Cardinals coach Bruce Arians got his final look at his players on Thursday in Denver before this weekend's cuts.
After a long exhibition slate, excitement is drumming up for the Cardinals, who can finally see their regular season opener against the Lions on the horizon.
But the work-week doesn't begin until Monday, and coach Bruce Arians isn't full throttle quite yet.
"It's a catch-22," Arians said of his current emotions. "You hate cut day, but you're really excited about the season starting. I'll feel a lot better Monday than I do (Friday)."
The Cardinals will whittle their roster down to 53 players by Saturday at 1 p.m. Some of the cuts seemed predestined, but others will go down to the wire. Arians said the team will keep between five and seven receivers on the roster but didn't hint at who could grab the final spots.
The winner of the punting competition is still fuzzy, while there are questions at linebacker and safety. The running back room gained some clarity when multiple outlets reported the release of veteran Chris Johnson.
Arians spoke before the news broke and didn't verify any moves, but talked broadly about what it's like releasing a veteran with whom he's formed a close bond.
"(Former linebacker) Lorenzo Alexander was hard because he meant so much to us in the beginning," Arians said. "There were some other guys like it. You get to really like guys. You probably know they don't have a chance, but they're such an overachiever that they get this far and they make it (to where you're thinking), 'Why the hell am I cutting this guy? Because he's really just not good enough.' But you love coaching them. You probably know that his career is over."
Arians was thrilled to see Alexander's rejuvenation with the Bills, for whom he had 12½ sacks last season. But many times it's the end of the road for the veterans, which can eat at the coaches.
"Some of it never goes away," Arians said. "You just kind of hide those feelings and put them away, but they never go away."
GOOD START FOR DRAFT CLASS
The Cardinals received negligible impact from their draft picks last season, but this year could be better. A few players could contribute immediately, and fifth-round T.J. Logan was on that track before dislocating his wrist.
"I like the entire draft class," Arians said. "A couple of them need to improve, but it was a really good draft."
Arians highlighted the offseason performance of first-round pick Haason Reddick, who is slated to start at inside linebacker if Deone Bucannon isn't ready for Week 1, as well as second-rounder Budda Baker. Arians said Baker still has some growing to do, but he's caught on nicely while learning both free safety and slot cornerback after missing offseason work.
Sixth-round pick Rudy Ford was singled out for his job on defense and special teams in the preseason finale on Saturday against the Broncos. Ford is aiming to win the final job in the Cardinals' secondary.
FOCUS ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD
The active roster will get the lion's share of the attention over the next few days, but the Cardinals will also spend plenty of time crafting their practice squad. The team had some undrafted free agents who seem like possible fits, including wide receiver Carlton Agudosi and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, a pair of players who still need to grow but have intriguing skill-sets.
"You're not filling spots to practice against, you're filling (with) future players," Arians said. "I'm not one of those guys who, 'Hey, here's a good local kid, let's give him a job to practice against.' If he doesn't have a future, he's not going to be on our practice squad."
Images from the fifth preseason game in Denver