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Arizona Cardinals camp: Three goals and top battle

By
The Sports Xchange
Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looks at the ball after catching a pass as he warms up for the Cardinals-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on September 18, 2016 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. File photo by Art Foxall/UPI
Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looks at the ball after catching a pass as he warms up for the Cardinals-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on September 18, 2016 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. File photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

Three goals:

Keep star running back David Johnson happy

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Finding a way to make star running back David Johnson happy enough to agree to some sort of contract extension that gets him into camp and ready for the start of the season is critical for the Cardinals. Johnson staged a holdout during the team's three-day mandatory minicamp in June, but if he doesn't report by Aug. 7, he won't get credit for a fourth NFL season. That means he won't become an unrestricted free agent after the season and instead would only become a restricted free agent.

The Cardinals have leverage in this situation, but need to be careful how they use it. It's extremely doubtful Johnson won't report before Aug. 7, which represents 30 days before the start of the NFL's first regular-season game, but both sides need to nip this issue in the bud in a deal that makes sense for each party.

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Keep quarterback Sam Bradford as healthy as possible, but get Josh Rosen ready

The Cardinals followed a stout plan in slowly working the oft-injured Bradford into their offseason workouts, gradually bringing him along until the very end when the veteran with a history of knee issues finally saw some quality time with the first-team offense.

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Though Mike Glennon enters camp as the backup, it was rookie first-round draft pick Rosen who got the bulk of time with the first unit and it served him well, as speculation persists that he, not Glennon, will get first dibs on starting if Bradford is not able to go or gets injured at any point during camp, the preseason or the early portion of the season. Bradford can't be tentative in camp, but he has to be smart and the Cardinals need to protect him however they can.

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Find at least one more tight end, maybe even more

Of all the position groups, the Cardinals couldn't be much more understaffed and underwhelming than at tight end.

Their best one, veteran Jermaine Gresham, is returning from a torn Achilles that still hasn't fully healed and could keep him out of activity for some time. That leaves Ricky Seals-Jones, a second-year pro who had a nice three-game run as an undrafted rookie free agent a year ago, as their only viable option as a two-way tight end. Seals-Jones is being investigated after being arrested the weekend of July 13.

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The depth behind them is dreadful, meaning Arizona general manager Steve Keim or someone else in the front office is going to have to bring in a veteran or two to stabilize this unit before Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks has to resort to playing offensive linemen as tight ends.

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Top battle:

Who will step up and win the No. 2 wide receiver job?

Right now, it's veteran superstar Larry Fitzgerald as the clear-cut No. 1 man and nothing guaranteed at any specific spot after that. The good news for Wilks is that he has at least four capable receivers ready to battle for the right to be the second-most important target on the team. Free-agent addition Brice Butler might have the inside track on the gig, but he will have to earn it and hold off challenges from deep threat J.J. Nelson, rookie Christian Kirk and veteran Greg Little, who's fighting his way back into the league. There's also second-year pro Chad Williams, who felt he was drafted for the job a year ago, but couldn't get on the field enough to prove his worth.

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