It’s an early edition of a “Before” post, but later today I will put up my guesstimate at the final 53-man roster — at least the one the Cardinals figure to have without knowing who is cut from other teams and who the Cards might try to claim on waivers or sign. Before then, there is a game to play.
It’s a different kind of game, since most starters won’t even be dressed. This game is about precious few rosters spots and the push to at least be asked on the practice squad (or trying to impress 31 other teams to pick someone up). Bruce Arians estimated the Cardinals have about 12 players fighting for about four spots. Impossible to know what we are talking about, but here are some of the positions/players that could be in that conversation:
Offensive line: Earl Watford as tackle/G Cole Toner/C Evan Boehm/T John Wetzel. Watford figures to make this team because he’s so versatile. And Toner has made a strong push to stay after seeming to be a long shot when camp opened. Boehm, as a fourth-round pick, will stick, but can he keep pushing to see if he gets playing time. Here’s the question: Can Watford show something at tackle so that, at least for now, he can back up there?
Secondary: CB Cariel Brooks/CB Harlan Miller/CB Ronald Zamort/S Matthias Farley. It was telling when Arians, asked about the cornerbacks beyond Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams at this point, only mentioned Brooks, who has put himself in a good place for the 53 especially given the Mike Jenkins injury. Can another cornerback step up? At safety, the Cards already have so many in play (Branch, Mathieu, Swearinger, Jefferson, Christian).
ILB: Chris Clemons/Lamar Louis/Donald Butler/Alani Fua/Gabe Martin. Technically, Clemons is listed as a safety but he’s basically been Deone Bucannon’s “moneybacker” backup. Do the Cards stick with the vet? Or is the youth of say, Martin make sense. Lamar Louis has been very good on special teams too. For these guys, special teams may be the place to watch.
There are others, but with everything done over the summer and camp and three preseason games, most decisions have already been made.
— The Broncos have already announced that their No. 1 pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, will play the entire game Thursday. He’s their QB of the future. It’s something interesting even for Cardinals fans — and you wonder, had Lynch fallen to No. 29, if the Cards would have grabbed him.
— Arians isn’t sure cutting down the preseason will help the teams. Yes, injuries can happen, but he said doesn’t think two preseason games is enough to prep a team for the season.
“I think you have to build your roster, and the only way to build it is see these kids play,” Arians said. “The fourth preseason game is not for your starters. It’s for those guys who you build your roster on, build your practice squad on, the guys who need that week of work and that game. You’ll need them in November and December.”
— Arians isn’t worried about the leadership/knowledge lost in the secondary with the departures of Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson have worked to fill that void. “All those guys making all the checks,” Arians said. “And with that, they’re not leaning on somebody. They used to lean on Rashad, so they wouldn’t study as hard.”
— Mathieu and John “Smokey” Brown have been cleared to play, but honestly, I’ll be surprised if either does play. As for Justin Bethel, with a sore foot, does he give it a try? He may just rest too. Arians said Bethel will have to play with a sore foot all season, but Bethel had already said he had to play with soreness last year as well.
— Final cuts won’t be announced until the weekend (they are due at 1 p.m. Arizona time Saturday). Until then, let’s finish up the preseason.
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Bruce Arians, Cariel Brooks, Chris Clemons, Cole Toner, Donald Butler, Earl Watford, Evan Boehm, Gabe Martin, Harlan Miller, John Brown, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Lamar Louis, Matthias Farley, Patrick Peterson, Paxton Lynch, Ronald Zamort, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals made no more trades. And they didn’t get a quarterback.
Those were the top two things on the possibilities list going into the draft, in part because of Paxton Lynch and his presence at the back half of the first round. If Lynch had been on the board for the Cardinals, it would have been intriguing — would a team tried to trade up for him with a sweet deal? Or might the Cardinals go ahead and take him as that long-awaited shot at a QB of the future? But it became moot when the Broncos traded up to 26 to get Lynch.
After that, the Cards didn’t have the capital to trade up into the second round and didn’t see a reason to move back. Meanwhile, if there were other quarterbacks around in whom the Cards had interest, they didn’t excite them enough to pull the trigger. And frankly, once you get to the fourth or fifth round, those QBs left are likely backups at best.
Instead, the Cards went heavy on defense, and heavy on the secondary. You can say what you want about needs and best player available, but often for teams those things dovetail as they set their draft board and it’s really not a surprise the Cards ended up with a potential starting center and depth in the secondary, in addition to an upgrade on special teams.
— All things considered, Robert Nkemdiche should be an excellent piece if he can go hard and stay away from any off-field issues. There’s a reason someone so physically gifted was there at No. 29. The reality is he would have gone soon after if the Cards hadn’t picked him, so the Cardinals didn’t stretch to take him. But they need something out of him this season, and he he needs to become that guy on the defensive line as that position evolves over the next couple of seasons.
— All three of the defensive backs taken are in the same mold: Brandon Williams, Marqui Christian and Harlan Miller have speed, can significantly help on special teams, and aren’t ready to drop in and play a major role on defense yet. The Cards have had success in this area with Justin Bethel, but in truth they still need Bethel to become a better cornerback and not just a Pro Bowl special teams guy.
— I like that Christian won the Cliff Harris award for the nation’s best defensive player in small college (Divisions II, III and NAIA) and I like that Adrian Wilson was impressed by him at a college all-star game. Wilson has a talent for scouting — Keim wouldn’t have given him this job if he didn’t believe that — and we will see if he has forecasted correctly.
— Would the Cardinals have liked Ryan Kelly at center? I’m sure. But I think the pick of Evan Boehm makes so much sense. He’s got the credentials, even as a fourth-rounder, and he’s got the mentality that not only fits Bruce Arians but Harold Goodwin. Lyle Sendlein started for many years as an undrafted rookie. It’s easy to picture Boehm doing the same.
— Does the youth at cornerback mean the Cardinals bring back Jerraud Powers? Arians said they don’t need to add any vets. If he did come back, do they keep five cornerbacks (Peterson, Bethel, Powers and the two draftees)? Last year they only had three cornerbacks on the roster because they kept five safeties.
— Among the positions I’d expect the Cards to hit in the undrafted rookie market: long snapper, quarterback, wide receiver. All three things weren’t hit in the draft. They will need another arm behind center and they certainly need a long snapper.
— That’s it. We’ll see how this draft class truly pans out around the 2019 season. In the meantime, rookie minicamp is next weekend.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brandon Williams, Broncos, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jerraud Powers, Marqui Christian, Paxton Lynch, Robert Nkemdiche, Ryan Kelly
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