NFL teams must cut their rosters down to 53 players by August 29. That means that Saturday’s final preseason game against the Vikings will be the final chance for many Arizona Cardinals players on the roster bubble to make a final impression on Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort.
By my back-of-the-envelope math, there are 46 roster spots spoken for (“locks”), which means that the rest of the players on the current roster are fighting for just 7 spots. Let’s find out who these bubble players are and see who stands the best chance of making the final 53-man, starting with the offense.
Locks (2): Colt McCoy, Clayton Tune
PUP (1): Kyler Murray
Bubble (1): David Blough
They way things look right now, McCoy will be the Week 1 starter and Tune will be his backup. There’s no real scenario where Tune sees many, if any, snaps in the first few weeks, much to the chagrin of many fans. McCoy is a proven commodity and someone the team feels comfortable starting in Kyler’s stead, regardless of what he did or didn’t do in the preseason. (Remember: It’s the preseason.) The only wrinkle at the QB position is Kyler’s health. If he surprises everyone and is activated of the PUP before the cutdown day, he’ll return to the top of the depth chart and Blough is practice squad–bound. If not, the team may consider keeping Blough as a third, emergency QB.
Week 3 Outlook: Other than injuries, nothing that happens on the field on Saturday will impact the 53-man roster as far as the QB position is concerned.
Prediction (2): McCoy and Tune (with Kyler on the PUP). The team will go with just two QBs knowing they can stash Blough or Jeff Driskel on the practice squad.
Locks (2): James Conner, Keaontay Ingram
Bubble (3): Corey Clement, Emeri Demercado, Ty’Son Williams
If there was any doubt about who the #2 RB on this team was, Ingram put those to rest against the Chiefs last weekend. He was one of the few bright spots on the team in the lopsided loss. But what the team does behind him and Conner is a complete mystery right now. Clement is listed third on the depth chart, but he looked sluggish against the Broncos and saw only garbage-time duty against the Chiefs. Demercado got another extended look last weekend but failed to impress running the ball (8 carries for just 12 yards, although he did chip in 3-22 through the air). I thought Williams looked pretty spry in the first preseason game, but he didn’t even play last week. Head scratching usage.
Week 3 Outlook: One of Clement, Demercado, and Williams will be the odd man out. Clement has experience, Demercado has gotten a long look this preseason, and Williams has flashed here and there. It might very well come down to a big play or two on Saturday.
Prediction (4): Conner, Ingram, Demercado, Williams. Clement gets handed his walking papers as the team goes younger and cheaper at backup RB.
Locks (5): Hollywood Brown, Rondale Moore, Zach Pascal, Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch
Bubble (2): Daniel Arias, Andre Baccellia
I’m not sure there’s going to be a ton of drama at this position. The top five guys are locks and I doubt the team keeps six WRs, especially knowing Drew Petzing was to feature RBs and TEs more. Arias and Baccellia have played well for the most part this preseason, but not well enough to bump one of the top five or force the team to keep them as a sixth WR.
Week 3 Outlook: Last chance for Arias and Baccellia. One of them would need to have a HUGE game to make any kind of impact on the 53-man.
Prediction (5): Brown, Moore, Pascal, Wilson, Dortch. If anything unexpected happens, I suspect it’d be at Pascal’s expense. He’s no special talent and isn’t an intriguing rookie like Wilson and doesn’t contribute in the return game like Dortch.
Locks (2): Zach Ertz, Trey McBride
Bubble (4): Geoff Swaim, Noah Togiai, Blake Whiteheart
I think the team will keep four TEs, and I suspect veterans Swaim and Togiai are fighting for one spot between them. The team has given Whiteheart a ton of snaps this preseason and he chips in on special teams as well. He might very well be snatched up by another team if they try to stash him on the practice squad. It’s worth noting that Swaim hasn’t played much in either preseason game and has only been with the team for about a month.
Week 3 Outlook: I really think this week will be about Swaim vs. Togiai at TE. I have no idea what their snap counts will look like, but whoever has the better game likely has the leg up.
Prediction (4): Ertz, McBride, Togiai, Whiteheart. The recently added Swaim finds himself on the outside looking in with the younger Togiai and Whiteheart backing up Ertz and McBride, with Whiteheart one of—if not the—final additions to the 53-man.
Locks (10): D.J. Humphries, Paris Johnson Jr., Elijah Wilkinson, Will Hernandez, Hjalte Froholdt, Josh Jones, Kelvin Beachum, Dennis Daley, Jon Gaines II, Marquis Hayes
Bubble (1): Pat Elflein
The top ten seems pretty set—two deep at each position and these guys have all been treated like regular season players during the preseason given when and how many snaps they’ve played. The only question is whether the team likes Elflein’s versatility (he can play guard and center) enough to keep him as an eleventh lineman. Depending on his health, of course.
Week 3 Outlook: Not much to look out for here. If Elflein suits up and acquits himself well, he might force the team to make a tough decision elsewhere on the roster.
Prediction (10): Humphries, Johnson Jr., Wilkinson, Hernandez, Froholdt, Jones, Beachum, Daley, Gaines II, Hayes. The O-line is deep enough that I don’t think the team needs to keep 11 of them. This is definitely a position to watch out for a late trade, though.
Total: 25 offensive players
Knowing there will be three special teams players on the 53-man, my current predictions have an even 25 offensive and defensive players apiece. You gotta love that symmetry, don’t you?
This piece ended up longer than I thought it’d be, so we’ll stop here for today. We’ll tackle (pun intended) defense/special teams and the 53rd man on Friday. Check back then! Give us your thoughts on the offense in the comments for now.