For the first time in five years, the Arizona Cardinals will have new head coach in Steve Wilks. The team has new coordinators, new faces, and are in a tougher division to prepare for.
Here are few top storylines heading into training camp:
During the off-season, the Cardinals signed a pair of veteran quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. They also traded up in the 2018 NFL Draft to select UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen number 10 overall. With the quarterback room full, it could be quite the competition in camp. Bradford will enter camp as the top quarterback. Glennon and Rosen will battle it out for the backup role behind Bradford. With the injury history of Bradford, the backup quarterback role could be key to the success of the Cardinals in 2018.
Who is the number two receiver?
Another key storyline heading into training camp is: Who is the number two receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald? This could be a very interesting battle as you could possibly market it as the rookie verus the veterans.
The Cardinals selected Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk in the second round of the 2018 draft. Kirk spent three years at A&M and had 2,856 yards with 26 touchdowns. He is also a local product as he played high school football at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. The veterans competing for the number two hole behind Fitz would be J.J Nelson and Brice Butler, signed from Dallas.
Kirk, Nelson, and Butler all lack big time experience in the NFL so this will be something that plays itself out in preseason.
Following a July 4 arrest resulting in a DUI, General manager Steve Keim is suspended by the Cardinals for five weeks and fined $200,000. The fine was donated to the Arizona chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. During his absence, Terry McDonough will take over as interim General Manager.
McDonough will look to add more pieces to the roster as the Cardinals are still thin at tight end, linebacker, and safety. Maybe striking a deal with Johnson is high on his list as well. Look for McDonough and his staff do the things necessary to put a competitive team on the field or maybe things are on pause until Keim returns.
The David Johnson Effect
Johnson, a dynamic runner, suffered a dislocated left wrist in Week 1 in 2017 which ended his season. In 2016, Johnson had his best year and it was only his second year in the league. Johnson complied 2,118 yards of total offense with 12 touchdowns. For Johnson to get back to where he was in 2016, he will need to stay healthy.
The fourth year back is entering the final year of his rookie deal and looking for a big payday. Johnson sat out of mandatory mini-camp in search of a new deal. Todd Gurley’s four-year extension worth $60 million with 45 million guaranteed should set the market for guys like Johnson. The Cardinals offense is built around Johnson so it is imperative to get a long-term deal down with the running back.
The offensive line
New offensive line coach and former cardinal Ray Brown will look to repair and retool an offensive line that has struggled protecting the quarterback. With the injury problems that limited Bradford and Rosen in the past, the Cardinals offensive line will need to be like a rock.
The Cardinals did sign two free agent offensive linemen in Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. The signing of those two players should help bolster the right side of the line AQ Shipley returns at center since joining the Cardinals in 2015 he has not missed a start. DJ Humphries and Mike Iupati are both returning from injuries during the 2017 season. The also helped the offensive line drafting Mason Cole and Korey Cunningham. Getting those guys to gel is the next step.
For the Cardinals to be successful in 2018 ,they will need to work together and build together. Look for Wilks and his staff to have the Cardinals primed and ready for the 2018 season.