Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.
No. 4: Starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals
One year ago, nearly to the day, the Cardinals made the decision to trade cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire quarterback Kevin Kolb, whom they then signed to a five-year, $62.1 million extension that has already paid out $19.5 million. So why is Kolb entering training camp in a battle for the starting job with John Skelton, a 2010 fifth-round pick from football powerhouse Fordham University?
For starters, Kolb was hamstrung by the brief window to learn Ken Whisenhunt's offense after the lockout. In nine games, Kolb completed 57.7 percent of 253 pass attempts for 1,955 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions for an 81.1 passer rating Kolb also struggled with injuries, first with a toe injury and then a concussion that ended his season in December.
While Kolb was sidelined with injury, which coincided with Skelton leapfrogging Richard Bartel on the depth chart, the Cardinals won more games (five wins in Skelton's seven starts) and climbed back into the playoff race. Even though Skelton had a lower completion percentage, threw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11) and had a passer rating (68.9) lower than former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow in nearly the same number of attempts, Whisenhunt's belief that "quarterback wins" is a viable statistic (it's not) has Skelton entering training camp on equal footing with Kolb.
Projected Winner: Whisenhunt's own playing career -- a 12th-round pick who clawed his way to a 74-game career -- is why finances and draft pick investments will not be a determining factor in this quarterback battle. Even if the front office is crossing its fingers that Kolb wins the battle, he'll have to do so by remaining off the trainer's table and with his on-field performance. Kolb is unlikely to ever match Kurt Warner's production, but with a full offseason to acclimate to the system, he should win the job this summer. That does not mean this organization won't be looking for a quarterback again in 2013, though.