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How the Cardinals Trim to 53 (Who and Why)

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Before we begin—-some writers and fans are making a big deal out of Haason Reddick playing with the second team last night. Relax. If Steve Wilks was still playing his 43 base, Reddick would still be starting. Fact is, the Cardinals’ base defense is now its nickel: 2DTs, 2 DEs, 2 ILBs, 2 CBs and 3 safeties. Wilks is playing to the strength of his personnel, by putting his best 11 on the field.

Last night, Steve Keim provided significant clarity with his comments about a number of players. He said very positive things about David Johnson, Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon, Chad Kanoff, Chase Edmonds, Mason Cole, Andre Smith (surprise?), Justin Pugh, Mike Iuapti, D.J. Humphries, Christian Kirk, Trent Sheffield, Jacquies Smith (said he was Michael Bidwill’s pet recruit), Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick (all-world athlete and college edge rusher who just needs time to develop as a stack linebacker), Bene Benwikere, Deatrich Nichols and Zeke Turner.

A GM doesn’t talk about the players this glowingly if they are on the roster bubble. Count all of these players in.

QB (3): Bradford; Rosen; Glennon

  • The top question—-will Keim trade Glennon? Glennon had his best game at the right time. Either way, he is an asset.
  • If they keep Glennon. look for Chad Kanoff to be signed to the PS. The coaches have a lot invested in Kanoff; as Keim said, they really like him as a player and person.

RB/FB (5): Johnson; Edmonds, Logan; Coleman; Penny

  • Penny’s versatility and smashmouth mentality was on vivid display last night.
  • Man, after watching Darius Victor last night, a PS invitation could await.

WR (5): Fitzgerald; Kirk; Williams; Sherfield; TBA

  • Sherfield was superb and was already a lock for his STs value.
  • Keim said he and his scouts were going to scour the waiver wire—-and because J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler and Greg Little never seemed to strike up a chemistry with any of the QBs—-chances are they are now on the other side of the bubble.
  • Jaylen Tolliver—-might even make the roster—-but likely starts the year on the PS.
  • Corey Willis has emerged as a PS candidate.

TE (3): Gresham (activated off PUP); Seals-Jones; Gabe Holmes.

  • If Gresham is close to being ready, then the Cardinals won’t want to have to keep him on the PUP for six weeks.
  • The question here is whether Keim can acquire another TE via trade or waivers. if so, that may affect Holmes’ status.

OL (9): Humphries; Iupati; Cole; Pugh; Smith; Wetzel; Holden; TBA; Boehm/Munyer/Allen

  • There will be an addition here unless the teams above the Cardinals snag Keim’s waiver claim bids.
  • The question is which of the following 3 will they keep: Boehm, Munyer or Allen? My guess is Munyer, which is why they wanted to see if he could handle the center position last night. And, he did. If Keim can’t make a waiver claim or add a C/G via trade, then either Boehm or Allen makes the roster.
  • Korey Cunningham never cracked the 2nd team lineup, should easily pass through waivers and be signed to the PS. Bet on him making the roster next year, however.

Offense: 25 players

DT (5): Peters; Pierre; Nkemdiche; Gunter; TBA

  • The Cardinals will very likely add another DT because of the current injuries. This should be one of their top priorities on the waiver wire.
  • Pasoni Tasini and Peli Anau are PS eligible.

DE (4): Jones; Mayowa; Dora; Smith

  • It’s probably best for Markus Golden to start the year on the PUP and have six weeks or more to finish his rehab and get in football shape.
  • The coaches like the depth here.
  • Not sure if Cap Capi is PS eligible, but his competition this year in Arizona was much deeper and more talented than last year. Chances are that he will play somewhere again this year. if the Cardinals do keep Golden on the PUP, there’s a chance Capi could stick. 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles is not something to ignore or mitigate.
  • Alec James is a young player the coaches like and should be a top priority for the PS.

LB (6): Bucannon; Bynes; Reddick; Hodges; Turner; Gardeck

  • Turner looks like a natural at WILB and is superb on STs.
  • Gardeck, even though he missed a couple tackles last night, has rare speed and has been one of the studs on STs, outplaying Scooby Wright in kick coverage.
  • While Scooby Wright and Edmond Robinson are PS eligible, Airius Moore might have the best upside.

CB (5): Peterson; Taylor; Benwikere; Scott; Nichols

  • Benwikere, Scott and Nichols emerged as the second team CBs and all three have value on STs. David Merritt coached Scott (who made two excellent pass breakups last night on a slant in the red zone and on a deep post) in New York last year and has confidence in him. Nichols has been the top rookie CB.
  • Chris Campbell and Tavierre Thomas are top candidates for the PS. The coaches obviously like Campbell, but Nichols’ physicality and aggressiveness in the nickel and on STs won him the spot.

S (5): Baker; Bethea; Boston; Ford; Howard

  • Add the versatile Turner to the mix here and this is why the coaches have been quietly gushing over the depth of talent at this position.

Defense: 25 Players

ST (3): McCrane; Lee; Brewer

  • While it will be hard to let a popular, long-time successful veteran like Phil Dawson go, the Cardinals structured his contract so that they could move on from him this year in the event they found a young kicker they like. The Cardinals were high enough on Matt McCrane that they called him in the 5th round of the draft to reiterate their interest in him—-and had they not traded 3 picks away to draft Josh Rosen, chances are they would have invested a draft pick in McCrane. Fact is, McCrane did everything he needed to do to win the job, displaying impressive leg strength and accuracy.
  • The question is—-will a team be willing to trade for Dawson and pick up the remaining $2.75M of his salary?
  • Lee and Brewer look primed to lead a totally revitalized special teams unit.

Those are my guesses. What are yours? Will there be any great surprises? Any trades?