Arians: Earl Watford to battle Ted Larsen for left guard job

Guard Ted Larsen has 47 starts in his four-year career, including all 16 for the Cardinals in 2014. Rick Scuteri/AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's like Ted Larsen never left.

With Arizona Cardinals left guard Mike Iupati sidelined for up to eight weeks after surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee, Larsen finds himself back at left guard with the first-team offense, a position he held for 14 of the 16 regular-season games last season.

While he was the obvious choice to fill in for Iupati, the job may not be his to keep while Iupati recovers.

Coach Bruce Arians said third-year offensive lineman Earl Watford will push Larsen for playing time.

"He's battling for a number of different spots," Arians said of Watford. "He'll fight for that left guard spot with Ted because he's had such a good camp. And he's also still in the fight for the right guard [and] right tackle."

Larsen has 47 starts in his four-year career, including all 16 in 2014. His experience gives Arizona a reliable option behind Iupati, but Larsen lacks the size and stature of Iupati, who is 6-foot-5, 331 pounds, and played in the last three Pro Bowls.

What impact losing Iupati -- the second-best run blocker in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus -- will have on the Cards' running game, which averaged 3.29 yards per carry last season, is yet to be seen. But Arians doesn't expect a major impact.

"It's obviously a little bit of a drop off," he said. "But we'll be better than we were."

For the first time since 2013, guard Jonathan Cooper is on the outside of the offensive-line carousel looking in. He has a firm grasp on the right guard position after two years of being considered the Cardinals' left guard of the future. Injuries in 2013 and a subpar showing in training camp last season forced Cooper out of the lineup. Last season, it was Larsen who took Cooper's job and never gave it up.

This season it's Iupati who took Larsen's gig, but unlike last season when Cooper was healthy, when Iupati returns, he'll get his job back.

"We're sad that he's hurt," Cooper said. "Ted will step in. He has a bunch of games under his belt and he's done a great job for us so he'll step in. Earl Watford, he's there for depth as well I know we can fight through it and be happy when [Iupati] gets back."