The Arizona Cardinals and 31 other NFL franchises are hard at work to find the best collection of talent possible. Saturday afternoon brings the deadline for teams to reduce roster sizes from 90 players to just 53. Through OTAs, training camp, and the preseason, players have been on showcase. After a three-win season, the Cardinals are attempting to turn over the roster and get things back on track. Today we take a look at the Cardinals and take a shot at predicting the final 53-man roster.
*Expected Starters in Bold*
Will Kliff Kingsbury keep two quarterbacks or three? The answer to that question gives insight on how the head coach feels about his third and fourth string quarterbacks. Arizona’s primary backup is Brett Hundley. The veteran provides stability to the quarterback room and can play if needed. A pair of youngsters, Charles Kanoff and Drew Anderson, are battling for third-string. Kanoff and Anderson are practice squad eligible, so it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Cardinals to keep just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
Running Backs (4)
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The first two spots were never in question. David Johnson has the potential to be a real stud of a running back. He’s a three-down option and could legitimately play the receiver position. Edmonds had a solid rookie season, especially after factoring in the disfunction on offense in 2018. Just like the quarterbacks, there are a couple of players who are eligible for the practice squad. As a result, it could just be a three-man group or four. Strickland has done enough to make the roster, while Foster is definitely on the bubble. In the end, Foster could get the edge of T.J. Logan due to his pass-catching abilities.
Tight End (3)
Ricky Seals-Jones, Maxx Williams, Caleb Wilson
The tight end will never be a focus with this iteration of the Cardinals offense. Kingsbury could use four wide receivers on every play, perhaps trotting out a tight end for the occasional power run. Seals-Jones presents an intriguing possibility for Kingsbury. Seals-Jones is a speedy tight end who is more receiver than blocker. This prediction is based purely on the belief that Seals-Jones has done enough in practice and veteran Charles Clay will be released. Otherwise, Clay would be listed with the group.
Seven wide receivers seem like the bare minimum for the Arizona offense. Sherfield has impressed during the preseason, showing tremendous progress from just a year ago. Johnson is the only rookie wide receiver who has consistently stood out. He has developed a chemistry with Murray, which has allowed Johnson to maximize his chances. Byrd is the speedster. Isabella has been inconsistent all preseason. Byrd has made big plays and can play special teams if needed. If there is space available, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an eighth receiver added to the roster.
Offensive Line (10)
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When an offensive line faces injury concerns, it is wise to keep the cupboards plentiful. The Cardinals offensive line made their first start together, in the team’s third preseason game. It is no surprise that the team would keep a crowded lineman room. The left side of the line (Humphries and Pugh), have not shown the ability to stay healthy. Losing both would torpedo any chance at a decent season. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals try to stash one or more linemen on the practice squad.
Defensive Line (7)
Zach Allen (DE), Corey Peters (DT), Rodney Gunter (DE), Michael Dogbe, Miles Brown, Bruce Hector, Pasoni Tasini
The defensive line is the second-most worrisome group on the roster. Fittingly, the unit finds themselves just slightly better than their offensive counterparts. Rookie Zach Allen has been thrust into the starting lineup, following a whirlwind month, with the Cardinals releasing three linemen after legal troubles. Dogbe and Brown are also rookies. Both players have had success in the preseason.
This could easily be a unit with two fewer players on the final roster. The starting four linebackers have been known since the beginning of training camp. The fight has been for the first and second backups. Walker has been the most consistent of the bunch. It’d be surprising if he’s not included. Gardeck initially seemed like a near-lock, but his extensive time in the preseason finale raises concerns of his place.
The deepest position group on the roster. Steve Keim finds a way to add quality safety depth. This year it comes in the form of two rookies, Jalen, and Deionte Thompson. Both rookies are talented playmakers who are likely to feature in the Arizona defense for years to come. With the depth issues at cornerback, don’t expect too many safeties to be kept on the active roster.
Peterson is out on a six-game suspension. Alford is recovering from an injury and is not expected to return until November. That leaves two rookies and a second-year player, rounding out the cornerback position with veteran Tramaine Brock Sr. Murphy has the potential to be very good, but he will need to adjust to the pro game. A veteran addition would not be shocking.
Special Teams (3)
This is simple. Gonzalez and Lee entered the offseason as the presumptive starters. The Cardinals chose to pass over any serious additions at either position during the draft and free agency. Gonzalez has been solid in preseason. The unit is the most stable group on the team.