gaines II, both are contending for the starting job, have much experience there.

Could rookie Michael Wilson win a starting job at wide receiver?

Who will play opposite Marco Wilson at cornerback?

Two of their top playmakers on offense in Kyler Murray and Zach Ertz are more than likely to miss the start of the regular season. Week 1 starters at the positions mentioned might not even be on the roster right now. Opportunities are plentiful as Arizona hopes to find some diamonds in the rough as general manager Monti Ossenfort builds the roster in his image.