Cards Mailbag: Training camp approaches


Welcome to #CardsMailbag, a weekly installment that allows you to ask me questions throughout the week via Twitter @joshweinfuss. I'll answer them every week during the offseason. Make sure to use the hashtag #CardsMailbag.

@joshweinfus I'd say it's likely the Cardinals will carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster, but will the fourth be Rob Housler? That all depends on how he plays during training camp. I think he's sitting at No. 4 right now behind John Carlson, Jake Ballard and rookie Troy Niklas. He's just not the type of tight end head coach Bruce Arians prefers. Arians may have inherited Housler, who's in the final year of his rookie contract, but that doesn't mean he has to keep him.

@joshweinfuss That's become the $50,000 question. It seems like there's a new answer every week. We've been told everything from the Cardinals are considering the PUP list for training camp to he'll be ready for Week 1 to Mathieu tweeting me and saying it's a 12-month recovery and he's only in Month 7 - which, if he does take all 12 months to recover, means he won't be back until December. He's definitely improving and doing more football work but Arizona won't rush him back. The LCL takes longer to heal than the ACL but there are too many long-term implications if he gets hurt again. And with Mathieu's upside, he may take longer than expected to return.

@joshweinfuss First I'll address the wide receiver part of the question. I think it's becoming a clear cut hierarchy from the third receiver on down. Ted Ginn will be the Cardinals' No. 3, John Brown has emerged as the No. 4 and I think No. 5 will be determined in camp. Rookie Walt Powell will be highly considered but he also has competition from guys like Dan Buckner and Brittan Golden, both of whom saw action last season. As far as the second running back, I think it'll end up being a combination of Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer. Arians talked about using more two-back sets this season but which second back gets the carries will depend on the situation.

@joshweinfuss Can I say all of them? I think the top position Arizona can't afford to lose is quarterback. There's a steep drop off between Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, despite Stanton's connection to Arians and his longevity in Arians' system. Stanton hasn't taken a regular-season snap since 2011 and depending on who the No. 3 quarterback is, Ryan Lindley hasn't played since 2012 and Logan Thomas is a rookie. I think most every other position can be filled adequately. The thing about a team dealing with injuries that I feel a lot of fans don't understand is that teams are built around their starters. So when a starter goes down, the replacement 99.9 percent of the time won't be comparable. Fans get mad and coaches lose their jobs when teams struggle due to injuries, but teams don't stock their two-deep with starting-caliber players - they simply can't financially.

@joshweinfuss Since training camp hasn't started yet, I don't know who's going to be cut. I'll get back to you on this one in August.

@joshweinfuss I think there'll be an overall decline because the Cards are trying to replace a Pro Bowl linebacker and by how the offseason has gone, it doesn't look like they'll be able to do it with just one player. Arizona lost Washington's speed - not just north and south but sideline to sideline, as well - and his size to match up with linebackers and receivers, and his strength to play at the line of scrimmage. How much of a decline? I think it's safe to say it'll be pretty significant.

@joshweinfuss I think if linebacker Kenny Demens has a very good training camp, he could make a serious push for playing time at inside linebacker. He's young, quick and can hit hard but the knock on him throughout his career has been his size. As far as Justin Bethel becoming Arizona's third cornerback, I think it'll take a great training camp for him to supplant Jerraud Powers as the Cardinals' third and nickel cornerback. Not only does Powers have more experience than Bethel but he's coming off a good last few games of 2013 and he's a favorite of Arians.

@joshweinfuss I'm not so sure I agree with you there. I think middle linebackers are as impactful as any position in the league. Here's why: they can disrupt an offense simply by being in the middle of the field. Take last year for example. With Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington patrolling the second layer, Arizona's defense forced offenses to play outside more and allowed outside linebackers John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy to play on the edge of the line of scrimmage. Two good inside linebackers will take care of everything in between the defensive line and secondary from sideline to sideline.

@joshweinfuss Great question. I think there's good arguments for both sides. First, let's start with why you should believe this year's team is different from 2012. The difference between 2014 and 2012 is that there's a significant increase in talent across the board and the team is more stable than it was in 2012. The quarterback situation is steady, which can make up for a lot. The secondary is as stout as it's ever been in Arizona. And the skill positions are well stocked with young talent. But a bigger reason is that what Arizona did last season doesn't seem like a fluke. Not saying that the end of 2011 was, but there's more of a foundation under Bruce Arians going from 2013 to '14 than there was under Ken Whisenhunt going from 2011 to '12. As for why you shouldn't believe this team is different from 2012, just look to Daryl Washington's suspension. There seems to always be something that hinders the team. But, with that being said, look at how Arizona overcame injuries last season. Can they do that again, though, is the question if the injury bug hits the Cardinals.