NFC West: Ed Gant
Players on practice squads earn $5,200 per week for the 2010 season. The collective bargaining agreement sets the following parameters for eligibility:
- Players without an accrued season of NFL experience;
- Free-agent players who were on the 45-man active list for fewer than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season;
- Players who have not served more than two previous seasons on a practice squad.
According to the CBA, "A player shall be deemed to have served on a practice squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's practice squad for at least three regular-season or postseason games during his first two practice squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third practice squad season."
What about bye weeks? More CBA: "A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular-season or postseason weekend in question."
The first chart shows eligible players released by the Arizona Cardinals. Chris Johnson, Alfonso Smith and Mark Washington were waived/injured. Dean Muhtadi was released from injured reserve.
The second chart shows eligible players released by the Rams.
The third chart shows eligible players released by the 49ers (Brandon Long was released with an injury settlement).
The fourth chart shows eligible players released by the Seahawks (Jonathan Lewis was released with an injury settlement).
Matt Leinart apparently has no idea where he stands with the Arizona Cardinals. That makes it tough for the rest of us to predict exactly what might happen.
Will Leinart start at quarterback for the Cardinals in Week 1? Will he serve as the backup? Will the Cardinals release him? Might they trade him?
The next week to 10 days should provide answers. NFL teams have until Saturday to reduce their rosters to 53-man limits, with the 75-man deadline passing Tuesday.
After looking at the Seahawks' roster earlier Monday, here's a quick run through the Cardinals:
Average number kept since 2003: 3.0
Keepers: Derek Anderson
Looking safe: Max Hall
On the bubble: Leinart, John Skelton
Comment: Coach Ken Whisenhunt's handling of Leinart suggests there's more than tough love at work here. It's fair to question whether Leinart fits into the team's plans at all this season. The smart move, it seems, would be to keep Anderson, Leinart and the winner of the Hall-Skelton competition. But it's clear Whisenhunt isn't convinced Leinart has what it takes to be a starting quarterback.
Running backs (8)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.3
Keepers: Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jason Wright
On the bubble: Reagan Maui'a, Charles Scott
Also: Alfonso Smith, Nehemiah Broughton
Comment: Scott arrived via trade this week after Broughton suffered a season-ending knee injury. Maui'a could be the choice heading into the regular season. Scott provides depth for the final exhibition game, but it's unlikely he would be refined enough as a blocker to factor into the offense in a meaningful way. Smith's speed caught my attention early in camp.
Wide receivers (11)
Average number kept since 2003: 6.1
Keepers: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet
Looking safe: Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams
On the bubble: Onrea Jones, Max Komar
Also: Isaiah Williams, Darren Mougey, Mike Jones, Ed Gant
Comment: Gant serves a suspension to open the season. Roberts will make the team as a third-round pick. Williams pretty much wrapped up a spot with his latest strong performance (at Chicago). Jones and Komar could be competing for a sixth and final spot at the position.
Tight ends (4)
Average number kept since 2003: 3.1
Keepers: Ben Patrick, Anthony Becht, Stephen Spach
Also: Jim Dray
Comment: The team released Dominique Byrd on Monday. The top three appear set. Not much drama here. Dray looks like practice-squad material.
Offensive linemen (12)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.9
Keepers: Lyle Sendlein, Alan Faneca, Brandon Keith, Reggie Wells, Levi Brown, Deuce Lutui, Rex Hadnot, Jeremy Bridges
Looking safe: Herman Johnson
Also: Ben Claxton, Tom Pestock, Jonathan Palmer
Comment: Lutui could be trending toward a spot back in the starting lineup despite reporting to camp overweight. Johnson also reported overweight. He isn't a starter, and that's why I listed him separately from the keepers (even though it's an upset, most likely, if Johnson does not stick).
Defensive line (9)
Average number kept since 2003: 7.4
Keepers: Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Bryan Robinson
Looking safe: Alan Branch, Gabe Watson, Kenny Iwebema
Also: John Fletcher, Jeremy Clark
Comment: This position appears pretty much set. I would expect seven to earn roster spots.
Average number kept since 2003: 7.1
Keepers: Gerald Hayes, Paris Lenon, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington
Looking safe: Will Davis, Cody Brown
Bubble: Monty Beisel, Reggie Walker
Also: O'Brien Schofield, Steve Baggs, Mark Washington, Chris Johnson, Pago Togafau
Comment: Hayes and Schofield could open the season on reserve/physically unable to perform, opening two roster spots. Beisel and Walker could be competing for the final spot at this position.
Defensive backs (13)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.9
Keepers: Adrian Wilson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Kerry Rhodes, Greg Toler, Trumaine McBride, Matt Ware
Looking safe: Michael Adams, Hamza Abdullah, Rashad Johnson
On the bubble: Marshay Green
Also: A.J. Jefferson, Trevor Ford, Justin Miller
Comment: Toler could be passing McBride on the depth chart as the starting right cornerback, fulfilling expectations. Johnson appeared more physical early in camp. Haven't heard much about him lately, though.
Average number kept since 2003: 2.9
Keepers: Jay Feely, Ben Graham, Mike Leach
Comment: Arizona has three on the roster and that's how many the team will keep. Simple enough.
Also from Urban: Cardinals receiver Ed Gant, facing a four-game suspension, knows he'll have a tough time earning a roster spot.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 says the Cardinals' options at inside linebacker are limited. The list of free-agent linebackers includes Jeremiah Trotter, Adalius Thomas, Angelo Crowell and Junior Seau.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with agents for some of the Cardinals' unsigned draft choices. Sounds like the agents expect to get deals done relatively soon.
