TEMPE, Ariz. – The only game less meaningful than a preseason game is the fourth preseason game — unless, of course, you’re a player trying to make a roster.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday that there are probably four or five roster spots still available as the Cards prepare to trim their roster to 53 — likely on Friday.
Among those potential spots are the final tight end, receiver, cornerback, safety and offensive lineman. Thursday’s game in Denver against the Broncos might also be important to hopeful third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley and injury-prone running back Ryan Williams, who figures to get plenty of reps.
But it’s important to remember that the 53-man roster the Cardinals settle on this week won’t necessarily be the final roster. With other teams making cuts, the Cardinals might identify somebody they believe can help them, so the bottom of the roster guys shouldn’t go out and buy a Rolex just yet.
“There will be two or three guys where we’ll say, ‘Look, you’re here, but it could be a practice squad spot by Thursday,’ ” Arians said.
Projecting the roster is always difficult because current injuries may factor into the decisions, and we don’t always know the extent of those injuries. It’s also difficult to know whether the coaching staff values one position over another, and Arians has made it plain he will keep extra guys at one position if they are better than the borderline guys at another position.
With that as backdrop, we take our stab at the 53-man roster today.
QUARTERBACK (3): Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley. Arians has intimated in the past that he could just keep two QBs. He’s been on teams that did just that. But we see it as too much of a risk. First, the offensive line just lost Jonathan Cooper, and protection has been an issue in past seasons. Lindley also knows the system better than anyone the Cards could pick up off the street.
RUNNING BACKS (5): Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. Williams is too tantalizing to cut bait just yet. However, if he struggles against Denver or suffers another injury — or if the Cards can milk a late-round draft pick out of another team — we could see him heading elsewhere.
TIGHT ENDS (5): Rob Housler, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Kory Sperry and D.C. Jefferson. Arians’ offense sometimes uses three tight ends, and remember, this offense does not use a fullback. Housler’s high-ankle sprain is enough reason to keep five tight ends for now. Arians hinted as much when asked Tuesday if Housler’s status would impact his roster approach at that position. That’s good news for Jeff King, who hasn’t shown enough due to a knee injury.
RECEIVERS (5): Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Jaron Brown and Kerry Taylor. Note: Patrick Peterson’s involvement in the offense gives the Cards flexibility here.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Levi Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, Eric Winston, Paul Fanaika, Nate Potter, Bobby Massie and Chilo Rachal. Notable omission: Earl Watford (If cut, the 2013 fourth-round pick is a possibility for the practice squad, but we’re not sure he’d clear waivers to make it there and we’re not sure the Cards will give up on a fourth-round pick so quickly).
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Ronald Talley, Frostee Rucker, David Carter.
LINEBACKERS (9): Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington, Lorenzo Alexander, John Abraham, Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, Kevin Minter, Reggie Walker and Alex Okafor. Note: Daryl Washington won’t count against the 53-man roster until he returns from his four-game suspension, necessitating a corresponding roster move.
Notable omission: Tony Jefferson has made a lot of plays in the preseason and camp. It’s possible he could unseat Amaya.
CORNERBACKS (5): Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Antoine Cason, Javier Arenas, Justin Bethel. Note: Mathieu’s ability to play corner gives the Cards some flexibility here. Notable omission: Jamell Fleming (2012 third-round pick).
SPECIALISTS(3): PK Jay Feely, P Dave Zastudil, LS Mike Leach