Cardinals' Long Shots Prepare for Battle

The Arizona Cardinals feature several Pro Bowl caliber performers but the competition between the unsung players will be one of the major stories during training camp. A handful of relative unknowns will be scrambling for a chance to make the team with just a few roster spots expected to be available. Brad Wilbricht outlines which players will be in the competition and who might come out on top.

Everyone knows about Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin but a handful of unheralded prospects are set to compete for roster spots in Arizona. There are several possible upsets in the making allowing those unknowns to find a way onto the 53-man roster or secure a spot on the practice squad. The competition began during this offseason and is expected to last well into training camp.

The most notable name in this category is WR Lance Long. Long impressed during training camp a year ago an ended up on the Cardinals' practice squad for the duration of the season. Long continued to progress this offseason but still has an uphill battle to make the roster. Long displays a sufficient skill set – particularly as a slot receiver – but Arizona deploys one of the top wide receiving corps in all of football.

Long's ability to contribute on special teams – both in the return game and on kickoff coverage – certainly will help his chances. However, with Steve Breaston, Jerheme Urban and Early Doucet already providing excellent depth, Long will have to be flawless when training camp opens in late July. His ultimate fate could be determined with a head-to-head battle against special teams ace Sean Morey who secured one of the final roster spots last year.

Lance Long

Long will have plenty of competition as one of the team's primary kick returners. Undrafted free agent Michael Ray Garvin is also at the Cardinals disposal and the former Florida St standout averaged over 30 yards per kick return during his senior season with the Seminoles. If he can make a similar impact in Arizona, there's a good chance he'll land a spot on the roster.

Garvin could also provide depth in the secondary but at just 5-foot-8 and 182 pounds he's severely undersized as a cornerback at the NFL level. The Cardinals are well stocked at the position but adding Garvin as a backup would be a welcome addition to defensive coordinator Bill Davis. Another interesting prospect who's currently a long-shot to make the roster is CB Jameel Dowling.

Contrary to Garvin, Dowling (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) has the size to matchup against any receiver in the NFL. There are still concerns regarding Dowling's speed but he demonstrates the ability to play cornerback and safety as well as special teams. Furthermore, he displayed tremendous improvements at his Pro Day workout and could be a player to keep an eye on for the future.

While the underdogs will have their work cut out, they'll have plenty of support from the Cardinals' coaches and players. Everyone roots for the underdog and their presence on the roster always helps build chemistry on and off the field. If nothing else, they'll have a shot to land on the practice squad but earning a roster spot would be the ultimate accomplishment.

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