Except for Fitz, Cardinals feature very young WR group

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The first 53-man roster for Steve Wilks as coach of the Arizona Cardinals includes a very young receiving group.

With the exception, of course, of Larry Fitzgerald, who turned 35 over the weekend.

The other four at the position are rookies Christian Kirk and Trent Sherfield, second-year player Chad Williams and fourth-year pro J.J. Nelson.

The team released five-year NFL veteran Brice Butler and Greg Little, who was trying to get back in the NFL after a three-year absence.

“Experience is good when it’s proven, when guys continue to progress and perform,” Wilks said after the team practiced on Monday. “I don’t get caught up — and I told you guys this from day one — I don’t mind playing rookies. That’s my mindset. I’m going to play the guys that deserve the right to play, and most importantly, we kept the guys that I felt deserved the right to be here.”

Butler was signed in the offseason as a free agent after catching 15 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games for Dallas last season.

Kirk, a second-round pick from Texas A&M, is a dynamic player who figures to return punts and could be the team’s No. 2 receiver. Williams, after a rough rookie season, looked good in the preseason. Nelson has been inconsistent, but is a legitimate deep threat and caught 29 passes for 508 yards and two touchdowns for Arizona last season.

The only real surprise out of the group would be Sherfield, an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt.

“Trent Sherfield, as I talked about him throughout training camp, continued to progress,” Wilks said. “He showed great things each and every day, made plays in the games, which is so important. I just love his approach and how he comes to work every day. He works hard, he’s smart and dedicated to his craft.”

Sherfield said that, when he heard the news he had made the team, “it wasn’t really shocking but it felt really good.”

He said his confidence stemmed from “the positive feedback I was getting. Just being able to hear those positive things kind of gave me a little bit more motivation to being able to know I could make the roster.”

The youngsters will look to 11-time Pro Bowl selection Fitzgerald, entering his 15th NFL season, for guidance.

“With Larry leading us it’s going to be a fun season,” Sherfield said. “We have a lot of young guys, a lot of names a lot of people probably don’t know about. But in that room we have a lot of guys that are going to work hard … We’ve been pushing each other since the spring.”

Sherfield is one of four undrafted rookies to make the Arizona roster, joining linebacker Dennis Gardeck from Sioux Falls, cornerback Deatrick Nichols from South Florida and linebacker Zeke Turner from Washington.

Wilks kept only one fullback, Derrick Coleman, but brought Elijhaa Penny back on the practice squad. Charles Kanoff, the fourth quarterback throughout camp behind Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen and Mike Glennon, also is on the practice squad. Kanoff is an undrafted free agent from Princeton.

On Sunday, the Cardinals made two moves that will alter the makeup of the backup group along the offensive line, The team released Evan Boehm, a 2016 fourth-round draft pick from Missouri who played center and guard/tackle Will Holden, a fifth-round pick last season out of Vanderbilt.

They signed Jeremy Vujnovich, who started 16 games at right guard for Indianapolis last season, and claimed offensive lineman Blaine Clausell off waivers from Carolina. Clausell, 26, has spent most of his career on practice squads — with Baltimore, New England and Carolina. He appeared in three games for Washington in 2016.

“Every time I stood in front of you guys, you guys kept talking about the backups (on the offensive line),” Wilks deadpanned to reporters. “So, I took your advice, and we tried to look to improve there. We brought in some guys that we felt that had some playing experience, some guys that had started in some games, and I think, again, they fit our mold. They fit our bill.”

Arizona also claimed defensive tackle Garrison Smith off waivers from Atlanta and signed free agent defensive end Zach Moore.

The Cardinals have Tuesday off and return Wednesday to prepare for Sunday’s season opener at home against Washington.