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Top Questions Heading Into 2023 Training Camp, Part Two

In the spotlight include Baker, the pass rushers, and two first-round picks

(Clockwise from bottom left) Defensive lineman Carlos Watkins, outside linebacker Myjai Sanders, safety Budda Baker, cornerback Marco Wilson, and Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons.
(Clockwise from bottom left) Defensive lineman Carlos Watkins, outside linebacker Myjai Sanders, safety Budda Baker, cornerback Marco Wilson, and Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons.

One last football-less weekend before the Cardinals are back for the season, starting with camp. So here are a few more questions facing the team as it all begins.


The Pro Bowl safety – through comments of his agent – still would like a contract extension/raise. Baker will be at camp. He said as much (as did his agent). What he does at camp could end up being tied to his contract desires. So it's fair to wonder about his headspace. Baker can't do anything but play like a Pro Bowler when he is on the field. It's in his DNA. How he approaches training camp and eventually, the start of the season, will be something to which to pay close attention. With two years left on his contract, he remains the leader of the defense and its heart and soul.


The two players who led the Cardinals in sacks last season are gone, to retirement (J.J. Watt) and free agency (Zach Allen), in a year in which they were 24th in the league in sacks per pass attempt. The team is in the process of developing some new edge rushers (they wouldn't mind someone who could get to the QB up the middle, but that's a conversation for a later time.) Second-round pick BJ Ojulari missed almost the entire offseason with injury. Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas go into their second seasons having flashed at times as rookies, although neither have proven themselves yet. Zaven Collins seems set to give playing on the outside a try. But there is no one on the roster, either on the edge or as a defensive lineman, who has shown he can be a difference-maker in the pass rush. That's what all of them will try and prove sooner rather than later, and those who do it the best are going to get the playing time.


As many questions surround the Cardinals' ability to get to the quarterback, so too do they pile up on covering the receivers during that same pass play. Marco Wilson was a 2021 fourth-round pick and just two seasons into his tenure he is now the most likely man to be the team's top cornerback. He undoubtedly will embrace that opportunity, but the new coaching staff will have to see how it plays on the field and how the depth chart might cascade from there. The Cardinals have a lot of cornerbacks on the roster – 12 total – and while vets like Wilson and Antonio Hamilton will be in the mix, finding a top four will be one of the storylines of camp.


Given that both players are first-round picks, their roles are always under the spotlight, and now, with Simmons going into his fourth season and Collins his third, both remain on the camp questions list. With a new staff, Collins appears headed to an outside linebacker spot for the first time. Simmons was working with safeties this offseason, and he has spent plenty of previous time in the secondary as a slot cornerback under Vance Joseph. What will that mean under new DC Nick Rallis? The defense is looking for playmakers. Both first-rounders need to find that level for the Cardinals' defense to be what it wants to be.


The aforementioned Watt is gone and so is Allen, who might've been his heir apparent. Like cornerback, the Cardinals have a lot of bodies on the defensive line but all seem to be in the same space, with equal chances to find a way to the starting lineup or not on the roster at all. Carlos Watkins had success in Dallas but is looking for a bigger role. L.J. Collier, a former first-round pick, is trying to resuscitate his career. Rashard Lawrence has had some bright spots for the Cardinals but hasn't been able to stay healthy. The unit will be one that GM Monti Ossenfort works to build going forward, but for now, it'll be a group that will truly have position battles in camp.