Previewing the Cardinals preseason: Offense lacking depth?


With the preseason kicking off in just one month, it's a good time to get acquainted with some of the players who will be suiting up for the Cardinals that we don't normally get to see.

The starters have been, and will continue to be, covered in depth already so let's take a closer look at the heroes of the second half, the depth players, with an eye towards where the roster may be a little thin (or thick).

We don't know a whole lot about Drew Stanton or Ryan Lindley, and what we do know isn't particularly good. Even so, it would be an upset if undrafted rookie Caleb TerBush supplants one of them for a spot on the team. Watch for Stanton to surprise you with his legs.

As for the Cardinals' receiving weapons, it's a good thing the starters are who they are. The depth chart is no doubt written in pencil at both WR and TE. It is a quality group of prospects but that's all they will be until August -- prospects. Bruce Arians has pointed to Robert Gill, Jaron Brown and Charles Hawkins as players who have stood out for the better while saying LaRon Byrd is talented but needs to show it consistently. Those players still have a long ways to go before they win (or lose) a spot on the 53, though.

The Cardinals have an interesting mix of size and speed at receiver. Jaron Brown, touted for his aggressive blocking, will be looking to lay some rookies out but he, like LaRon Byrd and Dan Buckner, will have to make some tough catches in the redzone to show that his size isn't just for show. Sixth-round pick Ryan Swope, assuming he can get on the field, along with Robert Gill and Tyler Shaw, brings rare speed to the offense. Look for those guys to get open in the middle of the field... and our back-up quarterbacks to overthrow them.

It sounds like Arians has a plan for Rob Housler but Jeff King and Jim Dray will have to battle a bit harder for their jobs. Seventh round pick DC Jefferson will have opportunities to show he's ready for the pro's and he may, as a player hand-picked by the new staff, have a leg up on some of the competition. Alex Gottlieb, a versatile player who fits as a tight end and long snapper, could surprise, as could Kyle Auffray, an athletic TE who's been out of the game for a while but showed enough at the NFL regional combine to earn a shot in the league.

There may have never been as much depth at running back as the Cardinals have this year, but there is a little uncertainty in the group. Ryan Williams could have a solid season as the number two running back, or he could continue running scared and find himself out of the league in a couple months. Rookie picks Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington should excite all preseason long before being buried on the depth chart and disappearing for the season. Will veteran holdovers William Powell and Alfonso Smith get a legitimate chance to show they belong?

Last, and probably least, the offensive line. For once the Cardinals actually have a handful of promising young players in the group. Nate Potter headlines the back-ups and it's possible we will see him playing both LT and RT in the preseason, considering Arians' emphasis on versatility. Fourth-round pick Earl Watford may not be tabbed as a starter this season but will have a good opportunity to show what he can do against second-stringers. Mike Gibson brings experience and versatility to the interior line. Senio Kelemete and Scott Wedige will have to make the most of their opportunities every time they step on the field or they might not have jobs come September. Jamaal Johnson-Webb is a young tackle with some upside.

Considering the depth at running back, could the team look to trade Ryan Williams? It would probably be in everyone's best interest to give him a chance to play out the season in Arizona but if the new coaching staff decides they don't like what they're seeing, they could try to get what they can for him without losing much depth at the position.

The team could also look to move a tight end. Jeff King is an established player but he's in the last year of his deal and it's hard to say how the new coaching staff views him. Jim Dray or Kory Sperry might make more sense. No, they wouldn't have a lot of value, but that's what makes a trade possible. Late-round pick swaps and player-for-player trades usually center around guys like Dray and Sperry: they're young players with a little experience that aren't locks to make their original squads, like former Cardinals Anthony Sherman and AJ Jefferson.

If a trade were to happen, where would the team look to add on offense? A little stiffer competition at quarterback could make sense but Stanton isn't going anywhere and you don't want too many bodies in that room. Quarterback reps are scarce enough as it is. You can always add another player on the offensive line but with five starters in place and Potter, Watford and Gibson rounding out the top eight, it'd be tough to find a player that would add meaningful competition to that group.

On paper at least, the Cards offense is in a pretty good spot going into the preseason. There are a few question marks and no one is citing an all-star cast but the roster looks fairly solid from top to bottom. Barring injuries, the coaches should be content to let each competition play out without feeling pressure to add bodies at any particular position.

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