The Cardinals veterans report on Friday, with rookies reporting on the 29th for the beginning of Training Camp. There is an air of excitement throughout the organization for the 2015 season.
Had it not been for key injuries last season, the Cardinals would have likely gone deep into the playoffs, and perhaps have held onto the #1 seed in the NFC, giving them a chance to play on their home turf in Superbowl. That was not the case and we all saw how it played out.
The emphasis this offseason was to add depth and ensure the team did not run out of fresh bodies in 2015. The team did that, making this one of the most complete rosters in the teams 117 year history (Or 95 if you're only counting their NFL years).
That is why creating a 53 man roster is tough this time around. There are a lot of good players that will likely be let go, but a lot of great players will stay. So without further talking on my behalf, lets look at who I believe will be left standing (some tentatively) come September 5th.
Quarterback (3 carried in 2014):
This position was hit hard in 2014. Carson Palmer only played six games, Drew Stanton played as well as he could in relief, Logan Thomas only played a little bit in a blowout by Denver, and **** ******* (name removed from records) will never be uttered by me again after I supported him. In 2015 both Palmer and Stanton are 100% ready to go, Thomas has a full offseason under his belt, and the team added Chandler Harnish and Phillip Sims to challenge for the third spot on the roster with Thomas.The team will probably go with three quarterbacks again this year, and while Sims is probably the biggest threat to Thomas and the 3rd roster spot, I'll play it safe with the pick.
Runningback (6 carried in 2014)
A position that was hit hard early in the season, could never recover. Andre Ellington suffered a foot injury that hampered all year long, and the man supposed to help ease his load, Jonathan Dwyer, was suspended for a domestic violence case shortly after Week 2. Stepfan Taylor and the rest of the backs tried their best to make up for the losses, but a mixture of poor talent and poor run blocking, made this unit more a liability than an asset.
Kerwynn Williams was the only 100 yard rusher for the Cardinals, and with a solid preseason, he should be a lock as the third back.
In 2015, Ellington is healthy, the team has added some players with a real shot to make the roster. Paul Lasike, who was injured during part of camp, impressed coaches in his reps. At 5'11, and 232 pounds, he could be a potential replacement of Robert Hughes, a guy who I don't think will be with the team in 2015. David Johnson was also drafted to be the second head to the backfield. With Ellington being a shifty outside the tackles type runner, Johnson was added to be an up the gut player, who could also bounce outside the tackles if needed. I see the team carrying 4 backs this season.
Wide Receiver (6 carried in 2014)
The receivers in 2014 thrived off of a healthy Palmer, in particular, John Brown. The two have developed a special bond early and it's shown as Palmer invited Brown to live with him last offseason, and again this offseason. Larry Fitzgerald had glimpses of the old Larry with a healthy Palmer, but at this point of his career, that will probably be all we get every season, glimpses. Michael Floyd was inconsistent, but the team picked up his fifth year option showing they have full confidence in him.
Jaron Brown has improved every year. Unfortunately he is remembered for a crucial dropped touchdown against Seattle in Seattle, that would have lead the Cardinals into half time with the momentum. He has special teams ability which helps his bid to stay on the team.
There are five guys who probably are locks to make the roster, leaving the sixth up to a handful of players.
Tight End (3 Carried in 2014):
Likely the weakest offensive skill position in 2014, it will probably be the same in 2015. The shocking retirement by John Carlson left the roster with a lot of young players with little experience in the NFL. Troy Niklas has been injured often in his short time, and the Cardinals are hoping he bucks the trend in 2015.
Darren Fells is 29, but has only been active in one season, which came in 2014. He's a raw player who has a few years left, but is not a leader quite yet.
Outside of those two, the Cardinals have a lot of new faces. They drafted Gerald Christian in the seventh round of this draft, and the team sees him as more of an H-Back player. Watching the film, he fits that mold perfectly.
Ifeanyi Momah was signed after impressing in the inaugural Veteran Combine, and is a potential player to make the roster. However, despite the fact that I wish he would, I can't see him making the roster.
The team recently signed Jermaine Gresham, and barring health, he's likely a lock to make the roster.
The other players, Ted Bolser, and Gannon Sinclair, are likely practice squad candidates.
Offensive Line (9 Carried in 2014)
The Cardinals have upgraded their offensive line each year under Arians & Keim. A position of weakness in 2013, Arians and Keim upgraded it the next year by going out and picking Jared Veldheer in free agency. The tackles improved, with the emergence of Bobby Massie on the right side and Veldheer playing well on the left side, but the interior line was weak.
The two addressed that by signing Mike Iupati in free agency and AQ Shipley.
In 2015, the Cardinals have two key battles on the line. At Center, AQ Shipley will battle Ted Larsen for the job. Shipley knew the playbook coming in which allowed him to level the field with Larsen early, and impressed. Larsen struggled during part of offseason workouts, but rebounded and Arians has said the battle is neck and neck.
At Right Guard, the team will have 2013's first round pick Jonathan Cooper start. But, a strong offseason by Earl Watford could push this into a battle. Cooper has had no luck early in his career. An unlucky broken leg in the 2013 preseason sidelined him all season. In 2014 he battle a wrist injury and confidence issues. 2015 will hopefully see him live up to the hype he came into 2013 with.
Jared Veldheer is safe at left tackle, Bobby Massie should be two, despite the addition of DJ Humphries in the draft this year. If Humphries can build on a strong end to his offseason work, he could push for the job.
With 26 players put down for the offensive side, that's leaving 27 on the other side and special teams. We'll predict the defensive roster before the team meets for Camp.