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Earl Watford Leaving An Impression

Notes: Arians says lineman could push to start; Slot cornerback has options

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Earl Watford (78) walks with fellow offensive linemen Ted Larsen (62) and Bradley Sowell (79) during a recent OTA.


The Cardinals signed Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati in free agency and selected tackle D.J. Humphries in the first round of the draft this offseason, adding two big weapons to the offensive line.

For a player like entrenched left tackle Jared Veldheer, it was surely a welcome sign as it made the overall unit better. What about for a player like Earl Watford, the third-year veteran who hasn't been able to crack the starting lineup, and now had to face much stiffer competition?

"What they did in the offseason, it was good for the team," Watford said. "We just want to win. It helped me because it's

pushing me more to improve myself. I got bigger, got stronger, I'm getting smarter as a football player."

That hard work is getting Watford noticed. Coach Bruce Arians called him "probably the lineman who had the best OTAs" at their conclusion on Thursday and said he's pushing for a starting role this season at right tackle or one of the guard spots. Watford has increased his versatility by showing promise at tackle after playing guard through high school and college, which should, at the very least, help his chances of keeping a roster spot.

"He's playing four positions and playing extremely well," Arians said. "I'm really, really happy with what he did. He's a heck of an athlete. It looks like hopefully the lights come on. I'm really anxious to see him in camp."

It still figures to be an uphill battle to find a starting role. Bobby Massie is the incumbent at right tackle and Humphries has impressive physical traits if he can nail down the mental part of the game. Iupati is penciled in at left guard, while former first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is running with the first team at right guard.

Watford said he wants to be a starter, but will keep working and let it play out.

"We're all sitting here trying to make the team first and then we'll see how it goes," he said. "I'll do everything I can personally to make myself better."

PLENTY OF OPTIONS IN THE SLOT

If Jerraud Powers moves back to outside cornerback to replace Antonio Cromartie, it will leave a void at the nickel cornerback role he manned impressively last year.

Arians said that's not a concern at all, as there are myriad possibilities to mix and match at the position. Safety Tyrann Mathieu may be at his best in the slot corner role, while Arians also mentioned safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard as players who can assume the spot.

"We've got a bunch of nickels," Arians said. "Deone (Bucannon) has looked really good in there a couple times, especially on tight ends. We have great flexibility with that stuff."

Powers said he was initially worried about the lack of experience at cornerback heading into the offseason, but the waiver wire pickup of Dennard and the progression of the young players has him feeling more confident.

"We're building depth, so we'll definitely be ready to go once camp starts rolling," Powers said.

COMPETITION ONGOING AT CENTER

Watford was praised for his position versatility, but there's one spot on the line he won't start.

"I tried him at center," Arians said with a grin. "He ain't playing that."

That competition is between A.Q. Shipley and Ted Larsen, and it's still very much in the air. Arians mentioned earlier in the offseason Larsen was having trouble with his shotgun snaps, but otherwise the race has been pretty even.

Larsen started at both guard spots last season, but filled in well at center during the preseason when starter Lyle Sendlein was injured. Shipley started seven games at center for the Colts last season and has experience in Arians' system.

"That's a good battle," Arians said. "Teddy and (Shipley) are going back and forth. A lot will be determined when the pads come on."

More images from the Cardinals' offseason work



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