I saw AZCardinals480 put up a post yesterday about which five players would be released as the Cards sign the rest of their draft picks. I was surprised when I looked at the current roster that some very good players might not even make it to training camp, given the depth of talent Whiz and Co have put together. Which, again, got me to thinking who are the best 53? And who gets let go before week 1?
Considering it is only July, there are some guesses, hunches and a couple of reaches here, but here is my 53 right now...
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1)- Jay Feely
Punter (1)- Ben Graham
Long Snapper (1)- Mike Leach
The three easiest roster spots to predict barring injury. Three solid players with no competition going into camp in each spot.
No big surprises here, again barring injury, these three should all be locks for the roster. Max Hall has impressed early, but I can't see him taking Skelton's roster spot after the Cards traded up to get him in the fifth round. Maybe a practice squad spot for Hall, although I have heard that the Cards don't like to do that because they can't get enough reps for both a 3rd string and PS quarterback
Running back (3) - Tim Hightower, Chris Wells, LaRod Stephen-Howling
My first big roster surprise here, with Jason Wright getting cut. Wright was not used nearly as much last year as I thought he would have been, but was lackluster as a running back and down-right ineffective as a full back. I could see Alphonso Smith sneaking onto the roster like LSH did last year if he can really impress on special teams, but for now I have Smith joining Hall as a practice squad candidate.
Full back (1) - Nehemiah Broughton
I could really make a case for any of the three full backs making the final roster, but as someone else pointed out a few weeks ago here on ROTB, the coaching staff sure seems enamored with Broughton. Niether Mauia or Ali are practice squad eligible.
Here is my first reach. Living in Ohio now (I no longer am stuck in Colorado), maybe I have been listening too much to the hype, but I think this Williams kid could be good...he did have over 3000 yards receiving the last three years with 15 touchdowns. That kind of production is hard to ignore. If he can become a contributor on special teams, I think he can find his way onto the roster. I also see Darren Mougey beating out Komar and Bowser for a practice squad spot. I wouldn't be surprised if Gant is let go before camp, the coaching staff already knows what he is capable of, I think they would rather see more of the UFA rookies.
Again, I am sure I will get some angry responses here, but I think Becht has another year in him and Byrd just never really panned out. Dray should be able to get a practice squad spot and compete for a roster spot next year.
No big surprises here. I don't know much about the guys behind these three, but would imagine there is a practice squad spot for whoever deserves it more. I think someone a few days ago was making a case for Knips, so lets add him to the practice squad.
I think Lutui gets into shape enough to make the roster, and even work his way up the ladder to compete for his starting spot back by the middle of the season. Otherwise, nothing too contriversial here.
The Cards have too much invested in Hadnot for him not to make the roster. Considering I only have 9 O-linemen and the flexibility Russ Grimm has along the offenisive line with Hadnot being able to play guard and center, Wells being able to play anywhere and even Johnson being able to play guard and tackle, I could see Claxton or Moosman sneaking onto the roster here as well. Both Claxton and Moosman are practice squad eligible, but I don't have either on the PS as of now.
I know Muhtadi is becoming a fan favorite and was the last person I cut to get down to 53, and considering I only have 7 defensive lineman, maybe he makes it on the roster instead of Stephen Williams, but for right now, I have Muhtadi on the practice squad.
Hard to believe that I have Branch making the final 53 considering this time last year I had written him off as a bust, but I am sure I was not the only one impressed with his play last year. I know I only have 7 D-linemen, but they all should be solid contributors.
The Cards have a ton of talent at this position, and I think make an effort to keep as much as possible here. It will be interesting if Schofield does not go on the PUP list, but I have to assume that will either leave Baggs as the odd man out, or they carry 6 OLB's and only 5 WR's. There is a lot for Cardinal fans to be excited about at this position.
Going agains the grain here a little with Green getting the nod over Calvin. I think Green will be able to contribute right away as the new punt returner and as needed on defense over the other rookies. I also, think the Cards will keep 5 safeties, which will limit the number of CB's they keep this year. I have Calvin getting on the practice squad, considering his absence from the field last year, I think they can get him through to the PS without another team picking him up.
Again, this time last year, I had pretty well written off Ware, but he really surprised last year and he should be a near lock for the roster. Abdullah also proved very capable last year and should be able to get on the roster. RJ is one of the last guys I have on the roster (right in front of Stephen Williams). I think the Cards have invested a lot in him, and obviously see some real potential. I think RJ gets one more shot this year and makes the most of it.
OK, that is my 53 (plus 8 PS guys and 1 PUP), let the debating begin!