Arizona Cardinals training camp primer

USA TODAY Sports

Can the Cardinals make noise in a tough NFC West?

Last year, the Arizona Cardinals had both the most promising start and worst finish to a season in franchise history. The Cardinals were flying high as NFL darlings after an overtime victory over the Dolphins sent them to a 4-0 record to open the year, but unfortunately they would not be on the winning side again until Week 15.

Kevin Kolb led the Cardinals to a 4-0 start despite losing a preseason battle for the starting quarterback job to John Skelton. But Kolb was injured late in a Week 6 game against the Buffalo Bills, and Skelton replaced him before throwing a critical interception in overtime that led directly to a Bills game-winning field goal.

The rest is, as they say, notoriously bad history.

Skelton and rookie Ryan Lindley combined for one of the worst quarterbacking seasons in NFL history, throwing only two touchdowns against 17 interceptions in just ten starts, and the Cards finished 5-11. Once again it was time for a rebuilding project in Arizona, and significant change was coming for them all over the field.

Offseason Changes

The first step was firing general manager Rod Graves and replacing him with longtime Cardinals front office exec Steve Keim. Bruce Arians, a longtime NFL offensive coach that just came off of leading the Colts to a 9-3 record while he replaced Chuck Pagano, was hired as the new head coach.

Arians brought Harold Goodwin over with him from Indianapolis to be the offensive coordinator, and hired Todd Bowles away from the Eagles to be his defensive coordinator.

The other major move for Arizona was releasing Kolb and Skelton and trading for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders. Palmer signed a new 2-year deal with Arizona and is coming off his third-career season with more than 4,000 yards passing.

In an attempt to upgrade the league's worst rushing offense, the Cardinals drafted guard Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick in the draft and signed running back Rashard Mendenhall in free agency. Mendenhall fell out of favor with the Steelers and has worked through some tough injuries, but is only 26 years old and rushed for 3,309 yards over the 2009-2011 seasons.

Arizona also brought back linebacker Karlos Dansby, which is especially good since Daryl Washington has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Safety Adrian Wilson was released after 12 seasons and five Pro Bowls with the Cardinals.

In addition to Cooper, the teams other draft picks that could have an immediate impact are linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end/outside linebacker Alex Okafor, running back Stepfan Taylor, and wide receiver Ryan Swopes.

Training Camp location and schedule

After 25 years of holding training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, the Cardinals and the city could not come to an agreement on an extension last spring. So the Cards will instead be holding their training camp in their home stadium at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Some fans have expressed concern over these changes, unsure of how different the experience will be for viewing the practices and other amenities, but we will see how different things are when they open training camp on July 25.

The Cardinals will conduct 17 open practices, with free parking and admission. In addition to these open practices, the team can also have morning walk-throughs, and those are not open to the public.

Date Time/Activity
Thursday, July 25th Veterans Report
Friday, July 26th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Saturday, July 27th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Sunday, July 28th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Monday, July 29th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Tuesday, July 30th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Friday, August 2nd Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Saturday, August 3rd Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Monday, August 5th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Tuesday, August 6th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Wednesday, August 7th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Friday, August 9th Preseason Week 1, at Green Bay Packers, 5:00 PM
Monday, August 12th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Tuesday, August 13th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Thursday, August 15th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Saturday, August 17th Preseason Week 2, home against Dallas Cowboys, 1:30 PM
Monday, August 19th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Tuesday, August 20th Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Wednesday, August 21st Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Thursday, August 22nd Practice, 2:00 PM - 4:35 PM
Saturday, August 24th Preseason Week 3, home against San Diego Chargers, 7:00 PM
Thursday, August 29th Preseason Week 4, at Denver Broncos, 6:00 PM

Position Battles

Cornerback - Peterson is a sure thing to be the number one corner, but there are a number of names in the mix to start opposite of him. Jarraud Powers was signed to a three-year deal away from the Colts, but hasn't had a highly-successful career up to this point. Though he is currently seen as the second starter, he will face tough competition from free agent Antoine Cason and Javier Arenas, whom they traded for from Kansas City.

One of those players will also likely take over the main duties at nickelback, with the rookie Mathieu a possible dark horse in that race.

Running back - The battle on the forefront of most fantasy football fans, the Cardinals might have more talent at the running back position than they've had in a long time. Though the same could have been said as recently as last season when they had Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, and LaRod Stephens-Howling, and that turned into a disaster.

Williams is back to compete for carries against Mendenhall, but rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington also have something to say about it.

Free safety - Yeremiah Bell is the starter as of now, but he's 35 and could face an interesting battle if the rookie Mathieu plays lights out during camp and preseason. Though it would seem to be a longshot, Mathieu isn't that far removed from being on the best college football players in the country and he may be hungry to prove doubters wrong that say he might be too small or too much of a headcase to make it in the NFL.

Starting Mathieu over Bell could be a risk, but if the Cardinals are going to compete this year, they might need to take a few of those.

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