Preseason Roundup and Roster Predictions
The Cardinals finished at 3-1 after a very interesting preseason, with this week’s 21-10 loss to Denver not meaning much. There were some improvements and some consistent performers from this team. New coach Steve Wilks has to be thrilled with his defensive unit. The offense even showed that when in rhythm, they have a chance. The offensive line play in the first game was an embarrassment, but they’ve started to solidify.
With the NFL regular season finally right around the corner, let’s take a look at our preseason roundup and roster predictions for the Arizona Cardinals.
Preseason Roundup and Roster Predictions: Offense
Preseason Roundup: Quarterbacks
The quarterback room is competitive in Arizona, but more importantly, it’s competent. Sam Bradford has had good command of this offense all summer. You may want to see the rookie, but Bradford has the better chance to deliver wins. Speaking of rookie Josh Rosen, he was the best-looking passer during the games and showed an innate ability to make throws under fire. On many throws, Rosen made a beautiful toss right before being drilled in the chest. The future is bright in the desert.
Mike Glennon and Chad Kanoff are the other ends of the spectrum. Kanoff started the preseason off well but ended poorly with a 3 for 11 showing against the Broncos. Glennon started poorly but ended with 80% completion and a touchdown in that same game. Chad certainly looked like he had the better accuracy, but Glennon’s veteran savvy may keep him on this team behind the two brittle quarterbacks mentioned above. Kanoff will have a chance to go through waivers before practice squads are signed, and he’ll likely be retained.
Preseason Roundup: Running Backs
David Johnson is still on this team (thank heavens) so this is an elite position as long as he is healthy. In limited action this summer, he’s looked as good as ever. This will be an exciting year for the future Offensive Player of the Year (I have to stick with my predictions).
Behind him is a bit of a mess. My training camp favorite, Chase Edmonds, looked solid so far and should make the squad. Derrick Coleman should retain the fullback duties. He’s a good starter and a fan favorite for overcoming his deafness to succeed in the NFL.
From here, it’s a toss-up. Elijhaa Penny, T.J. Logan, Darius Victor, and Sherman Badie are all long-shots, but at least one will make the squad. I like Penny, he can play halfback or fullback and contributes on special teams. The coaches seem to like Logan, and Victor looked spry against Denver, averaging 8.8 yards per carry on four tries.
Preseason Roundup: Receivers/Tight Ends
Oh boy, there’s a lot of players vying for just a few positions. Easy stuff first: Larry Fitzgerald will probably make this team. Shocker, right? Fitz has the chance to jump into 3rd place ALL-TIME in receptions and yards this year. What a legend. Christian Kirk has had a brilliant summer and showed great chemistry with Josh Rosen, including hauling in a touchdown pass from his fellow rookie. Chad Williams is the only other lock to make the team, as his speed and raw talent are too much to ignore.
Behind the top three, we have a logjam. Brice Butler, Trent Sherfield, and Greg Little are the ones to watch. I forget Little was in the league, but the ex-Brown caught a touchdown in the final week and was praised by coaches after the game. Butler was the one that freed him up on that play, however, and had a nice diving catch of his own. Sherfield had a solid last game, but most of his contributions come on special teams. One of these guys won’t make the team.
Tight end is a little easier. Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Gabe Holmes have these spots locked up. Gresham may have to wait a few weeks before he’s at 100% health, but backup tackle John Wetzel has been used as an emergency tight end. There’s no need to keep more than three, and this competition has been clear-cut.
Preseason Roundup: Offensive Line
Here we reach the bottom of the talent level for this Cardinals’ roster. The season-ending injury to A.Q. Shipley (and his subsequent extension) means that many backups will need to be able to flex to guard or center with Mason Cole taking over starting center duties. D.J. Humphries and Mike Iupati are easy calls for starting left tackle and guard. Justin Pugh probably has the other starting guard spot locked up.
That leaves us with Andre Smith, John Wetzel, Evan Boehm, Josh Allen (no, not that one), Will Holden, Daniel Munyer, and Korey Cunningham all trying to secure the last spots. Wetzel has versatility, as mentioned before, so he has a great shot. Munyer and Boehm are competing for the backup center spot, but neither has really stood out. Cunningham has shown us nothing, I’d be surprised if he was even brought back for the practice squad but crazier things have happened. Most of these players can flex guard and tackle, so the depth doesn’t need to match position, just need the best players.
Preseason Roundup and Roster Predictions: Defense
Preseason Roundup: Defensive Line
The main question here is whether they’ll keep nine or 10 linemen. With defensive tackle Olsen Pierre‘s injury keeping him out longer than anticipated, I expect 10. Corey Peters, Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche, and Rodney Gunter are my locks at tackle, and I expect Pasoni Tasini will be retained until Pierre returns.
