There are still some players Steve Wilks wants to see Thursday night when the Cardinals close out the preseason against the Broncos. That’s clear because, well, Wilks said “there are some guys I still want to see.” How many of them are starters? I doubt many, if at all. The Broncos have already ruled out a ton of guys, and while Wilks wasn’t willing to do that, I am guessing we will see soon enough that the Cardinals aren’t going to play the top end of the roster either.
The biggest story will be Josh Rosen if he plays, although now there is a report he will not. I’d expect all the wide receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald to play too, because frankly, that’s one place where there is still a ton of roster uncertainty. The decisions about who to keep on the 53 is “going to go down to the wire,” Wilks said, and unfortunately, he’s not saying that because they all have had a huge preseason. It’s the opposite, and Wilks still seeks that separation he’s talked about.
That’s a good segue to my one and only guesstimate on the 53-man roster. NFL teams have to have their final roster cuts to 53 done by Saturday afternoon, and judging by the recent past, I’d expect the Cardinals’ announcement to be late in the afternoon. The Cards have 90, so we’re talking about trimming 37 names, either by moving them to the in-season PUP list (which could only be Jermaine Gresham and/or Markus Golden), putting them on IR (if someone of note got hurt against the Broncos) or a straight release.
When reading my guess, keep in mind a number of things. 1) I expect the Cardinals to look long and hard at potential trades/waiver wire over the next few days to help shore up certain positions. So I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a few players on the roster in Week One that aren’t here yet. In Bruce Arians’ first season, the Cards brought in Bradley Sowell and Alameda Ta’amu at that point. It happens, and it happens with new coaching staffs especially. 2) Wilks isn’t giving lip service about Thursday night. I believe a couple of players can make or break their shot with how their game goes (or how a teammate’s game goes). 3) This assumes both Golden and Gresham are off PUP, which is at this point a big assumption. 4) In the almost 20 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never been right. Those last five or six are always very tough. But I effort.
QB (3) – Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon. Charles Kanoff became a fan favorite and did some good things. But ultimately, it’s hard to see the Cards comfortable with two rookie backups behind Bradford given Bradford’s injury history.
RB/FB (5) – David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan, Derrick Coleman, Elijhaa Penny. The loss of D.J. Foster hurt, because I think he would have made this team. Penny, now a fullback, can play special teams, but you wonder if the Cards might seek out a running back who can help in that regard, a la Foster.
WR (6) – Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, J.J. Nelson, Trent Sherfield, Brice Butler. After those first three, there’s little certainty. Sherfield, an undrafted rookie, has done well on special teams. Nelson has had some drops, but he does provide speed. Butler’s status may very well depend on how he plays against the Broncos, and could I see him let go and Greg Little stay? Yes. Could I see a yet-unknown receiver take that spot? Yes.
TE (3) – Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes. If Gresham stays on PUP, the Cards have to find someone out there. I’m not sure there is someone on the current roster they’d stick with. Even if Gresham comes off PUP it’d be tough to be ready Week One, and the Cards will need to bolster the spot anyway.
OL (9) – D.J. Humphries, Mike Iupati, Mason Cole, Justin Pugh, Andre Smith, John Wetzel, Evan Boehm, Korey Cunningham, Daniel Munyer. Boehm, who was at guard all offseason, has shown the last two games he can play center, and he and Wetzel make sense as the two backups active on game days. Munyer (G/C) and Cunningham (T) could be behind them. This might be another spot where the Cards scour the wire for depth.
ST (3) – Phil Dawson, Andy Lee, Aaron Brewer. Matt McCrane has had a good preseason. In the end, I still think the Cards won’t waver on standing by the veteran Dawson.
DL (8) – Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, Corey Peters, Robert Nkemdiche, Benson Mayowa, Vontarrius Dora, Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre. Like Gresham, if Golden comes off PUP, he won’t be ready right away. Mayowa and Dora have done a good job working as Golden replacements in preseason. There’s a chance rookie Alec James could make a late push here, or veteran Jacquies Smith. Fan favorite Cap Capi’s run defense remains the area coaches are watching.
LB (6) – Deone Bucannon, Josh Bynes, Haason Reddick, Gerald Hodges, Scooby Wright, Dennis Gardeck. The Cards played a ton of nickel last week, so maybe only two linebackers will be needed at a time. This might be an area depth is sought on the waiver wire, although both Wright and Gardeck have played big roles on special teams. Edmond Robinson, another guy who played double-digit special teams snaps in Dallas, could get the nod over Gardeck.
CB (5) – Patrick Peterson, Jamar Taylor, Bené Benwikere, Brandon Williams, Deatrick Nichols. Definitely a place where the Cardinals likely will seek help. Nichols has made an impression late in preseason games. Williams helps on special teams, but might need to play well against Denver. Draft pick Chris Campbell will try to make a late push, or maybe the Cards go with four and then add a player at a different position.
S (5) – Budda Baker, Antoine Bethea, Tre Boston, Rudy Ford, Zeke Turner. Baker is playing a hybrid safety/nickel back. Given how much Cards play three safeties, a fifth safety makes sense, whether it’s Turner or A.J. Howard. Like Gardeck and Sherfield, Turner has gotten a lot of special-teams reps this preseason.