On Tuesday we examined the Cardinals Offense, and guessed who would make the roster to start 2016. Obviously no one is safe, and the chess pieces are always moving around the board, so this is definitely a VERY early projection. Offensively the Cardinals used 27 roster spots out of the 53 allotted. That gives the Cardinals 23 to use on the Defense. That's not a lot of room for a very talented group, and obviously this is just a very early guess, but that's what the offseason is for.
There are 10 players on the roster on the defensive line. Nine of them could very well be on this roster. You have to imagine that Calais Campbell and Robert Nkemdiche are safe. Rodney Gunter, and Corey Peters will more than likely be on the line as well. That's four. Xavier Williams made the roster last year in large part due to the injury Peters sustained. Will he make it again now that Peters is healthy?
I believe so, so that's five players. Finally, Ed Stinson, Red Bryant, and Frostee Rucker are the three main names on the list. Do we carry seven players on the line? Rucker has been a name that has popped up constantly as a potential cap casualty (He carries a 1.3 million dollar hit unless released). Ed Stinson has been a solid contributor during his time in Arizona, and Red Bryant is a coaching staff favorite. Do we sacrifice leadership for youth? Bryant and Rucker are the only players on the defensive line older than 30. Campbell will be 30 in September.
Josh Mauro is another name that could slip in. He's been good as a depth player for the Cardinals, but unfortunately, I see his time coming to an end as well. Mauro, Bryant, and Rucker all get the boot, in favor of young talent, who have a few more years on their deals.
(Roster Spots: 33)
(For the Purposes of this Deone Bucannon will be a part of this list, despite being officially listed as a Safety)
Kevin Minter and Deone Bucannon are the starters inside. That's not going to change. Alani Fua will likely make his way as a backup as well. Last season the Cardinals carried five inside backers and five outside backers. This year I only see four inside backers, with Gabe Martin being that fourth. Lamar Louis and Quayshawn Nealy being options for the Practice Squad.
Outside, Chandler Jones, and Markus Golden are the two starters. Kareem Martin made the move to Outside Linebacker last year, but he also adds depth on the defensive line. Alex Okafor lost the playoffs to a toe injury, and is hopefully coming back hungry. Fans hope he can return to his 2014 form, which he racked up eight sacks, and showed lots of upside. With an offseason arrest in 2015, and an injury during his off time in the playoffs, has he shown enough to the coaching staff to be let go? I think he has to work hard in 2016 to stay, but that will be the case. That's eight players for the Linebackers to work with.
Shaq Riddick lost his rookie season to injuries in Training Camp, so he still has an uphill climb, but Bruce Arians was impressed with how hard Riddick worked all last season to climb back out of the doghouse. It's likely he stays too.
(Roster Spots: 42)
The Cardinals rolled with only eight defensive backs in 2015, so that trend will continue into 2016. Patrick Peterson and Justin Bethel will headline the Corners, with Harlan Miller and Brandon Williams closing out the Cornerback room. Asa Jackson and Shaun Prater are the only two corners behind Peterson and Bethel with any sort of playing experience in the NFL, but both are simply camp bodies to me.
In terms of Safeties, Tyvon Branch, Tony Jefferson, and Tyrann Mathieu will headline that group. But already there are three good players, with five more players in the wing to get that final roll. The Cardinals could cut Marqui Christian and stash him on the Practice Squad, but Adrian Wilson is absolutely excited about what the Rookie can offer. DJ Swearinger was a good player in 2015, adding much needed depth after Mathieus injury. Both he and Chris Clemons have Special Teams relevance, meaning the final player has to be able to contribute. As of today, I believe Christian will be the fourth player, and the Cardinals will enter 2016 with a very youthful secondary.
However what is nice about Mathieu is that he is both a slot corner, and a safety, so if he is 100% by the time the Season starts, Branch and Jefferson will be the safeties, with Mathieu helping develop the two young corners. Or the Cardinals could very well add a veteran, a guy like Leon Hall who has been attached to the Cardinals for much of the offseason.
(Roster Spots: 50)
With the 50 players split between Offense and Defense, the final 3 can be handed down to the our Kicker, Punter, and our new Long Snapper. Chandler Catanzaro is the only kicker on the roster today. That's the first time there has not been two kickers going into Camp since the Jay Feely days. Drew Butler is currently battling a rookie for the job. Garrett Swanson is likely just a camp leg, but weirder things have happened.
At Long Snapper the Cardinals have two rookie dueling it out as well. Kameron Canaday and Danny Dillon are neck and neck through the offseason, and it will likely come down to the final preseason game to decide who will replace Mike Leach. At this point these two are just a "Close your Eyes and pick" kind of deal.
(Roster Spots: 53)
I can already here the course of voice calling for me to be the next General Manager of the Arizona Cardinals, but I will have to decline such an illustrious offer folks.
What say you? You now have the full breakdown of my 2016 Roster. Discuss and if you have your own 53, make a Fanpost. We have two weeks to argue until Camp!