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Cardinals Looking To Make Right Choice At Tackle

Starting spot one of big questions remaining before season begins

OL Kelvin Beachum during a drill in training camp 2020
Kelvin Beachum is competing to be the Cardinals' starting right tackle in 2020.

The Cardinals must pare down their roster to 53 players by Saturday, which is always an arduous process.

The discussion about the starters will take considerably less time.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to finalize his first-stringers this week, and only one big question seems to remain: who will be the starting right tackle?

Marcus Gilbert opted out before training camp due to COVID-19, leaving three candidates – Kelvin Beachum, Justin Murray and Josh Jones -- to fight for the job.

While no official announcement has been made, the tea leaves are worth reading.

Kingsbury and offensive line coach Sean Kugler have both spoken of Murray's versatility to play guard and tackle, which is something needed in a reserve offensive lineman. Murray started 12 games at right tackle for the Cardinals last season.

Jones has an "outstanding future," according to Kugler, but Kingsbury has consistently said the team would prefer not to throw the rookie third-round pick into the fire after no offseason and a shortened camp.

Beachum certainly has the longest track record, with 99 starts over eight NFL seasons. He was signed late this summer to join the fray of starting candidates, and could have the edge without Gilbert in the picture.

"We've been really pleased with what Beachum's done," Kingsbury said.

(Update: Kingsbury confirmed Beachum's hold on the role to 98.7 FM Arizona's Sports Station on Monday: "If we played today, he would be the starter there," he told Bickley and Marotta.)

Kugler was the offensive line coach of the Steelers in 2012 when they made Beachum a seventh-round pick, so there is extensive knowledge of his skillset and personality.

The big question is whether Beachum can successfully move from left tackle, where he has played the vast majority of his career, to the right side.

D.J. Humphries made the transition when he matriculated to the NFL, and remembers the initial awkwardness.

"It's definitely a challenge," Humphries said. "It's like writing with your left hand. I remember saying that once before. You're used to writing with your right hand your whole life, and then somebody tells you to go out there on third-and-10, Monday Night Football, and write with your left hand. It's definitely difficult, but if anybody can make that transition, it's Beachum. He's a pro's pro. He's one of those guys who does everything right."

Kugler is impressed by the Cardinals' depth on the offensive line, believing that "four or five guys" could fill in without a noticeable dropoff. If Murray ends up a reserve, he could assume a role similar to the one Mason Cole did last season, as an emergency choice at several different positions.

"He's a guy that I trust in there as a starter," Kugler said.

While Gilbert's opt-out took away a solid option at right tackle, the Cardinals had enough options heading into camp that it didn't seem like a huge blow.

As Jones and Murray continue to progress they may be able to push for the job, but with the way coaches and players have talked about the situation, Beachum is the leading candidate.

"Kelvin's a great player," edge rusher Chandler Jones said. "I had the opportunity to play against Kelvin my rookie year, so we both saw each other as young pups, and we're the same year. We speak about that every day at practice. We have the opportunity to face each other and he's doing a really good job. I'm very excited to have him on our team."

Images from Friday's practice at State Farm Stadium, presented by Hyundai.

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