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ROTB Roundtable: Areas of Improvement, 53 Man Roster, and League Surprises

We're just a little over two weeks away from the start of the regular season.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In the mean time, the Cardinals have been busy during preseason, raising quite a few questions. The ROTB Writing Staff takes their shot at answering three of these.

Don't forget to answer the questions yourself in the comments below!

1) Following last Sunday's game against the Cowboys, what are some things the team needs to work on?

Alex Mann: Need to see pass rush and run blocking. It's getting closer to regular season and the team is still lacking.

Jesse Reynolds: I'll keep it simple, the pass rush. It's just preseason but I was hoping to see Dockett and Campbell cause a little havoc on offensive lines.

Shaun Church:
One glaring area that needs work is red-zone offense. Overall, the team had five opportunities to put the Cowboys away, and they could not do it. Feely missed a short field goal and they missed on a fourth-down gamble. Three other times, they settled for a field goal.
The Cardinals scored only one red-zone touchdown in the opener at Green Bay, so through two games, they are 1-of-10 in getting touchdowns in the red zone. This is unacceptable.

Coverage. While the team may have forced a fair few turnovers, the team continues to struggle actually covering receivers. Tony Romo completed 7 of his 10 passes at better than 14 yards per attempt. If this continues then the team is going to struggle to hold good offensive units in check this season.

Jess Root:
Obviously the red zone offense punches you in the face to get your attention. The pass rush is still a concern, but part of that is because the Cards really didn't blitz.

2) Who do you think has solidified their case to make the 53 man roster?

Alex Mann:
Guys on the edge that make the team? I'd guess (and that would be all it is), Amaya, Gottlieb, Fainaka and Kerry Taylor.

Jesse Reynolds:
This is tough, I want to think Tony Jefferson is but Bruce Arians said something about keeping 9 DBs so he's gonna have to beat out a vet.

Shaun Church:
It has to be undrafted rookie safety Tony Jefferson. He hadn't stood out much at practice until last week, and the Cowboys game is when he turned it on with the lights on. He was everywhere Saturday night. Not only was he the highest-rated defender for the Cardinals according to ProFootballFocus, he was highest rated in coverage and second highest in run defense (rookie OLB Alex Okafor was the best).
Not only did he intercept two passes, he was credited with five total tackles---two for loss---and broke up two passes. I believe he earned a spot for that performance, but he will have to do it again this Saturday against San Diego to prove it to most everyone else, I'd think.

It is tough to pinpoint someone who has solidified their spot at the back end of the roster; Jefferson really strengthened his case as did Kerry Taylor. I think Jim Dray with his involvement in the passing game and versatility has all but locked up a roster spot.

Jess Root:
The easy answer here is Kerry Taylor. Another good name is Tony Jefferson, but as I said on the podcast, I still think he may be on the outside looking in. The fourth safety will be a guy that has to play special teams - he won't really see the field defensively. Jonathon Amaya is exactly that. We will see. Jefferson played only two special teams snaps on Saturday.

3) Which team do you think will be one of the "surprises" in the league this year?

Alex Mann:
Other than Cards, how about the Panthers (Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly - great starting points) and theSaints (Brees and Sean Payton back together despite defense)?

Jesse Reynolds:
Cincinnati. Watching them in preseason they look good on both sides of the ball and Geno Atkinsmay be the best defensive player in football right now.

Shaun Church:
I have a sneaking suspicion Arizona's week 4 opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will make a run at the NFC South in 2013. They have one of the best young running backs in the league in Doug Martin, a hungry quarterback itching to erase the last two seasons from fans' minds in Josh Freeman and a solid receiving corps led by Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Kevin Ogletree.

Then, there's that defense. They could end up leading the league in interceptions this season with as any ball-hawks as they have in the secondary. Trading for Darrelle Revis and drafting Johnathan Banks makes them dangerous enough; the addition of free safety Dashon Goldson to play next to strong safety Mark Barron puts them over the top in my mind.

They have some questions at middle linebacker, but the defensive line could end up being very good for a long time. They're young, and three of them -- defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy -- were drafted in the first two rounds of their respective drafts. They are a talented and super athletic bunch who should generate their fair share of sacks and quarterback pressures.

I think the AFC is wide open this season. There are not a lot of "great" teams. I think the Texans will "surprise" this season and be the AFC representative in the Superbowl.

Jess Root: I honestly have not paid attention to the other teams around the league yet. No idea. I'll say the Eagles look sharp this year with Chip Kelly.