Numbers games: Cardinals roster in perspective
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals have gotten dramatically younger at running back this offseason. Edgerrin James and Terrelle Smith are gone, leaving Tim Hightower and Dan Kreider as the only current Cardinals running backs with starting experience.
The team kept three halfbacks and two fullbacks on its Week 1 roster last season. Nine other teams also kept more than one fullback for the opener.
Hightower, Chris Wells, Jason Wright, Kreider and Tim Castille entered camp as the likely choices for those spots, should the team keep five. LaRod Stephens-Howling would have to significantly liven up the return game to earn a spot, most likely.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the Cardinals might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the 49ers.
Here's a quick look at which Cardinals players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
- Projected keepers (3) -- Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre
- Projected to miss cut (1) -- Tyler Palko
- Key issue -- Does St. Pierre really have a chance to win the No. 2 job?
- Projected keepers (5) -- Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, Dan Kreider, Tim Castille
- Projected to miss cut (3) -- Chris Vincent, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Reagan Maui'a
- Key issue -- Can Wells recover from an injury-slowed start in time to challenge Hightower for the job?
- Projected keepers (6) -- Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet, Anquan Boldin, Jerheme Urban, Sean Morey
- Projected to miss cut (4) -- Lance Long, Ed Gant, Michael Ray Garvin, Onrea Jones
- Key issue -- Injuries have hurt Doucet in each of his two training camps. Not that the Cardinals really need him. Long has promise as a receiver, but Morey's value on special teams is tough to overlook.
- Projected keepers (3) -- Stephen Spach, Leonard Pope, Anthony Becht
- Projected to miss cut (1) -- Dominique Byrd
- Suspended for first four games (1) -- Ben Patrick
- Key issue -- Patrick's four-game suspension to open the season will allow another tight end to stick around longer. Becht's blocking might give him an edge on Byrd, but this position is difficult to sort out.
- Projected keepers (9) -- Mike Gandy, Reggie Wells, Lyle Sendlein, Deuce Lutui, Levi Brown, Herman Johnson, Melvin Fowler, Brandon Keith, Elton Brown
- Projected to miss cut (6) -- Trevor Canfield, Ben Claxton, Brandon Pearce, Carlton Medder, Oliver Ross, Elliot Vallejo
- Key issue -- Johnson's impressive showing as backup right tackle could push someone off the roster. Vallejo's knee injury came at a bad time.
- Projected keepers (6) -- Darnell Dockett, Bryan Robinson, Kenny Iwebema, Calais Campbell, Alan Branch, Gabe Watson
- Projected to miss cut (3) -- Alex Field, Keilen Dykes, Rodney Leisle
- Key issue -- The Cardinals' plans for Dockett are key. Campbell's emergence is another critical variable. Will Branch and/or Watson step up?
- Projected keepers (8) -- Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Clark Haggans, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Karlos Dansby, Victor Hobson, Will Davis
- Projected to miss cut (4) -- Pago Togafau, Reggie Walker, Ali Highsmith, Chase Bullock
- Key issue -- The only established pass rushers of the group -- Berry and Okeafor -- are at least 33 years old. Haggans is 32. Brown's emergence as a pass rusher would upgrade this unit significantly. Dansby enters what appears to be his final season in Arizona.
- Projected keepers (9) -- Ralph Brown, Antrel Rolle, Adrian Wilson, Bryant McFadden, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Greg Toler, Rashad Johnson, Michael Adams, Keith Lewis
- Projected to miss cut (5) -- Matt Ware, Wilrey Fontenot, Dennis Keyes, Jameel Dowling, Aaron Francisco
- Key issue -- Is this the year Arizona shakes up its depth at safety?