Among the players that figure to make the Cardinals' 53-man roster is quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7).
By Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals have to slice the roster down to 53 players from the 89 they had as of Friday morning.
Some will end up on injured reserve. A trade is possible. Most will simply be released. The reality is that of the 53 the Cardinals keep, the vast majority – perhaps as many as 46 or 47 – were locks before the Cardinals even had their first training camp practice.
The 53 Cardinals Saturday won't necessarily be the 53 Monday taking part in the first practice of the season either. If a player is awarded via a waiver claim, the Cardinals will have to let someone go. It wouldn't be surprising if the Cards sought someone to add depth to the offensive line or the linebacker corps, especially on the outside.
For purposes of this exercise however, we're sticking with who is on the current roster, since that's all we have available.
QB (3) — Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert has been a pleasant surprise since he signed. Stanton is the backup, but Gabbert sticks and is a possibility for the future.
RB (4) — David Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, Elijhaa Penny, Andre Ellington: With David Johnson and Kerwynn Williams locks, it feels like this comes down to two spots for the remaining three guys. It
would not be a surprise if veteran Chris Johnson makes the team over Ellington, and this is probably the most difficult decision the Cardinals have to make. Penny showed a lot running the ball over the preseason, and the hope is that he can fulfill the special teams role of former running back Stepfan Taylor. The pros for keeping Ellington are that he is running as well as he has (and as hard) since his rookie season and he's the one player best equipped to fill David Johnson's role if something were to happen to the top back. The pros for keeping CJ2K are his relationships inside the locker room and his superior pass protection. Both have been effective running the ball. Not an easy choice. (Rookie T.J. Logan goes to IR, but he may be back later this season.)
WR (6) — Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams, Brittan Golden: Bruce Arians hinted at a seventh receiver, but that seems unlikely. Aaron Dobson's speed intrigues, but in the end, Golden is good on special teams, an area Dobson does not help. Rookie Carlton Agudosi makes sense for the practice squad.
TE (3) — Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas, Ifeanyi Momah: Pretty straightforward. There is a chance the Cardinals could keep a fourth tight end like Hakeem Valles, who can play special teams. But an extra one here means one less elsewhere.
OL (9) — T D.J. Humphries, G Mike Iupati, C A.Q. Shipley, G Evan Boehm, T Jared Veldheer, G/C Cole Toner, G/T John Wetzel, G Dorian Johnson, T Will Holden:This one is dicey. Keeping Johnson and Holden as essentially redshirt draft picks would be the 2016 version of the defensive line. Johnson in particular has a long way to go. He didn't get into the Atlanta game until very, very late and could be on the bubble despite his fourth-round status. Tackle Ulrick John is another possibility to stick. As mentioned, this could be a position that gets an add through a trade or waiver claim.
DL (7) — Frostee Rucker, Corey Peters, Josh Mauro, Robert Nkemdiche, Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre, Xavier Williams: Last year, the Cardinals kept nine defensive linemen. The group is more settled,
and with needs elsewhere, seven is probable. Maybe Ed Stinson is an eighth, but a hamstring injury undercut his camp, and after he has battled multiple injuries in his career, the Cards may just move on.
OLB (4) — Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, Kareem Martin, Cap Capi: The top three are no-brainers. The last spot is interesting. Veteran Jarvis Jones was supposed to be the fourth, but he has barely practiced with injuries and that's undercut his cause. Capi has been impressive with his preseason work, but outside linebacker may be the most likely spot for which the Cards bring someone in from outside.
ILB (5): Karlos Dansby, Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, Josh Bynes, Scooby Wright: Wright would squeeze in as a special teams pick. Bynes has shown enough to be a veteran presence there.
CB (4) — Patrick Peterson, Brandon Williams, Justin Bethel, Tramon Williams: The biggest surprise of training camp? Maybe it was Arians noting that cornerback ended up being one of the positions with which he was most pleased. This quartet seems set.
S (5) — Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch, Antoine Bethea, Budda Baker, Rudy Ford: That last spot might be Harlan Miller and not Ford. Miller has been ahead of Ford in the preseason, but Ford has big-time speed and can be a help on special teams, and he closed the preseason impressively Thursday night.
ST (3) — K Phil Dawson, P Matt Wile, LS Aaron Brewer:The one question was punter, and in the end, Wile was a little better than Richie Leone. Wile also showed a lot as a kickoff man, which would help assuming Dawson doesn't have those duties.