You needed a roster to identify the players on the field for Thursday’s preseason finale between the Cardinals and Broncos in Denver. Many of those players are hoping they’ll still be on the roster when teams cut down to 53 players this weekend.
The Cardinals are expected to announce those cuts Friday afternoon, so here’s a look at the bubble boys in their final quest to make the trek to St. Louis for the season opener on Sept. 8.
Running back Ryan Williams: He figured to get a decent workload in this game, and he did. Although Williams managed just 25 yards on nine carries for a 2.8-yard average, he ran hard between the tackles, he showed quickness, he absorbed a big hit from Broncos safety and former Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden and he used second effort to score on a 1-yard TD run. Williams has a big upside and now apparently has his health as well. Coach Bruce Arians confirmed to reporters after the game that he will be among the final 53 players. Will it last, or will the Cards attempt to trade him as has been speculated recently?
Quarterback Ryan Lindley: Arians had hinted earlier in camp that he might just keep two QBs, but we don’t think he will pull the trigger on this one. The Cardinals’ protection has been too suspect the past two years to count on only needing a couple of QBs. Lindley knows the system and played well on Thursday, completing 17 of 29 passes for 214 yards with two TDs and a 104.7 passer rating in a 32-24 win. One of those TDs came on a perfectly thrown, 55-yard strike to Jaron Brown. Which brings us to …
The fourth and fifth receivers: Brown (four catches, 71 yards, TD), Charles Hawkins (three catches, 45 yards), Kerry Taylor (four catches, 32 yards) and Mike Thomas (two catches, 20 yards, TD) all made a case for one of probably only two available spots. With Brown’s speed and the way he has played this preseason, we expect he’ll fill the deep-threat bill and chase Thomas. We also think Taylor’s possession-type game will land him a spot.
Strong safety: The battle for the final spot came down to Jonathon Amaya and Tony Jefferson. Amaya has been listed as Yeremiah Bell’s backup but Jefferson keeps making plays. He had five tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on Thursday. Amaya had two tackles. This choice will be tough.
Cornerback: It wasn’t a great night for Antoine Cason or Justin Bethel, who got beat on successive plays — Cason for a TD — but Bethel also showed that tantalizing speed when he closed on a ball to get a pass breakup after getting beaten. Jamell Fleming, the team’s 2012 third-round pick, played but didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Tight end: Arians told reporters after the game that veteran Jeff King will have surgery on his surgically repaired knee, which continues to experience swelling. That likely sews up the four tight end spots for Rob Housler, Jim Dray, Kory Sperry and rookie D.C. Jefferson, who’s had a hit-and-miss preseason.
Offensive line: The starters didn’t play, so this was all about deciding if Nate Potter, Bobby Massie, Earl Watford and Chilo Rachal all make the roster in Jonathan Cooper’s absence. Watford hasn’t impressed and looks very raw, but the Cards used a fourth-round pick on him, so they won’t likely want to give up on him so quickly, and we’re not sure he could clear waivers to make it to the practice squad.