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Stopping By Cardinals’ 2021 Roster on a Sunny Morning

NFL: JUL 30 Arizona Cardinals Training Camp Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In my opinion, the 2021 Arizona Cardinals’ depth chart is, to quote Robert Frost, “lovely, dark and deep.”

OFFENSE

QB:

1-Kyler Murray —- ranked #39 in NFL’s Top 100 heading into 3rd season.

12-Colt McCoy —- brings experience and a calming presence.

15-Chris Streveler —- bolstered by strong pre-season performance.

RB:

2-Chase Edmonds —- poised for breakout season in year four.

6-James Conner —- brings a power back dimension, particularly for short yardage situations.

29-Jonathan Ward —- coaches appreciate his versatility and STs contributions.

26-Eno Benjamin —- confirmed his second straight roster spot with big pre-season.

TE:

87-Maxx Williams —- aims to prove he’s much more than a great blocker.

81-Darrell Daniels —- the second TE in 12 personnel and STs contributor.

86-Demetrius Harris —- brings value as big target receiver.

43-Ross Travis* —- versus KC hauled in picture perfect slot fade TD.

80-Bernhard Seikovitz* —- Bern Baby Bern for German Gronk.

X WR:

10-DeAndre Hopkins —- ranked #8 in NFL Top 100 heading into second year with Cardinals.

84-Antoine Wesley —- shined in the X WR spot at Texas Tech with length, go-route and 50/50 ability.

89-Josh Doctson* —- former 1st round pick brings playmaking ability.

W WR:

18-A.J. Green —- future Hall of Famer seeking a renaissance in Arizona.

17-Andy Isabella —- coaches plan to use his speed to stretch defenses, vertically and diagonally.

82-Andre Baccellia* —- another speedy field stretcher.

Z WR:

13-Christian Kirk —- switches to slot in year four, hoping to reclaim Aggie-esque moxie.

4-Rondale Moore —- blistering fast RAC dynamo.

83-Greg Dortch* —- showed promise at slot and at punt returner during pre-season.

LT:

74-D.J. Humphries —- looking to build on 2020 success.

66-Josh Miles —- Coach Kugler lauds his improvement.

LG:

67-Justin Pugh —- like D.J., J.P. is coming off best season in Arizona.

64-Sean Harlow*—- coming off a solid pre-season at LG.

C:

61-Rodney Hudson —- brings star power to the pivot.

73-Max Garcia —- scrappy veteran whom coaches appreciate.

72-Michal Menet* —- Coach Kugler likes his tenacity, but needs time to develop the Nittany Lion.

RG:

71-Justin Murray —- graded well as pass protector in 2020, needs to improve run blocking.

79-Josh Jones —- graded well in pre-season at RG, could win starting bid.

65-Brian Winters —- veteran run paver who needs a bounce back year in pass pro.

RT:

68-Kelvin Beachum —- steady and highly focused veteran.

79-Josh Jones —- has versatility to play LT, LG, RG, RT, blocking TE.

60-Koda Martin* —- fits most naturally at RT, but can play G as well.

DEFENSE

34 DT:

95-Leki Fotu —- imposing size and nifty agility.

91-Michael Dogbe —- bigger, stronger hit-and-wrap tackler.

92-Jeremiah Ledbetter* —- contributed in Bucs’ rotation in 2020.

34 NT:

90-Rashard Lawrence —- rigorous off-season could facilitate 2nd year productivity.

98-Corey Peters —- veteran stalwart looks to return to form after 2020 knee injury.

34 DE:

99-J.J. Watt —- ranked #66 in 2021 Top 100 who aims to dominate inside and outside.

94-Zach Allen —- coming off superb last half of 2020 season, earning top tackling grade, could actually start opposite Watt as a 1 technique penetrator.

93-Jonathan Ledbetter* —- former GA Bulldog can mix it up inside and outside at 6-4, 280.

