That we reached September before the end of training camp was odd enough. That's when you get the best sense of what the Cardinals are thinking when it comes to their final roster. This year, with no preseason games? It's even more of a guess (although in all the years I've done this, it's not like I've ever nailed a roster exact. Comes with the job.)
Kliff Kingsbury did say Thursday the roster was "pretty close to being set." That's not a surprise without games; younger players are going to have a more difficult time making this team. Because of the lack of games and because so much of practice was closed to reporting, this will be a little different (next year, when things are hopefully normal, we'll go back to the regular 53-man guesstimate.) This will be about where I think the biggest decisions will come on a team which figures to be heavy in the knowns, since there is so much unknown in 2020.
Last year, the Cardinals also blew up my 53-man guess because they made a handful of waiver claims. I think across the NFL there will be less of that this year. I would've figured that anyway, because the roster is in such better shape than it was this time last year as Kliff Kingsbury was getting started.
Anyway, here are the guesses where the toughest choices come (knowing that most who are cut could end up on the expanded practice squad):
- At QB, we know Kyler Murray. I still think Brett Hundley is the backup, but I think they are intrigued enough by Chris Streveler – and he can try and play special teams – that they keep three QBs.
- Running back is a tough one. Is it either/or with Eno Benjamin and D.J. Foster? I think Benjamin sticks. Foster is proven on special teams. Maybe they do keep four.
- There are too many other spots that need numbers for me to think they would keep seven receivers, which to me means the last spot comes down to Trent Sherfield – very good on special teams – and Hakeem Butler, who just hasn't had enough time yet.
- A lot of teams are stocking up on extra offensive linemen in the time of the coronavirus. Justin Murray and Max Garcia have shown they can play in a couple of spots. Lamont Gaillard will stick around. Would they keep 10? I'm thinking they won't because they'll need the space.
- On the defensive line, it'll be interesting to see what they do with a couple of vets, Travon Coley and Jonathan Bullard. Maybe one gets to stay.
- They have a lot of linebackers. I think Evan Weaver could stick, and if they keep special teams aces Dennis Gardeck and Ezekiel Turner, I could see them holding on to 10 linebackers.
- The secondary is so interesting. We know the starters (five, if you assume those top three corners of Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Byron Murphy.) How they feel about cornerback depth and that versus safeties I would think is a factor. A Kevin Peterson vs. Chris Jones vs. Charles Washington kind of thing.
- I am thinking none of the remaining four undrafted rookies make the 53-man roster. But again, we'll see.
The cuts have to come by Saturday. The Cardinals usually announce their moves late Saturday afternoon. And then, Sunday, we'll be seven days out from a game that counts. Hard to believe.