Arizona Cardinals 2013 Training Camp Preview

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Arizona Cardinals 2013 Training Camp Preview

Arizona Cardinals 2013 Training Camp Preview
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals fans have lacked reason for optimism since the day Kurt Warner retired. The past three seasons have seen this offense brutalized by bad quarterback and offensive line play, resulting in three playoff misses despite typically strong defensive units.

Perhaps no one has suffered from this offense of drought quite like Larry Fitzgerald, who has been overtaken from the throne as best receiver in the NFL.

“I was fortunate to have Kurt for so many years,” Fitzgerald told NFL Network. “He taught me so much not only as a football player but as a man. I truly value the relationship that he’s allowed me to have with him. I miss him dearly but he’s got his nice cushy chair at NFL [Network] studios now and he’s having a good time. But I learned a lot. I’ve taken all the lessons I’ve learned from him throughout the years, and try to implement it in my game still to this day.”

This team could now be invigorated by the addition of offensive-minded head coach Bruce Arians and competent quarterbacking of Carson Palmer. For all Palmer's faults and tendency to turn the ball over, he at least has the professional arm and experience to give Fitzgerald a chance to stretch defenses.

This is absolutely critical for Arizona to finally make its postseason return, but many questions still remain. The running back position has the talent and also the injury history to spur doubt. Many changes have occurred on defense. The way training camp battles pan out could very well determine whether this team finally turns the corner post-Warner.

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Quarterback

Quarterback
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Palmer may or may not ever return to the form that saw him threatening the elite tier before his tragic knee injury. However, he does answer a major question at the quarterback position after that miserable John Skelton-led platoon of yesteryear. A healthy Kevin Kolb might have been halfway decent here, but then again he never stayed healthy. Drew Stanton would step in if Palmer can not.

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Running Back

Running Back
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Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams could make up an incredibly talented 1-2, but neither has shown consistent health during their careers. Rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington seem like a potentially nice thunder-and-lightning combo for the future.

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Wide Receiver/Tight End

Wide Receiver/Tight End
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Fitzgerald certainly has the skillset to reclaim his throne as the league's top receiver, which he first captured in the Super Bowl about four years ago. Second-year top pick Michael Floyd could go a long way in helping him, and will likely line up wide opposite with Andre Roberts coming out of the slot. Rookie Ryan Swope was likely downgraded on draft weekend due to concussion issues but ran a sub-3.4 at the combine. Rob Housler must prove himself in year three as the team's only decent receiving option from the tight end spot.

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Offensive Line

Offensive Line
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What was easily the worst offensive line in the league early last year might now be fairly decent. Top pick Jonathan Cooper should provide an athletic, quick-footed guard on the left side to go along with now-healthy Levi Brown, who looked good in his last regular-season action — as did right tackle Bobby Massie. Second-year man Nate Potter also stands a chance to start on either side. Lyle Sendlein was never the worst starting center though has lived through years of the line's awful play. Starting right guard will probably come down to Daryn Colledge or rookie Earl Watford — a major upgrade on Adam Snyder regardless.

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Defensive Line

Defensive Line
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Once upon a time Arizona had arguably the best 3-4 end combo in Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, until Dockett's play fell off a cliff last season. Now free agent Matt Shaughnessy stands a chance to steal snaps. Dan Williams has yet to justify his first-round selection, but is a solid nose tackle

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Linebacker

Linebacker
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Daryl Washington looked the DPOY favorite after the Philly game early last year, but now spends the first four contests of this coming season suspended. Jasper Brinkley, rookie Kevin Minter and Karlos Dansby battle for the two starting ILB spots with Washington out. The edge rush for Arizona has been pitiful for years, and the addition of Lorenzo Alexander doesn't figure to fix it alongside incumbents Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield and Alex Okafor.

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Defensive Backs

Defensive Backs
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Arizona traded for Javier Arenas this offseason in a seeming attempt to fill their slot cornerback spot, where Arenas had performed quite well back in KC. Patrick Peterson is a lock for No. 1 corner, while the second wide CB could come down to a camp battle between free agents Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason, with second-year man Jamell Fleming as a dark horse to move up the depth chart. Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes were jettisoned after manning safety with aplomb for most of the past few years. Rashad Johnson has been waiting in the wings at free safety for years while Jeremiah Bell brings starting experience via free agency. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu is the wild-card of this secondary, and should get reps at both free safety and slot corner.

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Special Teams

Special Teams
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It's very likely that coming out of camp Jay Feely assumes the kicking roles, Peterson the punt returner gig and Dave Zastudil the punts, while kick returner should remain an open battle in the early going.


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