SAM OLB:

44-Markus Golden —- brings high energy and consistent edge pressure.

42-Devon Kennard —- sets the edge very well in run defense, has sneaky rush ability.

49-Kylie Fitts —- like DK, sets edge well and has a modicum of edge rush ability.

48-Ron’Dell Carter —- at 6-3, 269, Carter led Cowboys this pre-season with 11 QB pressures and 1 sack. Like Golden and Jones, he needs to improve his tackling techniques.

MIKE ILB:

25-Zaven Collins —- brings superb athleticism, physicality and suddenness to the position.

58-Jordan Hicks —- plays at his best when running downhill to ball and on run/pass blitzes.

WILL ILB:

9-Isaiah Simmons —- perhaps the most physically gifted all-around defender the Cardinals have ever drafted.

51-Tanner Vallejo —- has very good instincts as run stuffer and good feet in coverage.

47-Ezekiel Turner —- special teams ace who is a strong, physical tackler and heckuva fake punt receiver.

BANDIT OLB:

55-Chandler Jones —- wants to return to Pro Bowl form in a big-time way after spending 11 games on IR in 2020 due to torn bicep.

45-Dennis Gardeck —- special teams captain who is lightning quick and Uber-productive off the edge.

52-Victor Dimukeje —- projects to be a good physical presence and solid producer on the edge. Has good, solid tackling technique.

LCB:

7-Byron Murphy —- has the urge and skill to dominate in all aspects of the position.

27-Luq Barcoo —- hopes to start picking off passes in NFL like the 9 he picked his last season at San Diego St.

32-Tay Gowan —- has the length, strength and speed to emerge as a superb press corner.

RCB:

23-Robert Alford —- he’s excited to show that he can still play at a very high level after missing two seasons to freakish training camp injuries.

24-Rasul Douglas* —- tough, physical corner who, with Malcolm Butler’s retirement, could be in the right place at the right time.

SCB:

20-Marco Wilson —- can play inside and outside and pester the heck out of WRs.

33-Antonio Hamilton* —- has the quick feet and mirror skills to perform in the slot.

39-Jace Whittaker* —- was pesky in coverage this pre-season, needs to turn head quicker.

SS:

34-Jalen Thompson —- wants to make a big name for himself in tandem with Budda.

22-Deionte Thompson —- has steadily improved as valuable sup package safety.

31-Chris Banjo* —- may have made best tackle of pre-season in KC game, can play in box or centerfield.

FS:

3-Budda Baker —- ranked #19 in 2021 NFL Top 100 and aims to be top 5.

28-Charles Washington —- superb gunner on STs.

38-James Wiggins*—- showed potential star power as gunner and could develop as a box and/or deep safety.

SPECIALiSTS:

K:

5-Matt Prater —- has the big leg and confidence the Cardinals want.

P:

14-Andy Lee —- still thriving as punter and holder.

LS:

46-Aaron Brewer —- highly reliable.

Steve Keim said that the Cardinals’ top priority this off-season was to improve the veteran leadership and the team’s physicality. With the additions of J.J. Watt, Rodney Hudson, A.J. Green, James Conner and Matt Prater, the Cardinals strongly believe they have hit home runs.

Another couple of key improvements the Cardinals have made to their roster is adding speed on offense with Rondale Moore and placing strong emphasis on tackling from the cornerback position.

In my opinion, this Cardinals roster is talented, deeper than normal and very well balanced. What we need to find out, starting this Sunday versus the Titans in Tennessee, is how quickly the Cardinals can galvanize and cohere their talent in all three phases. That’s the challenge that every one of the 32 NFL teams face each year. Paper is one thing. Production is another.

Which is why, to extend the opening allusion to the Robert Frost poem —- while the Cardinals’ roster may be “lovely, dark and deep —- the Cardinals have “promises to keep” —- and “miles to go before they sleep” —- “and miles to go before they sleep”.