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Deep dive analysis of Arizona Cardinals’ initial 52 man roster

Which players are still on board and why?

Syndication: Arizona Republic Mingson Lau/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

In light of GM Monti Ossenfort’s and Jonathan Gannon’s cutdown decisions yesterday —- let’s take a close look at the initial 52 man roster to see which players are keepers moving forward and which ones are perhaps still vulnerable to being cut —-in favor of the team adding players today via waiver claims or trades.

QB (2)

  • Clayton Tune
  • Josh Dobbs

Yesterday started with a bang (or a whimper, if you prefer) when the Cardinals announced that Kyler Murray will remain on the PUP list and that they have released Colt McCoy, the presumed QB1 during Kyler’s absence.

For some, both decisions regarding Kyler and Colt were a surprise. For others, such as myself, the Cardinals urgent trading of a 5th round pick for QB Joshua Dobbs was the writing on the wall.

From August 24th:

Why was Colt McCoy retained this off-season, especially when two of Drew Petzing's QBs in Cleveland last year were available free agents? Both Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs.

Not only was Colt McCoy retained, we learned that the coaches were loath to give 1st Team reps to Clayton Tune or David Blough or Jeff Driskel. Despite JG’s insistence that “all positions are open to competition” Colt McCoy was being as protected from the other QBs on the roster —- as D.J. Humphries was from having to compete with Josh Jones.

What a colossal waste of time and preparation this was from Bidwill, Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon.

While all of us could see how limited Colt McCoy was in trying to run the offense —- and many of use still cannot comprehend why the Cardinals condoned Colt McCoy’s decision to perform color commentaries for USFL games during the team’s OTAs —- there were things wrong with Colt from the get-go —- most conspicuously his arm issues.

Colt’s release created a national media firestorm in which several pundits like Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio accused the Cardinals of overtly “tanking” —- the irony is it is pretty difficult to win games in the NFL, particularly if your starting QB is a 37 year old career backup coming off a season of elbow problems and another potentially career-ending concussion.

What about QB3?

Gambo was reportting yesterday that he’s hearing the Cardinals want to sign Jeff Driskel to the practice squad. OK, but what about David Blough, who was “The Closer” for both of the Cardinals’ 18-17 preseason wins over the Broncos and Vikings? Why choose Driskel, who has been dealing with his own injuries, over Blough?

And here’s another possible option that could come gift-wrapped because of the Patriots’ decision that they no longer want Bailey Zappe to perpetuate an on-going competition with Mac Jones that has created an emotional rift between Patriots’ fans.

Colt McCoy is being mentioned here in New England as a strong option to sgn with the Patriots —- seeing as the only QB on their roster this morning is Mac Jones. Imagine swapping Colt McCoy for Bailey Zappe?

As long as the Bears and Texans don’t claim Zappe, Bailey Zappe could be a Cardinal as early as this afternoon.

I am shocked that the Patriots did not find a way to trade Zappe. He won 2 games for them as a rookie last year, both in impressive fashion.

RB (3)

  • James Conner
  • Keoantay Ingram
  • Emari Demercado

The Arizona media seemed shocked that the Cardinals released veteran RB Corey Clement. Kudos to Clement for fighting his tail off to make the team. But, Emari Demercado has a certain “it’ factor and could be primed to take over the kickoff returner job.

However, a few of the young RBs who were released yesterday might warrant waiver claims from the Cardinals. For example, Darrynton Evans was Monti Ossenfort’s 3rd round pick with the Titans in 2020..

What's weird about Evans’ story is that he nearly missed the Bills’ last preseason game in Chicago, having missed the team plane and having to book at last-minute charter flight for himself. But, it was all worth his while for putting this play on tape for potential waiver wire suitors. His chances to make the Bills’ roster were pretty slim.

Developing Story on James Conner?

If this trade happen sooner, rather than later, then the “tanking” yammerings will get even more deafening.

