Now that the break is here for the players (OK, the rookies have another few days next week) and now that the break is here for me (perhaps more important -- at least for me), we come to that annual installment that I've done for the past 10-plus years of making a guesstimate at the regular-season starting lineup -- in June.
It usually has some flaws, not the least of which being that when you are covering a team GM'd by Steve Keim, there is always a good chance a starter can emerge from a just-before-or-even-during-training-camp signing. That said, it's a good way to walk off the blog during time off. Today, it's the defense that I'm saying will line up against Washington Sept. 9. I will post the offense Friday.
DE Chandler Jones -- It's a nice way to start a lineup, with a guy coming off a 17-sack season. It's unfair (I won't go as far as unrealistic) to think Jones will repeat such a feat. But he will have a good year as the Cards' top pass rusher, and build on his case that he was the best trade in franchise history. (Yes, the Carson Palmer trade was a steal. Another blog debate for another day.)
DT Corey Peters -- They have long liked what Peters brings, which is why he got a contract extension last season. He'll anchor the interior.
DT Robert Nkemdiche -- The Cards want him to earn the starting job. He should be in there ahead of Olsen Pierre. When he's healthy, he always looks good in practice. He needs consistency, and he needs to show it in games.
DE Benson Mayowa -- Markus Golden plans on this being his spot, and I certainly wouldn't rule it out. But coming off an ACL tear -- and not knowing exactly where Golden will be at the start of camp -- I'm hedging bets here with the lone healthy DE on the roster with experience. Golden will want to push to be there opening day. The Cardinals will be smart with him, though.
LB Deone Bucannon -- Buc has made a hard push this offseason, learning the defense and showing leadership that a) he hadn't needed to before and b) is necessary with him directing the defense and calling plays. His mentality is perfect for that role. Plus, he's in a contract year -- even more motivation.
LB Josh Bynes -- For purposes of this exercise, the Cardinals are in a base defense, and that means a middle linebacker, and that means Bynes. Another good fit in the middle of a defense -- smart, understands his role, and a bit underrated. He was a real Keim find last year.
LB Haason Reddick -- He's bounced around a ton already in his short NFL career, but now, playing the strongside linebacker, he believes he'll make the next step. As a former first-round pick, the Cards need him to do just that.
CB Patrick Peterson -- Of course.
CB Jamar Taylor -- There could still be some movement here but ultimately, Taylor has the experience that the Cards would like at the spot.
S Budda Baker -- All signs to Baker having a breakout second season, the biggest of which just being he's really, really good.
S Antoine Bethea -- A steady vet on the back end. Yes, the Cards could still sign another veteran at safety -- and that makes sense with Baker dropping to nickel in sub-packages -- but it wouldn't be easy to displace Bethea.