The preseason finale is approaching fast, meaning cuts to the 53-man roster are coming. Many players won’t play on an NFL field ever again while some have a chance at a final roster or practice squad spot. Undrafted rookies have to shine now and many of them already have. Let’s take a look at the Arizona Cardinals’ undrafted free agents that have a legitimate chance at making the final roster.
#16 Trent Sherfield - Wide Receiver
Sherfield has been phenomenal in training camp and practices, turning short passes into big gains. Although he only has two catches during the preseason, he had a fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Cowboys. J.J. Nelson played his way out of the roster with numerous drops over the course of the preseason. Greg has done very little on offense and special teams, get it. With a very strong special teams performance this past weekend, he has, for the most part, locked up a spot on the final roster.
[#Cardinals 7 #Cowboys 0] Trent Sherfield recovers the muffed punt in the endzone for a Cardinals touchdown. pic.twitter.com/LeUyaKicR7— Football Dungeon (@DuaneLively) August 27, 2018
#92 Dennis Gardeck “The Barbarian” - Linebacker
When you get a nickname like his, it is hard to imagine him not making the roster. He made a game-saving tackle in the preseason opener and recovered a fumble on special teams this past weekend. The Cardinals were even more thin at linebacker with the loss of Jeremy Cash to a season-ending injury. The emergence of Gardeck the Barbarian is noted and pairing with Gerald Hodges could be a nasty special teams duo.
Cowboys muff the punt catch and rookie LB Dennis Gardeck covers the fumble for the Cardinals. Gardeck trying to push for a spot on the 53-man roster.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) August 27, 2018
#39 Deatrick Nichols - Cornerback
The 24-year old is a rookie that no one is really talking about when it comes to making the 53-man roster. But he has shown a lot of upside this preseason. He is leading the Cardinals this preseason in tackles (17) and showcased his effectiveness in blitz packages, registering a sack against the Saints. He has had a prominent role on special teams, outplaying Brandon Williams at every turn.
If you want athleticism, he clocked an unofficial 4.26 40 at his Pro Day and had a vertical jump of 37 inches.
Former #USFBulls CB and AZ Cardinal Deatrick Nichols with the sack. pic.twitter.com/UEHJZfRdVb— TheBullsPen.com (@TheBullsPen) August 18, 2018
These players have a better chance, compared to many undrafted rookies, at making the final roster but it isn’t as clear as it should be.
#1 Matt McCrane - Kicker
There isn’t a battle at the kicker position but with his perfect field goal percentage, there actually might be. His field goal attempts were from 53 to 54 yards out. McCrane is small (5’10’’ 165lbs), but his kicking range matches up with the best of kickers. Phil Dawson’s early struggles of 2017 have returned, botching two field goals so far during the preseason. Dawson has the advantage because he is a veteran with 20 years of experience and he can better manage the pressure in tight games. But he has not shown that thus far.
The future is now and the best choice is to pick the 23-year old over the 43-year old kicker on a decline. The tweet below about a possible kicking competition is very promising for McCrane’s chances.
Steve Wilks on his kicking situation this week “the competition continues” between Phil Dawson & Matt McCrane.— Mark McClune (@MarkMcClune) August 27, 2018
#47 Ezekiel “Zeke” Turner or #42 A.J. Howard - Safety
The battle between Turner and Howard has not gone anywhere. There is no doubt that Howard has been the better player in pass coverage but the Cardinals are not in need of defensive play makers. Players battling out for a roster spot have to show their ability to play on special teams. Turner has 49 special teams snaps versus Howard’s 13 snaps. Even with the big difference in snaps, neither have really stood out. If i’d have to choose, Turner would be my choice at making the team. Howard will be a favorite to make the roster next season. Both are practice squad eligible.
Not much to report. Howard has only played 13 ST snaps. Turner has 49 snaps, 1 tackle and 1 missed tackle. Howard has graded out as the superior coverage defender, 72.3 coverage grade vs. 58.2— PFF ARZ Cardinals (@PFF_Cardinals) August 28, 2018
The Arizona Cardinals, and all NFL teams, will be on the lookout at players released on cut day. With that being said, all of the undrafted free agents chances at a final roster spot are reduced a bit.
Nonetheless, their special teams unit looks much improved under Jeff Rodgers’ leadership and supervision.
Honorable Mentions: Charles Kanoff, Jalen Tolliver, Tavierre Thomas