Background: Aug 12, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley (19) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman
If any of you have tried projecting the Cardinals’ 53 man roster yet, you know how incredibly difficult this task is, especially at this point in the pre-season. Imagine then what it must be like for Steve Keim, Kliff Kingsbury and the coaches.
One thing is for certain —- there are bound to be surprises.
Like seeing that the Cardinals have already cut ties with DT Kingsley Keke, whom many of us thought could add value as an inside pass rusher. However, when one considers how well the Cardinals’ defensive interior lineament played in Cincinnati, it would seem clear that the coaches were no longer as high on Keke’s chances to make the roster.
Note: Heading into this week’s projection, there are three offensive players who could very well start the season on the IR: TE Maxx Williams, G/T Justin Murray and WR Antoine Wesley. Therefore, we are going to designate them as such, until there is clear evidence that they are 100% ready to play. Plus, WR DeAndre Hopkins won’t count on the roster until Week 7.
QB (3): Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley
Kliff likes to keep three QBs and after McSorley’s 163 yard, 1 TD passing performance versus the Bengals, it appears that in addition to Kyler and Colt, he has a strong command of the offense. That kind of a command takes time, which is why it would be too risky to waive the 4th year Nittany Lion. Plus, the coaches have to love his mobility in running the scout team.
Hey fans, what do you think the team should do with QB3 Trace McSorely?— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) August 13, 2022
RB (4): James Conner, Darrel Williams, Jonathan Ward, Keaontay Ingram
In terms of sheer talent, Keaontay Ingram is #2 on this list, behind James Conner.
RB Deaontay Ingram has a tremendous blend of flexible feet and finishing power. He should have been a top 100 pick.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) August 13, 2022
After waiting two whole rounds and almost 100 picks on Day 3 of the NFL Draft to make their first of 5 selections, the Cardinals jumped on Ingram because he was #1 on their draft board. Kliff expressed high praise for Ingram following the Red White Practice and Ingram followed that up with an impressive performance versus the Bengals.
The Cardinals may have added a Day 3 steal at RB in Keaontay Ingram (6-0, 221) of USC via Texas the way the Patriots did last year with Rhamondre Stevenson (6-0, 230) of Oklahoma.
Jonathan Ward gets the nod over Eno Benjamin because of his versatility and value on special teams.
There is a good chance that Eno will be able to pass through waivers and be re-signed to the practice squad where the team can activate him on game days when needed. As pleased as the Cardinals’ are with Eno’s development, the fact that they signed James Conner to a long-term deal, drafted Keaontay Ingram and then opted to sign the nifty veteran change-of-pace RB Darrel Williams was a clear indication that they were looking for upgrades at the position.
TE (3); Zach Ertz, Stephen Anderson, Trey McBride
Maxx Williams will join this talented trio when he is back to full strength. Kliff is planning to use Ertz and McBride at both the Y and X receiver spots and is keen on tapping into Anderson’s Swiss Army knife assortment of talents as a blocker and receiver.
WR (5): Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, Marquise Brown, Andy Isabella, Greg Dortch.
Rondale Moore is primed to take his game to new heights. A.J. Green is having a superb camp. Hollywood Brown has yet to practice with any regularity, which, in addition to his regrettable speeding violation, could be a cause for concern.
When the Cardinals get Brown back to practice on a regular basis, no other WR might benefit more from Brown’s speed than Andy Isabella. With the added speed element that Moore and Brown bring to the offense, chances are that the Cardinals’ QBs will stop under-throwing and under-timing their throws to Isabella.
Trace McSorley showed a degree of sync with Izzy, which helped to produce a 120 yard performance versus the Bengals when one factors in the 60 yards of PI penalties Izzy induced —- plus a blatant third PI was somehow overturned.
Beating defenses over the top isn’t Izzy’s only forte. Two years ago when he was getting more regular playing time, his 64.4 run blocking grade was the highest grade of the WRs. Perhaps you saw the aggressive block Izzy threw for McSorley on his near TD scramble versus the Bengals. Izzy backs down to no one.
Despite getting limited action last season, when Izzy was used on special teams, he delivered, earning a 79.2 PFF grade, which was 3rd highest on the team, behind Demetrius Harris (80.9) and Dennis Gardeck (79.4). Having jet speed guys who can tackle on kick coverage teams is a boon for any special teams coordinator.
Greg Dortch is arguably the most aggressive and dynamic punt returner the Cardinals have had in ages. This pre-season he is generating superb production from the slot, which has not been a surprise to Kliff who revealed that Dortch was torching the Cardinals’ defense on a regular basis each week on the scout team in practice.
It would not be a surprise if Kliff finds a way to keep Victor Bolden, Jr. on the 53 man roster as well. Bolden has a special blend of quick feet, vision and balance.
OL (9): D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Rodney Hudson, Will Hernandez, Kelvin Beachum, Josh Jones, Sean Harlow, Lecitus Smith, Marquis Hayes.
Will Hernandez led the Cardinals’ offensive linemen and all offensive players with a stellar 92.1 PFF grade versus the Bengals. Notice how Kliff ran Jonathan Ward’s two short and goal TDs right up the middle over Sean Harlow and Will Hernandez.
Harlow (76.2) showed why Sean Kugler said earlier in the week that he’d be fine with him as a starter at center, if needed. Harlow (6-4, 303), at his size, power and crisp snapping ability, at times appeared to resemble Kyler’s old teammate Creed Humphrey (6-5, 308).
Josh Jones (79.7) is primed to be the swing tackle on game days. And with Harlow being the swing C/G, the Cardinals would be wise to keep building on the young talents of C/G Lecitus Smith (78.3) and G Marquis Hayes (80.1).
While the Cardinals might be able to find a trade partner for T Joshua Miles (58.1 in 48 snaps), if they wind up waiving him, they will hope he clears waivers so they can re-sign him to the practice squad. But, if Miles is claimed, the Cardinals will likely continue to trust in the steady development of T Koda Martin (84.8 in 24 snaps).
If the Cardinals place Justin Murray on the IR, they could, at some point, tap into his G/T versatility when he returns to full strength. However, if the coaches feel confident in the younger depth they have, then the Cardinals may go ahead and release Murray in order to save $2.3M on the cap, while only having to absorb $333K of his original signing bonus.
Note: This year, because of the Cardinals depth at DI and OLB, it’s very likely that the 53 man roster allotments will be:
- Offense —- 24
- Defense —- 26
- Specialists —- 3
Thus, today’s projection for the offense is 24.
The reason why keeping 5 RBs is not in the least bit feasible for the Cardinals is a 53 man roster decision like. for example, whether to keep RB Eno Benjamin or LB Jesse Luketa.
With the crowded RB unit, Eno would not likely be active on game days.
However, Luketa looks like he is an absolute dynamo on special teams whom the team would want to be active on game days.
In tomorrow’s projection of the defense and specialists, you can expect Jesse Luketa to be one of the keepers.