Safety Curtis Taylor is among the players fighting to stay on the roster.
It's human nature for Curtis Taylor to start doing the math, and after six years in the NFL, he knows this process better than most.
Final cuts must be made by Saturday as the Cardinals trim their roster from the current 75 players down to 53. That means Thursday's preseason finale against the Chargers is the last chance for those on the bubble to make an impression.
Last season, the Cardinals kept four safeties, and it seems likely they do the same this year. Unfortunately for Taylor, he is No. 5 on the depth chart, trailing Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu.
If the Cardinals stick with that quartet, he is the odd man out. Then again, Mathieu is still working his way back from a torn ACL,
and Taylor could be an insurance policy. Bucannon is seeing time at linebacker, which could also influence the decision.
If Taylor considered all the scenarios, it could make his head spin. He's been around long enough to know it's easier to just go out and play.
"Coming in as a rookie to now being 29 years old, you see a lot of stuff happen," Taylor said. "You just need to enjoy your time because this is a privilege to be here. This is your job and this is your future, so you've got to keep grinding. Worry about that on the back end."
There are still a handful of positions up in the air, most notably at defensive back, defensive line, tackle and wide receiver, coach Bruce Arians said.
Taylor hopes to find a spot at safety, while there could be one cornerback position left for either Bryan McCann or Teddy Williams. Darnell Dockett's season-ending knee injury may have opened up a spot on the defensive line for veteran Isaac Sopoaga or one of the younger players in camp.
Bradley Sowell looked like a longshot at tackle a couple weeks ago after losing his backup job to Max Starks, but it was Starks who was released in the first wave of cuts on Monday. Sowell must beat out Nate Potter to become the primary backup to left tackle Jared Veldheer and right tackle Bobby Massie.
"This is my last audition, trying to get a roster spot," Sowell said. "I don't know how many linemen they're going to keep, but right now I'm not worried about that. Obviously we're going to play most of the game. I'm going to go out there and play my
hardest and see what happens."
The wide receiver group was seen as a weakness in 2013, but it was so improved through training camp that Arians may choose to keep six at the position. Walt Powell and Brittan Golden seem to be the two battling for that last spot, and Powell, a sixth-round pick in May, knows he must avoid rookie gaffes in these final days.
"You've just got to be mental error-free," Powell said. "That's it. I'll just play my game, and whatever's supposed to happen, it'll happen."
Linebacker is another interesting position, as recent signee Desmond Bishop and rookie Glenn Carson hope to show enough to find a niche.
It's a stressful week for the players who are fighting for a roster spot, and it's not much easier for the coaches who must make the harsh decisions.
"You get so attached to these guys, coaching them so hard as our staff does to make them the best they can be," coach Arians said. "Then when you have to end the dream here – hopefully not end the dream, but end the dream here – it's a very, very tough time."
Taylor and McCann were cut last preseason but re-signed when the team suffered injuries during the year. For the players who are on that edge, there can be many highs and lows, and Taylor has learned to stay at an even keel.
"You've got to find your little coping mechanism," Taylor said. "You see all types of stuff, but I don't get into talking about it. I just let it happen."
While some of the players who get released may have only recently signed with the team, others -- like kicker Jay Feely -- are long-time veterans. A member of the front office generally breaks the news to the ones who don't make it, but if Arians is cutting someone he's grown close to, he will do it himself.
To him, it's the toughest part of the job.
"It's a difficult time for the entire team because friendships are made, relationships are built and then boom, they're over," Arians said.
Cardinals players to watch on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Chargers