The Arizona Cardinals open training camp on Aug. 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Here’s a closer look at the Cardinals' camp, which wraps up on Aug. 28:
Top storyline: One player will dominate the month of August for the Cardinals: quarterback Carson Palmer. His health will be a big topic, with every dropback and throw critiqued ad nauseam. But as Palmer goes, so will the Cardinals in 2015 -- remember, he was 6-0 last season and the Cardinals were 9-1 before he was lost for the season. Palmer has plenty of rust to knock off, and he started the process during minicamp, when he faced a live defense for the first time since his November knee injury. But a major question will be how he’ll fare when the pads go on and players can hit. He will, obviously, be off-limits, but that doesn’t prevent an overambitious defender from running into him accidentally. But Palmer has shown his toughness during the past 8½ months, and during the offseason Palmer was reflective, almost as if he saw his football mortality. That alone can be motivation for a veteran returning from a major injury.
Position battles to watch: There are three position battles every Cards fan should watch during camp. The first is right cornerback. Jerraud Powers is the experienced veteran who is penciled in as Antonio Cromartie's replacement, but Justin Bethel is young, athletic and ambitious and will try to win the job. Bobby Massie is the incumbent right tackle, but he has first-round pick D.J. Humphries hot on his heels. With Massie entering the final year of his contract, the future at right tackle might come early. Though common thinking is that Andre Ellington has the starting tailback role locked down, rookie David Johnson will enter camp as the top candidate to steal snaps away -- he might even compete for the starting role because of his size and quickness.
Veterans to watch: The Cardinals have made a side business of signing veterans who have something to prove. This year Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley fall into that role. Weatherspoon has played seven games the past two seasons because of a slew of injuries. He signed a one-year deal and hopes that’s all he needs to prove he can still be considered one of the league’s top linebackers. If he makes the roster, Woodley could use this season similarly to Weatherspoon. Woodley was once a reliable double-digit sack hound, but those numbers have dropped off significantly in the past five years.
Rookies to watch: Rodney Gunter might have the most to prove during training camp because of where he came from. A Delaware State product, Gunter wasn’t on the radar of many draft gurus, so he has a definite chip on his shoulder. Shaq Riddick is another rookie who will be out to prove he’s worthy of a roster spot after missing most of the offseason practices because of injuries. J.J. Nelson knows he’s fast, but he needs to put it to use -- efficiently, of course -- to force the Cardinals to keep him around.
Bubble watch: Safety Tony Jefferson has done everything that’s been asked of him, including filling in admirably for Tyrann Mathieu at times, but depth at safety might leave Jefferson on the outside looking in. Despite all the promise and hype, quarterback Logan Thomas is not assured of making the roster after a subpar spring. At times during organized team activities and minicamp, Thomas was passed on the depth chart by rookie Phillip Sims. Running back Kerwynn Williams might be squeezed off the 53-man roster, as well, because of the depth at running back and his struggles as a receiver.
Healing injuries: This year’s training camp will be a novelty of sorts for Mathieu and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, because they are healthy. Last year, Mathieu spent training camp slowly working his way back into football shape and Cooper was trying to overcome the mental hurdles that came with breaking a leg. Cooper is at a new position -- right guard, instead of left guard -- and Mathieu claims he’s back to the Honey Badger of 2013 and earlier. Camp will be their first opportunity to don pads and prove they are indeed back to form.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Arizona Cardinals clubhouse page.