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Four Will Compete For Cardinals' Starting Right Guard Spot

Winters, Murray, Jones, Garcia will all be in mix during training camp

Veteran free agent addition Brian Winters (65) is one of four vying for the starting right guard spot.
Veteran free agent addition Brian Winters (65) is one of four vying for the starting right guard spot.

It's hard for linemen to prove their worth without pads on, so it's no surprise offseason work won't clear up the Cardinals' muddled starting right guard position.

While four spots on the line seem etched in stone, the fifth starter will be decided in training camp.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Brian Winters, Justin Murray, Josh Jones and Max Garcia will all be in the mix to grab hold of the job.

"There's a lot of guys vying for that spot, and that's what we want," Kingsbury said.

The winner will join left tackle D.J. Humphries, left guard Justin Pugh, center Rodney Hudson and right tackle Kelvin Beachum on the line.

Murray, who replaced J.R. Sweezy as the starter down the stretch in 2020, and Winters, a free agent addition, seem like the early favorites.

Jones was the team's third-round pick a season ago but played tackle in college. He has been seeing time at both guard and tackle this offseason.

"You can tell Josh has taken his offseason serious," Humphries said. "He's very tapped into his playbook. He's worked a lot of inside and out, and he's leaning into it. He doesn't have any reserves about it at all, and that's impressive to see from a young player. They tried to move me to right tackle (as a rookie) and I had a chance to start, and I wasn't trying to do it. So it's impressive to see him be so young and lean into it."

While right guard is in flux, the Cardinals have the potential to roll out an imposing left side of their line. Humphries was one of the best left tackles in the NFL in 2020 and, at age-27, is in his physical prime. Pugh had some penalty issues last season but was otherwise solid, while Hudson was recently named the best center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

"D.J. and Pugh have played really well together, and then you bring in a Pro Bowl talent like Rodney with that type of experience, it's just going to help solidify things even more," Kingsbury said. "I'm really excited to see how that all jells and comes together with that group."

Humphries said starting alongside Pugh since 2018 has improved their chemistry, which he hopes to build upon in 2021.

"We trained together the last two offseasons and it's helped us groove into what we do with our combo blocks, our communication and whatever the case may be," Humphries said. "It makes it a lot easier. So I think it's continuing to groom that and continue to find our identity and play tenacious football."

Hudson isn't just an elite pass-blocker, but has the type of experience to help quarterback Kyler Murray dissect a defense at the line of scrimmage.

"He's seen every situation, dealt with so many different things at that position," Kingsbury said. "He will definitely bring a calming presence to our offensive line and our offense in general."

Pro Football Focus heaped praise on Hudson this offseason and was similarly complimentary of Humphries last year. However, when their preseason offensive tackle rankings came out, Humphries was only No. 26 because of the small body of work as an elite player.

He took a good-natured jab at the analytics site when the ranking was relayed to him on Tuesday.

"I must have cussed somebody out over there or something," Humphries said. "I don't even think they believe that."

If Humphries and Hudson can duplicate their recent success, the Cardinals will have two Pro Bowl-level anchors on the offensive line. The group has upside, as it earned high marks in ESPN’s 2020 offensive line rankings and the personnel looks upgraded heading into 2021.

"I think it's going to be a fun year for us," Humphries said.