While the entire 2017 Cardinals roster will use the preseason game (the first one to have starters playing in it) to get back in the swing and rhythm of the game, there are a few players who could gain more than others.
Let’s have a look:
Honorable Mentions: Tre’Von Johnson/Zaviar Gooden
The Cardinals’ linebacker depth currently is atrocious. While Karlos Dansby is coming back and Bruce Arians announced that Deone Bucannon is on track to start in Week One, the team has let go of two of its stalwart backups the last few years in Gabe Martin and Alani Fua due to injury (both could be back, potentially)
While Scooby Wright has stepped up and seems to be in contention for a spot on the team for special teams play, Johnson and Gooden have a shot to really impress for a roster spot with increased reps these next few days leading up to the game against Oakland.
5. Marquis Bundy, WR
The Cardinals have kept 5-6 receivers for the last few years, and that 6th slot this year is open for the taking with the departure of Michael Floyd. While Fitz/Browns/Nelson/Williams are the 5 locks and Brittain Golden seems to be the leader for that spot, Bundy has something he doesn’t have.
Bundy is 6’4, 215 lbs.
He’s made some nice catches during this preseason and if he could go off with Stanton or Gabbert, he might make a case for himself with a different skillset than Golden has as long as he can hold up well on special teams.
4. Richie Leone, P
Strange to see a punter on this list though it may be, Leone is in a competition with the punter who finished AZ’s season last year in Matt Wile. And while both have had their battles, Leone has shown a knack and an edge, but also less overall consistency despite seeming to have higher upside than Wile as far as distance/placement. A good game might further the distance toward him getting the gig.
(Note: I did consider John or Jaron Brown for this spot, but while JaBrown is coming off of an ACL and JoBrown off of an injury, neither is fighting for a roster spot like the majority of these players)
3. Blaine Gabbert, QB
This should come as no surprise to have Gabbert on this list after his excellent performance against Dallas. Now he goes head-to-head playing in the same game as the backup he is trying to contend with in Drew Stanton.
A good game from Gabbert and a poor one from Stanton and you’ll start hearing the terms “backup QB controversy” bandied about. A poor game and his stock might start rapidly sinking.
Blaine Gabbert might not have to light up the night to get a spot on the Cardinals’ 53-man roster but with enough development he could show the team that he might deserve a place in their plans past the 2017 season.
2. Andre Ellington, RB
With T.J. Logan out and on I.R., possibly to return, a door opens that had once been closed for Andre Ellington.
Sure, maybe Elijaah Penny ends up with the roster spot as a bigger back but with the bulk of Logan’s skillset being special teams and 3rd down, Ellington’s role could try to fill in for that loss in some ways.
Ellington struggled when asked to kick and punt return last year, but if he can showcase that he still has tread on the tires and can stay healthy, he might be able to lock up that 4th running back spot.
- Justin Bethel, CB
Brandon Williams was a possibility here, but let’s get to the point.
There’s a lot riding on Bethel this week in practice going into this game.
He took a pay cut in order to reach free agency a year quicker and has so far looked recovered from the foot injury that caused him to struggle so much in the 2016 season and miss time, but is now coming off of another injury in which he missed some time.
In that space, the Cardinals signed a 34-year-old veteran in Tramon Williams. And Brandon Williams, while he struggled in the Dallas game, did get his hands on a crazy interception.
All the pressure in the world right now is on Bethel for this to be the season in which he steps up and claims the CB2 spot that Keim and Arians expected him to take after the 2015 season. If he can have a great preseason game and hold off Tramon Williams, he could be in for a big payday if that trend continues.
Bethel signed a 3-year, $15 million dollar deal that’s been ripped up. If he can showcase himself as a #2 corner who’s back to being a dominant special teamer, then he’ll potentially win the gamble he’s made on himself.
But if he doesn’t, gets beat and Williams looks like the solid veteran the team expects him to be, Bethel’s chances of developing further might be starting to look a bit grim.
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