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Working With The Unbalanced Roster

Posted Sep 2, 2013

Quest to keep best players creates surplus at some positions

Running back Andre Ellington goes out for a pass from quarterback Carson Palmer during Monday's practice.

Alfonso Smith wasn’t going to worry about playing time or reps or how crowded the running backs room had gotten.

Bruce Arians had said – many times – the Cardinals wouldn’t cut “good football players” for the sake of a balanced roster. So that meant, at least where the Cardinals were Monday, that the team had five running backs. And the Cardinals had 10 offensive linemen, and six cornerbacks, and only four wide receivers.

“He’s the head man and he knows what he’s doing,” Smith said. “I definitely understand him on that. I’m just glad I’m here. I’m blessed I’m here. There have been times when I haven’t been so fortunate to be here.”

In some cases, reps can be limited. The Cardinals already had four tackles on the roster before claiming Bradley Sowell on waivers and it will be interesting to see if Sowell can get some reps over Nate Potter and/or Bobby Massie, or if someone like Potter – who Arians said at one point could be used at guard – starts to work elsewhere some.

Of course, Sowell wasn’t thinking about that yet Monday – he stepped out of the car at the facility and immediately put on his uniform to join practice “so I don’t even know how many tackles we have or what’s going on” – and Arians said there are no concerns with players getting reps because not all of them are going to play.

“You can’t dress all 53 of them on Sunday, so you get the guys who are going to play on Sunday ready, and the backups are backups that week,” Arians said. “They better practice real hard and do real well to be backups next week.”

The first regular-season depth chart is due out Tuesday. But the Cardinals need to find out which seven players they will be making inactive on Sundays and how some of the other puzzle pieces fit with the current roster.

Arians said many times he plans on only having seven offensive linemen active on game days, so that would leave three inactive. He needs to decide how he will break down the usage of the five running backs (Arians said both Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams are completely healthy and will be available.)

The Cards probably won’t use all six cornerbacks either, although the decision to keep so many – along with four safeties – may be tied to the ability (and perhaps need) of Patrick Peterson getting wide receiver reps. After all, the Cardinals only have four receivers on the roster.

The roster will be in constant flux. That was the promise of General Manager Steve Keim and the way it’s played out.

And if that means some players will have a slightly harder time finding work in practice, so be it.

“The coaches already have who will take what reps,” Smith said. “We rotate, it’s on the script and it’s not our decision. You wait for your number to be called.”


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