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Redbirds 50: Ranking the top 50 Cardinals players – #41-50

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With not much on the NFL calendar in the early summer, now is usually when several lists start to come out. Revenge of the Birds is no exception: Presenting the Redbirds 50, ranking the top 50 players on the Cardinals roster.

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Dennis “The Barbarian” Gardeck was a valuable special teams player last season and could provide ILB depth in 2019. Is he a top-50 player on the roster?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no denying it—the NFL is in a bit of a doldrums right now. Free agency and the draft are way in the rearview, OTAs and minicamps are over, and training camps don’t break for another month or so. Late June/early July is really the only dead spot on the NFL calendar.

Usually around this time, you start to see various lists pop up. Pro Football Focus recently released theirs. Last week, CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco released his. And the NFL Top 100 should be released any time now.

Well, Revenge of the Birds didn’t want to miss out on the fun. With that in mind, I present the Redbirds 50, my (largely unscientific) ranking of the top 50 Arizona Cardinals players.

In ranking the players, I put a little more weight on past performance, but I also kept each player’s 2019 outlook in mind. Thus, this list isn’t meant to be entirely reflective nor predictive, but a little bit of both, reflecting where the roster stands right now. Note that salary and relative positional depth were not considered at all. The nebulous “intangibles” were considered but were not necessarily a major factor.

We’ll start today with the #41-50 players, with the rest of the rankings to be released in similar batches of 10 over the next couple weeks. Today’s group is largely composed of special teamers and defensive depth (only two offensive players appear).

But before we get to them, here are the players on the current roster who were considered but wound up missing the cut. Some of these guys will very likely make the final 53-man roster due to the aforementioned salary concerns and/or positional depth needs.

Just Missed the Cut

Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Vontarrius Dora, Colby Gossett, D.J. Foster, T.J. Logan, Will Holden, Charles Kanoff, Joshua Miles, Rees Odhiambo, Jonathan Owens, Trent Sherfield, Pita Taumoepenu, Vincent Valentine, Jeremy Vujnovich, Joe Walker, Kevin White, Brandon Williams, Chad Williams, Caleb Wilson

(Anyone else is too unknown or too far down the depth chart to be considered.)

#50: LS Aaron Brewer

2018 Stats: 16 games, 1 solo tackle

Projected 2019 Role: Long snapper

2019 Outlook: We’ll start the list with perhaps the most unheralded position on the roster: the long snapper. Brewer has been steady since joining the team in 2016, helping to stabilize a special teams unit that came into its own under Jeff Rogers in 2018 (#11 in special teams DVOA) after years of poor play under Amos Jones. Brewer figures to solid again in 2019 snapping to Andy Lee and Zane Gonzalez.

#49: DE Michael Dogbe

2018 Stats: N/A (rookie)

Projected 2019 Role: Backup defensive end

2019 Outlook: As a 7th-round pick, Dogbe has an uphill battle to even make the team, but his chances are good given the lack of depth along the defensive line. Dogbe has the physical traits and makeup to eventually make an impact. He’s an intriguing prospect who will be looking to make a name for himself during training camp and the preseason with the hope of earning some regular season snaps sooner rather than later.

#48: OLB Cameron Malveaux

2018 Stats: 4 games, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 blocked punt

Projected 2019 Role: Backup pass rusher, special teams player

2019 Outlook: Malveaux was a late-season signing from the Miami Dolphins practice squad in 2018, but he showed a knack for playmaking in his limited time in a Cardinals uniform (see the sack and blocked punt). If he makes the roster in 2019, he should continue to contribute on special teams but could also see some time as a situational pass rusher, as there is precious little depth behind Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs.

#47: S Rudy Ford

2018 Stats: 16 games, 1 start, 9 tackles

Projected 2019 Role: Backup safety, key special teams player

2019 Outlook: Ford didn’t play a ton on defense in 2018—just 62 snaps—but he did play 2/3 of the special teams snaps. If he makes the 53-man roster in 2019 (no guarantee), he could see an uptick in both of those numbers with the thinner depth chart at safety and some other special teams regulars gone or likely to be (Derrick Coleman, Brandon Williams, Joe Walker). The former 6th-round draft pick is still just 24 years old and will provide depth at safety and speed on kick/punt coverage.

