Cardinals 53-man roster prediction: More depth, versatility in 2020
The Arizona Cardinals’ roster will remain in flux all through this weekend as they consider picking up released players from other clubs.
But the NFL 53-man roster reduction deadline comes at 1 p.m. Arizona time on Saturday, and as it stands healthwise, the roster is in good shape and much improved on paper from 2019.
That means there will be some tough decisions.
Do the Cardinals keep a third quarterback to add a little twist to the offensive arsenal? Do they let a talented athlete who has yet to pan out move on or will they fit him into a reserve role? Is it time to give up on a young receiver before he’s even got a chance to shine?
After attending most every open practice at training camp and listening to the coaches and players speak about the roster this offseason, here’s my best guess at an initial 53-man roster for Arizona.
Starter: Kyler Murray
Depth: Brett Hundley, Chris Streveler
You can’t dismiss Hundley’s experience in the NFL, and for that reason he makes the cut as the No. 2 quarterback. So why would Streveler make it? Because Kingsbury will find a way to use him. Can I suggest doing so in goal-line situations?
Running backs (3)
Starter: Kenyan Drake
Depth: Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin
The Cardinals got a long look at D.J. Foster and undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan Jonathan Ward in camp. They could land on the practice squad in case of emergency. But with Drake expected to carry a big load at 1A and Edmonds a great 1B option, the depth to carry four isn’t necessary to start the year.
Starters: DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk
Depth: Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield
This could easily be extended to seven players because the Cardinals have invested heavily in developing the young guys. I think there’s a possibility they let 2019 fourth-round pick Hakeem Butler have a full year of work before giving up on him. But if it’s between him and a third usable quarterback, or Butler and a fourth running back or tight end, you can make the case those players will be utilized much more often.
Tight ends (3)
Starter: Maxx Williams
Depth: Dan Arnold, Darrell Daniels
Lots of good things have been spoken about Arnold and Daniels behind the always-reliable Williams.
Offensive line (10)
Starters: D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Mason Cole, J.R. Sweezy, Kelvin Beachum
Depth: Justin Murray, Max Garcia, Lamont Gaillard, Josh Jones, Josh Miles
There might be some concern about guard depth with this group, but tackle Justin Murray has worked inside during camp and could be the first guy up if Beachum gets the right tackle job. Gaillard, the backup center, can also slide to guard.
Starters: Patrick Peterson, Byron Murphy
Depth: Dre Kirkpatrick, Chris Jones
Kirkpatrick very well could be the starter, putting Murphy in the slot. In that way and others, I fully expect to be wrong about this group (I know, no nickel depth!). Guys left out include Kevin Peterson, who adds versatility as a slot or corner guy, and undrafted rookie Jace Whittaker, who got lots of love in camp. Jones has been solid when he’s gotten opportunities and brings that tall, physical presence that the Cardinals seem to like at corner.
Starters: Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson
Depth: Deionte Thompson, Chris Banjo, Charles Washington
Pretty easy here. There are two clear-cut starters, a talented backup in Deionte Thompson and two veteran guys who bring special teams value.
Inside linebacker (5)
Starters: Jordan Hicks, De’Vondre Campbell
Depth: Isaiah Simmons, Zeke Turner, Evan Weaver
Tanner Vallejo, who flashed last year, somehow doesn’t make the roster, which sort of shows how much this group is upgraded from a year ago.
Outside linebacker (4)
Starters: Chandler Jones, Devon Kennard
Depth: Haason Reddick, Dennis Gardeck
If there’s some behind-the-scenes discussions about Reddick needing a fresh start, maybe he’s looking for a new team and Kylie Fitts is in. But I believe Vance Joseph when he says he will find a way to use the athletic 2017 first-round pick along with, or behind, Jones and Kennard.
Defensive line (7)
Starters: Corey Peters, Jordan Phillips, Zach Allen
Depth: Rashard Lawrence, Leki Fotu, Jonathan Bullard, Michael Dogbe
There’s a lot of young talent in the room, and the Cardinals can commit to developing that around vets Peters and Phillips. Lawrence has gotten buzz all camp for his maturity and readiness to play now. Dogbe has changed his body in a big way, and the way this group is rotated, it doesn’t hurt to carry seven guys.
Special teams (3)
K: Zane Gonzalez
P: Andy Lee
LS: Aaron Brewer
Yep. They’re back and they’re solid here.
Last to make the roster: OLB Haason Reddick, QB Chris Streveler, DT Michael Dogbe
Tough final cuts: OLB Kylie Fitts, CB Kevin Peterson, ILB Tanner Vallejo, WR Hakeem Butler