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Arizona Cardinals

3 key training camp battles to watch for Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) on the field during a Cardinals kickoff in the third quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Rams played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/John Cordes)
AP Photo/John Cordes

The Arizona Cardinals have plenty of talent scattered across their roster, but some unanswered questions and positional battles heading into training camp. Not all of the battles are the most attractive topics on paper, but they could make a difference down the road and in the long grind of the season.

Let’s take a look at the three training camp battles fans should be interested in this offseason. We’ll start things off with one that features two well-known names competing for a roster spot right out of the gate.

Blaine Gabbert vs. Trevor Knight

This one is tricky. Drew Stanton will make the roster, but the Cardinals almost certainly have to keep three quarterbacks. Is it the former starter who hasn’t lived up to expectations — Blaine Gabbert — or the intriguing rookie who has ample athleticism, Trevor Knight?

The latter struggled mightily in college with his completion percentage, never getting above 59. After transferring from Oklahoma to Texas A&M, he managed to put together a solid 19 touchdown passes with seven interceptions. He also rushed for 614 yards with a superb 10 touchdowns, showing what he’s capable of bringing to the table.

The early favorite has to be Gabbert, who has the experience to step in when his number is called. If Bruce Arians values upside and untapped potential, Knight could be the route to go.

Jaron Brown vs. Chad Williams

I know there’s a lot of love for Jaron Brown, it’s fine, but Chad Williams has the type of upside that’s hard to ignore. Last season, Brown had 11 catches for 187 yards and a score, and if he gets adequate playing time, he could give the Cardinals a hefty boost. However, the Cardinals obviously like Williams. They spent a third-round pick on the former Grambling State wide receiver who tallied over 2,300 yards with 21 touchdowns over his final two years.

If Williams can excel during training camp, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him gain a lot more playing time than some expect. For what it’s worth, as Football Outsiders points out, Brown played only 16.5 percent of offensive snaps last year. If Williams is able to take that spot and grab some of Brittan Golden’s playing time, he could earn quite a few targets as a rookie.

Brandon Williams vs. Justin Bethel

It is definitely disappointing that the Cardinals didn’t do more this offseason at the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson. While Peterson is simply an excellent player, he’ll likely be paired up with either Williams or Bethel. Last season, Bethel out-snapped Williams 269 (25 percent) to 240 (22.3 percent). The Cardinals have to hope that one of the two can take a step forward and prove their ability to produce at this level.

If one of these two doesn’t start opposite of Peterson, it would be surprising, but Cardinal fans would probably be happy if a player came out of the woodwork and earned the job. Time will tell, but for now, we’re going to expect Williams to be the one more likely to step forward.

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