At defensive end, the picture is clearer. All-World rusher Chandler Jones leads what should be a strong group this year. Benson Mayowa was productive in spurts for the Cowboys last season. Markus Golden may start the season on the PUP so two out of Jacquies Smith, Cap Capi, and Vontarrius Dora should make the squad. It probably comes down to week one hero Capi and Smith for the final spot.
Preseason Roundup: Linebackers
We already got a surprise here, as the Cardinals released Scooby Wright (happy trails, Scoobs) Friday morning. I had him as one of the 53. My best guess is that move was made to free up space for Zeke Turner, who has played very well this preseason and taken snaps from Edmond Robinson and Dennis Gardeck.
Deone Bucannon had a strong preseason, and his shift from safety to linebacker continues to highlight his talents. Haason Reddick makes the team by default but has a real shot to grow this year. Josh Bynes and Gerald Hodges don’t scare anyone, however, they help stabilize the rotation. It’s a sneaky athletic bunch Arizona has in the 2nd level, and they should utilize that ability.
Preseason Roundup: Cornerbacks
When you have Patrick Peterson as your CB1, you’re strong at the position. The Cardinals have managed to stockpile talent behind him, as well. Bene Benwikere has been great in the preseason, taking hold of the second spot over Jamar Taylor, who has proven himself capable over his career. Those three all have playmaking ability and a nose for the ball.
Behind them, we had a better fight than anticipated. Brandon Williams and Jonathan Moxey are fighting for a spot neither may get. Sixth-round selection Chris Campbell is out. He started slow and gained no momentum, the practice squad is a maybe for him. Tim Scott came out of nowhere. Scott joined the team this month and started against Denver. Deatrick Nichols played bigger than his small frame would suggest possible.
Preseason Roundup: Safeties
Other than Tight End, this is the easiest position to predict. The only question is will Rudy Ford or A.J. Howard make the team? Howard has the athleticism, but Ford plays well on special teams and that may give him the edge. Fringe players have to contribute wherever they can, and this may go to show the importance of the oft-overlooked unit.
Outside of that one battle, the rest is locked up. Budda Baker is a budding star. He holds down the back end as well as anyone, and won’t be overlooked much longer. Antoine Bethea and Tre Boston are both nice veterans to have in the rotation. Having three safeties who can play either spot is a luxury that very few teams have.
Preseason Roundup: Special Teams
I must finally admit defeat on my kicker battle. Rookie Matt McCrane has been great. He hit from over 50 yards and he nailed his kicks consistently. However, this was always Phil Dawson‘s job. The 74-year-old (probably) kicker has been around longer than helmets, seemingly. Andy Lee has the punter spot. We’ve known he’s been great for years. This kicking group may be nearing medicare, but they’re good, if not exciting.
Matt McCrane forever.
Preseason Roundup: 53 Man Roster Predictions
QB: Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon
I wanted to keep just two, but Glennon’s career continues as insurance to the two stars.
RB/FB: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, Elijhaa Penny, Derrick Coleman.
T.J. Logan got the short stick. He may make the team, but Penny’s ability to play two positions may give him the edge. They may keep five, but I would be surprised.
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, Brice Butler, Trent Sherfield
Greg Little misses the cut. The battle was between Little and Butler, as (once again) Sherfield can play special teams. Between those two, I’ll take Butler’s speed over Little’s size.
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Homes
OL: D.J. Humphries, Mason Cole, Mike Iupati, Justin Pugh, Andre Smith, Will Holden, John Wetzel, Evan Boehm, Josh Allen
The hardest cut was Daniel Munyer. The rookie Cunningham never really had a shot once the competition started. Along with Wetzel playing some TE, most of these guys can play inside and outside.
DT: Corey Peters, Robert Nkemdiche, Olsen Pierre, Rodney Gunter, Pasoni Tasini
Not a lot of guess work at tackle with Pierre’s injury keeping Tasini around.
DE: Chandler Jones, Benson Mayowa, Markus Golden, Vontarrius Dora, Cap Capi
I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept Jacquies Smith over Capi, but that first week for Capi may have left an impression. Neither is a star, but either could be a contributor.
LB: Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, Gerald Hodges, Josh Bynes, Zeke Turner, Edmond Robinson
After cutting Wright, it comes down to Robinson and Dennis Gardeck. Neither impressed me much, so it’s a take your pick.
CB: Patrick Peterson, Bene Benwikere, Jamar Taylor, Tim Scott, Deatrick Nichols, Jonathan Moxey
Nichols makes it! I’ve been impressed by his preseason. Chris Campbell falls off in this scenario, as does Brandon Williams. Moxey makes it based on potential, but probably won’t be on the active roster.
S: Budda Baker, Antoine Bethea, Tre Boston, Rudy Ford
Sorry to A.J. Howard. Just not enough spots to go around.
K: Phil Dawson
P: Andy Lee
LS: Aaron Brewer