James Conner is worthy of being one of the team’s captains and he’s clearly the team’s bell cow RB —- for a new offense that is designed to rely heavily on the running game.

WR (6)

  • Marquise Brown
  • Rondale Moore
  • Zach Pascal
  • Michael Wilson
  • Greg Dortch
  • Daniel Arias

The surprise here is that the coaches elected to keep 6 WRs. Daniel Arias is very deserving, not only for coming up with what JG calls “explosion plays” on offense, but for providing superior special teams’ ability.

One could imagine that the coaches are hoping that Davion Davis and Kaden Davis will pass through waivers and be eager to join the Cardinals PS. Andre Baccellia had a good preseason as well. As did Brian Cobbs.

TE (4)

  • Zach Ertz
  • Trey McBride
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Blake Whiteheart

The coaches tabbed Blake Whitehead over Noah Togiai, as Whitehead was considerably more productive in the games and has developed a good chemistry with Clayton Tune.

If the Cardinals have identified a blocking TE whom they intend to put a waiver wire claim on, then it’s possible that they could release Geoff Swaim, particularly if they do not want to guarantee his veteran salary come Week 1, as the team appears to be doing once again with LS Aaron Brewer.

OL (8)

  • D.J. Humphries
  • Elijah Wilkinson
  • Hjalte Froholdt
  • Will Hernandez
  • Paris Johnson Jr.
  • Dennis Daley
  • Marquise Haynes
  • Kelvin Beachum

The toughest injury-related news of the day was hearing that Jon Gaines II is lost for the season due to the knee injury he suffered versus the Vikings.

One could guess that the coaches are hoping for Hayden Howerton and/or Lecitus Smith to clear waivers, because currently there is not a C2 on the roster. Tough too that Pat Elflein was placed on the season-ending IR.

The coaches have a plan which, according to Gambo, involves waiver wire claims on the OL today to address their needs on the interior at center and guard.

Perhaps the perfect fit?

T/G/C Michael Dunn 6-5, 315, 4, Maryland

Michael Dunn played in 8 games with two starts for the Browns last year at tackle before he was sidelined with a back injury. His pass blocking grade at tackle last year was 79.5 while his run blocking grade was 61.5.

He know Drew Petzing’s offense and has been teammates with Hjalte Froholdt and Josh Dobbs.

This preseason, Dunn had the highest grade of any guard for the Browns at 77.8, which was the 3rd highest grade on the Brown’s offense for players who took more than 100 snaps.

DL (7)

  • L.J. Collier
  • Leki Fotu
  • Jonathan Ledbetter
  • Kevin Strong
  • Carlos Watkins
  • Dante Stills
  • Ben Stille

The biggest disappointment this off-season was the demise of former 4th round pick Rashard Lawrence.

Was Rashard forcing his way out? Or, because of injuries, has he simply hit a wall?

The answer could well be coming today, if a team like the Texans or Broncos claim him off waivers.

Ben Stille made a great case for himself as a disruptor on defense, but also, and perhaps most significantly, as a go-to special teamer. Jeff Rodgers likely pounded on the table for him.

Edge (7)

  • Zaven Collins
  • Dennis Gardeck
  • Cameron Thomas
  • Victor Dimukeje
  • Myjai Sanders
  • B.J. Ojulari
  • Jesse Luketa

A number of Cardinals pundits were leaving Jesse Luketa off their 53 man projections, but, JG, Nick Rallis and Jeff Rodgers, all along, having been raving about him —- plus Luketa has now curried the favor of Drew Petzing as a lead blocking (and pass catching?!) fullback.

Myjai Sanders was on a number of pundits’ bubbles, but he’s been ;limited by his hand injury. If it is still limiting him, the coaches may ask him to go on the IR after Week 1. They didn’t want to put him on the IR this week, because that would have been season-ending.

