Earlier Wednesday, CardinalsSource released our list of the key battles to watch for roster spots for the Arizona Cardinals' defense in Thursday night's preseason contest against the Denver Broncos.
While the defensive battles are much more likely to come down to which players perform the best, the Cardinals' have a handful of battles for roster spots on the offensive side of the ball that may come down to whether the team thinks particular players have the capacity to help Arizona immediately.
For example, the Cardinals will likely choose between Cariel Brooks and Harlan Miller for the team's fourth cornerback spot, whereas the play of Matt Barkley may determine whether or not the Cardinals decide to keep two or three quarterbacks.
With Saturday's deadline looming for the Cardinals to finalize their 53-man roster, here are the key position battles to watch on Thursday night.
The battle for the team's sixth receiver position has swung back and forth during camp, as Golden started the preseason with the best opportunity to hold down the final roster spot for the Cardinals at this position.
When Golden suffered an injury two weeks into camp, it opened the door for Hubert, an undrafted rookie out of Fayetteville State, to work with the second team offense and the big play threat shined in his opportunity. The Cardinals took to calling Hubert, "Little Smoke," and head coach Bruce Arians praised the receiver for his consistency throughout camp.
Shipley came on strong later on in the preseason, and may have even supplanted Hubert as the favorite to win the competition for the sixth receiver battle, until Golden came back from injury.
Against Houston on Sunday, Golden led all Cardinals players with six receptions for 80 yards and despite failing to notch a touchdown, was the favorite target for both Barkley and backup quarterback Drew Stanton. At this point, Golden's experience in the Cardinals' system will make it difficult for Shipley or Hubert to win over the coaches, but Thursday's game has the potential to bring out the best in all three players.
Quarterback: Matt Barkley vs. himself
The Cardinals have traditionally kept three quarterbacks on the active roster under Arians, but with a roster brimming with players who have the potential to contribute on an every-game basis, Arizona may be best served moving forward with two quarterbacks.
Barkley isn't demonstrably worse than Stanton, but the Cardinals have refused to entertain a competition for the backup quarterback job as Barkley spent much of training camp having to prove himself against undrafted rookie Jacob Coker. Despite some up-and-down performances that have flashed glimpses of potential, Barkley hasn't demonstrated the type of consistency the Cardinals are looking for in a backup option.
With a strong performance in what should be extended action Thursday, Barkley still has the chance to convince the Cardinals they should keep a third quarterback as insurance behind Carson Palmer and Stanton.
Taylor has been ruled out of Thursday's game against Denver, so Williams will have ample opportunities to convince Arizona he's the best option as the team's fourth running back. Williams' task is easier said than done, though, because Williams sat out Sunday's contest while Taylor took most of the team's reps in the second half.
Williams has been slotted as the team's fourth running back on the depth chart at different points during camp, but Taylor has typically filled that role since his NFL career began. Taylor won the job last season over Williams thanks to his prowess on special teams and his abilities as a pass-blocker, and as CardinalsSource has written before, we think Taylor is the better full-service back of the two players.
Williams is the better runner of the pair, and if he demonstrates improvement in other facets of his game and sees opportunities on special teams that may have otherwise belonged to a healthy Taylor on Thursday, he may be able to use Thursday's contest as a definitive showcase for a roster spot.null