#46: C Lamont Gaillard

2018 Stats: N/A (rookie)

Projected 2019 Role: Backup center/guard

2019 Outlook: Gaillard, the undersized 6th-round rookie, is a player the team likes a lot, and he seems to have the heart and feistiness to eventually overcome his physical limitations. He’s buried a bit on the depth chart right now, but Gaillard could make some noise with a strong camp/preseason. Of everyone in this 41-50 grouping, Gaillard probably has the highest ceiling—even if he doesn’t get a chance to show it this year.

#45: TE Maxx Williams

2018 Stats: 13 games, 6 starts, 16 receptions, 143 yards, 1 TD (with Baltimore)

Projected 2019 Role: Backup tight end

2019 Outlook: Williams is a former 2nd-round pick who has shown talent but hasn’t been able to stay on the field (22 missed games in 4 seasons). But he’s known as a strong blocker and is rated well by analytics (71.6 PFF grade last season). Tight end has long been a weak spot for the Cardinals, but Williams looks like he’ll be an asset in jumbo/goal line sets at the very least (assuming he makes the roster). Perhaps Kingsbury can unlock his potential?

#44: LB Dennis Gardeck

2018 Stats: 16 games, 7 tackles, 1 blocked punt return TD

Projected 2019 Role: Backup linebacker, key special teams player

2019 Outlook: Gardeck didn’t log any regular-season snaps on defense last year, but led the team by playing almost 90% of the special teams snaps. You may also remember his touchdown against the Seahawks. He’ll again be a core special teamer in 2019, but could also see the field on defense, as the depth chart behind starters Jordan Hicks and Haason Reddick is wide open. “The Barbarian” will be one to keep an eye on in the preseason.

#43: LB Tanner Vallejo

2018 Stats: 13 games, 1 start, 27 tackles, 1 forced fumble (with Cleveland)

Projected 2019 Role: Backup linebacker, key special teams player

2019 Outlook: Vallejo, claimed on waivers just two days after the Super Bowl, was a reserve linebacker and special teams contributor for the Cleveland Browns in 2018. A former 6th-round pick of the Bills, Vallejo figures to play a similar role for the Cardinals in 2019. He’ll compete with Gardeck and the next guy on the list for backup ILB snaps while doing the dirty work on special teams.

#42: LB Zeke Turner

2018 Stats: 13 games, 1 start, 16 tackles

Projected 2019 Role: Backup linebacker, key special teams player

2019 Outlook: Turner was a special teams demon in 2018, finishing tied for second in the league in special teams tackles with 15. He should continue in that role in 2019 and should also be one of the first guys to get a crack at backing up Hicks and Reddick. I wouldn’t count on him ever becoming an impact defensive player, but players like Turner have plenty of value and can carve out solid careers. Could he one day make the Pro Bowl as a special teams ace?

#41: DE Robert Nkemdiche

2018 Stats: 10 games, 6 starts, 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Projected 2019 Role: Rotational defensive end (will begin season on PUP list)

2019 Outlook: Nkemdiche was one of the hardest players to rank on the entire roster—for obvious reasons. He’s still recovering from last season’s ACL tear, and it’s possible he gets released before he comes back. Hell, there’s a chance he gets released before this article is published Monday morning. But if the question is whether Diche is one of the 50 best players on this roster (as of now), the answer has to be “Yes.” If he gets healthy, and if he’s still a Cardinal when he does—both huge ifs—then we can absolutely use him. So, for now, I’ll slot him above the late-round rookies and special teamers.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up the first installment of the Redbirds 50. Later this week, we’ll check in with a number of offensive backups in #31-40. We’ll begin to get into the starters in #21-30 either at the end of the week or early next week.

Care to weigh in, Birdgang? Any thoughts on this initial batch of players? Anyone that missed the cut that you think should have made the top 50? Any predictions for higher up the list? Let’s rank our Redbirds in the comments!