Cardinals defense, O-line most likely to receive waiver-wire additions
Decisions, decisions. Quite a few face the Arizona Cardinals and general manager Steve Keim this week.
With the roster needing to be sliced to 53 players by Saturday and Arizona very open to adding via the waiver wire after the fact, the Cardinals will use the next few days to get their priorities in order. As in, which positions are most likely to be affected by waiver-wire pickups?
“I just built a spreadsheet the other day that basically outlined our entire roster, and I notated everywhere where we could potentially find a claim where we could upgrade our spot,” Keim told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station last Friday.
Arizona’s 3-13 record from a year ago puts them first in the claim order, and from the looks of it, the defensive side of the ball could be most impacted by waiver-wire additions.
Here’s where the Cardinals’ backend depth is most likely to be upgraded when the 31 other NFL teams chop their rosters down this week.
The Cardinals have their starters with nose tackle Corey Peters flanked by Rodney Gunter and rookie Zach Allen. Recent free agent addition Clinton McDonald will bring experience, and it appears that rookie seventh-round pick Michael Dogbe improved enough and flashed in preseason games to make a case for the 53-man roster.
After that, there are not many sure things.
At 320 pounds, undrafted rookie Miles Brown out of Wofford might be the backup nose behind Peters at this point. Bruce Hector, who was acquired last week in a trade that sent backup safety Rudy Ford to the Philadelphia Eagles, could be in the mix to make the roster despite having little time to impress his new bosses. Arizona has gotten a longer look at second-year pro Sterling Bailey in training camp, and the team knows fellow end Pasoni Tasini well from his stints in Arizona over the past two years.
That group probably isn’t feeling safe at the moment.
We know Patrick Peterson (suspension) will miss the first six games of 2019. As it stands, cornerback Robert Alford isn’t on the injured reserve but is expected to miss a big chunk of the regular season as he recovers from a broken leg.
Tramaine Brock Sr., Byron Murphy and Chris Jones will be relied upon to play, but another injury there would be problematic, to say the least.
Second-year pro Deatrick Nichols, rookie Nate Brooks and former third-round pick Brandon Williams are at risk of being cut. The waiver-wire is threatening any of them if they make the roster cut.
Between the versatility of Mason Cole — whether he starts at center or not — and the promise of rookie C/G Lamont Gaillard, Arizona should feel alright about its depth. Veteran Max Garcia remaining on the PUP list provides more comfort.
But recent injury histories along the offensive line won’t lead Keim to bet too wildly on the depth there.
It feels like that’s especially true at tackle. Arizona’s 2018 seventh-round pick, Korey Cunningham, is reportedly headed to the New England Patriots in a trade.
That leaves Rees Odhiambo, who got his fair share of backup reps, and seventh-round choice Josh Miles, who began taking more snaps after the first preseason game. Miles’ development — he was picked as a project — since the draft could swing his chances to make the roster. Both have a case to make the 53-man roster.
It would seemingly take more than one injury for the Cardinals to call upon any waiver-wire pickup along the offensive line. But that also means they would have more time to prepare a new player if they grade that person’s talent level higher than what’s currently on their roster.
No other position across the Cardinals roster ranges from sure-thing to unknown.
Starters D.J. Swearinger and Budda Baker have the experience and the athleticism to give Arizona confidence in the backend at present. But the backend of the backend includes two rookies, fifth-round pick Deionte Thompson and supplemental draft pick Jalen Thompson.
One would suspect the Cardinals like each of those players, but with veteran Josh Shaw on IR to begin the year and depth an issue, how worried would Arizona be if either of its starting safeties went down with injury?
With Jordan Hicks and Haason Reddick slated to start, it’s just a matter of how many inside linebackers the Cardinals want to carry. Two backups, Dennis Gardeck and Zeke Turner, provide special teams value. Did they show enough in the preseason as capable regular contributors?
The unknown here is Joe Walker, who started alongside Hicks in the third preseason game and looked good doing so.
Reddick’s recovery from knee surgery could keep him out of the first game of the regular season or longer. The Cardinals won’t dump a young player if Reddick is out a single game, but his training camp injury has only led to more confusion about who is first up if either he or Hicks gets hurt. That’s probably not a good thing.Array