Bruce Arians always likes to say the Cardinals aren’t the Cardinals until the roster is pared down to 53 players, because before that, it’s every man for himself fighting for a job. Well, the Cardinals are about to become the Cardinals.
The team must trim 22 off the roster by Saturday at 1 p.m. Arizona time, and the likelihood is that, like last year, those cuts won’t be announced until then. There is also still a preseason game left to be played, and Arians suggested there are still up to 12 roster spots that could change given what happens. That seems like a lot. Usually, by now, the roster is relatively firm in the eyes of the front office, save for a few spots. Given the depth this year, it might be harder.
One caveat when it comes to these predictions. The Cardinals have been active on the waiver wire, adding at least one claim as the regular-season starts. That’s a wild card that can’t be predicted right now. The 53 on Saturday often isn’t the 53 that goes into the locker room the morning of the opener. Always something to keep in mind. As you do, here is my guess of how this filters out:
QB (2): Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton. The Denver game will go a long way toward figuring who could be a third quarterback between Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas, but given the other needs on the roster, I think the Cards take the risk and go with only two quarterbacks. Sims seems to have the edge right now, and he could be brought back on the practice squad.
RB (5): Andre Ellington, David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes. This is tougher. I think Taylor has a shot to stick because he is effective on special teams. But there is a chance the Cards go with four and gain a roster spot elsewhere.
WR (5): Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson. There has been a lot of talk about six wide receivers, but injuries at tight end and the offensive line may just make that too difficult right now. Brittan Golden has a shot as No. 6 if people get healthy.
TE (5): Troy Niklas, Darren Fells, Ifeanyi Momah, Jermaine Gresham, Gerald Christian. Right now, it’s tough to know if Niklas or Gresham will even be healthy enough to start the season. In an offense where you need two on the field a lot of the time, I almost think five is necessary right now.
OL (9): Jared Veldheer, Ted Larsen, Lyle Sendlein, A.Q. Shipley, Bobby Massie, Jonathan Cooper, Earl Watford, Mike Iupati, D.J. Humphries. This one is very difficult right now. Iupati is hurt. Massie might not be available – but right now, is destined to count against the 53-man roster. If Watford is the starting right tackle, I’d guess Sowell would be out with Humphries around. But it could also be whomever doesn’t win the Shipley/Sendlein center battle, knowing Larsen could back up there. Like defensive line, this will be a tough call.
DL (7): Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Ed Stinson, Rodney Gunter, Josh Mauro, Xavier Williams, Cory Redding. This is the position that will suffer tough cuts (or a potential trade). Alameda Ta’amu may be out because Williams has done so well. And it would seem to come down to Mauro or Matt Shaughnessy, and if it’s close, you figure the Cards will go younger and cheaper.
OLB (5): Alex Okafor, Markus Golden, LaMarr Woodley, Kareem Martin, Shaq Riddick. Riddick hasn’t had much time to show much but Arians’ comments have indicated he’ll get a chance this season to stick around.
ILB (4): Kevin Minter, Sean Weatherspoon, Kenny Demens, Alani Fua. Fua is in a battle with Gabe Martin (who could be a practice squad guy) but his length and ability to go inside or outside seems to give him the edge.
CB (3): Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel. It’s not many. But I could see a cornerback addition via waivers. If not, the safety-heavy Cards can also go with three or four safeties at a time to make it work. Undrafted rookie Cariel Brooks could make a push on Thursday. There will be cornerbacks on the practice squad, though.
S (5): Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Clemons. Clemons would seem to be on the bubble but the lack of cornerbacks makes him more valuable. Mathieu’s ability to help at cornerback makes a difference too.
Specialists (3): K Chandler Catanzaro, P Drew Butler, LS Mike Leach. The news from this spot already came when Butler was kept and Dave Zastudil released.
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