Yet, things may be looking up for Myjai:

Gotta be honest about hoping to see Zach McCould make this roster, after his sensational 3 sack performance versus the Vikings.

Linebackers (5)

  • Kyzir White
  • Krys Barnes
  • Josh Woods
  • Ezekiel Turner
  • Owen Pappoe

Some had been favoring ASU alum Kyle Soelle to make the roster, but Barnes, Woods and Pappoe are in the mix to start and Zeke Truner is one of Jeff Rodgers’ STs aces. Soelle is likely to draw PS interest from a few teams. If he doesn’t get claimed, will he choose to stay with the Cardinals?

CB (5)

  • Marco Wilson
  • Antonio Hamilton Sr.
  • Kei’Trel Clark
  • Christian Matthew
  • Kris Boyd

Kei’Trel Clark turned in an outstanding training camp and preseason. This kid plays super hard and tenaciously.

Gambo hasheard that Monti is likely to put in a couple of CB claims, which could affect Christian Matthew’s and Kris Boyd’s roster statuses. Matthews plays a decent brand of “off the ball” pass coverage, but he’s got a long way to go with his press coverage and his tackling. Boyd is a superb STs player, but does not appear to be in the mix to be a regular contributor on defense. Maybe that changes by necessity?

Tough that 3rd round pick CB Garrett Williams has not bene able to come off the NFI list. Hard to cope with Williams being lost for the entire preseason, given the tremendous achievements of the young CBs around the league, particularly tha stellar performance of the Eagles’ undrafted rookie Eli Ricks from Alabama —- 89.8 in 109 snaps, giving up 6 catches on 15 targets (40%) for 90 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception, a pick six.

Safety (3)

  • Budda Baker
  • Jalen Thompson
  • Jovante Moffatt

It is quite possible that the Cardinals will try to claim two safeties.

The safety who may makes the most sense is K’Von Wallace, JG’sformer starter in PHI.

Walace is a great STs player:

But, most of all, he’s good, aggressive safety, both in coverage and in tackling (his pre-season grade was 66.2, which for player taking over 100 snaps was 2nd highest on the Eagles’ defense.

Wouldn’t it be a cosmic irony if the Cardinals’ replacement for Isaiah Simmons was his outstanding college teammate at Clemson, K’Von Wallace?

ST (2)

  • Matt Prater
  • Nolan Cooney

Matt Prater struggled with consistency this preseason. He now has a new holder in Nolan Cooney and his long-time snapper, Aaron Brewer, was just released.

The Cardinals have a plan at LS. The clarity off that plan should emerge today at some point. They have purposely left this roster spot open.

One of the brightest manifestations of the preseason was the stellar play of punter Nolan Cooney:

  • Punt Average: 49.2
  • Punt net average: 47.1
  • 7 of his 10 punts were downed inside the opponents’ 20 yard line

Perhaps The Biggest Winner of the Day?

Could he be Jeff Rodgers?

Preseason Leaders on Special Teams (per PFF):

  1. Los Angeles Chargers —- 90.3
  2. Arizona Cardinals —- 90.1
  3. Detroit Lions —-88.5

Red Rain Podcast Thursday (tomorrow):

  • Analysis of the Cardinals’ waiver wire claims and any other moves the team makes.
  • Discussion of Mike Florio’s apparent vendetta against the Cardinals —- and his moot apology yesterday to Cardinals fans..
  • Discussion of former NFL GM Mike Lombardi’s prediction about Kyler Murray.
  • An argument as to why Clayton Tune and Joshua Dobbs actually have an equal chance to win the starting job Week 1.
  • Making an argument for whom the MVP (most valuable person) within the Cardinals organization is at this point in time.

Please feel free to post any comments and/or questions with regard to any of the topics listed here and to anything related to today’s 52 man roster..

I will make an effort to cite your comments and to answer your questions on the podcast.

What are your thoughts aboutthe roster decisions the Cardinals have made thus far?