Clark Judge of CBSSports.com ranks the Arizona Cardinals' training camp venue as best in the league, with the Seattle Seahawks' venue third. Judge has this to say about the quarterback situation in Seattle: "Pete Carroll proclaimed Matt Hasselbeck as his starter, which is great. Except he also said he loves competition at positions, which is not so great for Hasselbeck and his future in Seattle. Carroll didn't trade for Hasselbeck; he traded for Charlie Whitehurst and paid a steep price to acquire him. So he has a conviction about him, which means he sees him as a future starter. The question, then, is: When does that future begin?" That depends upon Hasselbeck's performance.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects NFL owners to vote Aug. 25 on Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase the Rams. Thomas: "Barring the unexpected, club owners will vote on Kroenke's bid at the Atlanta meeting. There are details still to be worked out, but all signs point to league approval of Kroenke, the Missouri businessman who already owns 40 percent of the team." Kroenke's bid has appeared strong from the beginning. His familiarity with NFL owners and procedures gave him a tremendous advantage over other potential bidders.
Ron Clements of the Alton Telegraph says the Rams set high goals despite low expectations from the outside. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "We’ve talked a lot about winning the NFC West and beating our NFC West opponents. You’ve got to do that first before you can get anywhere in this league. You’ve got to beat your divisional opponents." The Rams have won one division game over the past three seasons.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com breaks down the 49ers' roster and declares Nate Clements a clear choice to start at cornerback after an impressive showing at mandatory minicamp practices. Maiocco: "Clements might have a big contract, but when he took the field for the mandatory minicamp, the first-team defense looked a lot better. There's no question he's a starter." Clements has much to prove this season. That's good for the 49ers.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects the 49ers to stick with Moran Norris as their starting fullback despite issues in the running game last season, with Brit Miller as the likely backup. Barrows: "Michael Robinson and Jehuu Caulcrick also are listed at the position. Robinson is a far better pass catcher (and runner after the catch) than he is a lead blocker, and his role on offense is on third downs. Caulcrick, meanwhile, has the size of a fullback but has yet to acquire the mentality. He was a gifted runner at Michigan State, but the 49ers are trying to train him to seek out tacklers rather than avoid them."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat singles out 49ers players facing pressure as training camp nears. Barber on Manny Lawson: "He didn't express any bitterness when he arrived for the mandatory minicamp in June, but it's no secret that Lawson is unhappy with his contract, a deal that calls for a salary of $625,000 in its final season. The linebacker would love to prove that he is worth much more than that; his campaign begins next week."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat likes the 49ers' chances in the NFC West. Cohn: "They are loaded. The NFC West is weak and there for the taking. For heaven’s sake, Matt Leinart is the starting quarterback in Arizona. So, what’s the problem? For all their progress, the 49ers have unknowns at the two most important positions. Quarterback Alex Smith still is an unknown. He began last season on the bench behind Shaun Hill. He has improved, but no one is sure of him. He could be terrific or he could be average or he could be bad. All that is to be determined. Yet the 49ers have hitched their fate to his star, such as it is, and he must prove himself or they all will go down in flames."
Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com says the Seahawks' minority coaching interns this year will be former NFL safety Lance Schulters, former defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, former running back James Jones and former receiver Reginald Moore.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Tod Leiweke's voice cracked several times while the Seahawks' CEO explained his decision to become CEO and minority owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leiweke: "I’ve given this place everything that we had and we’ve built something special here. Walking away from that, those are the things that keep you awake at night. So there’s no way to resolve those asterisks other than to say that this is a dream come true and this place is in good shape."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks and owner Paul Allen will miss Leiweke. Brewer: "Allen can replace Leiweke's talent, as difficult as that will be. But he will have a hard time finding an executive to commit to the cause with as much humility, sincerity and flat-out toughness as Leiweke did."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times calls Leiweke the public face for the very private Allen. O'Neil: "Leiweke not only grew the Seahawks into the Cadillac of the city's sports scene, he then repaired the relationship between Allen's Trail Blazers and the city of Portland and ushered the Seattle Sounders FC into Major League Soccer."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks should have an easier time setting Golden Tate's value after other second-round choices reached agreements.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune praises Leiweke for always putting the fan first. Leiweke: "One of the first things I did was I bought season tickets and I lived life as a fan. It wasn’t so easy, even in that beautiful stadium. There were things that, as a fan, I didn’t like. I bought seats up the Hawks’ Nest, and I sat in the stands, and I made it a point not to sit in a suite."
Michael Lombardi of NFL.com ranks players by position across the league, creating values for every roster in the league. The Seahawks' roster came in 32nd with five points. Lombardi: "Only having five points looks bad for Seattle, but there is a silver lining. They have many players coming back from injuries and their point total could increase into the 50s, quickly assuming they can stay healthy. The rebuilding has started in Seattle."
The Sporting News counts Matt Leinart among the players under pressure heading into the 2010 season.
Wide receiver Ed Gant was hit with a four-game suspension Monday for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
San Francisco 49ers
Matt Barrows shares his thoughts on former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan landing in Seattle.
Kevin Lynch says the 49ers have little incentive to lock up linebacker Manny Lawson with a long-term deal.
Developing Brandon Mebane's pass-rush skills is a priority for the Seahawks.
Ricky Foley is one of five "fringe" players NFL.com will follow through training camp this season as he fights for a roster spot.
St. Louis Rams
Coach Steve Spagnuolo was wired for sound during a recent minicamp practice.
The Rams are one team reportedly interested in former BYU running back Harvey Unga.
Also from Urban: He never gets tired of watching Fitzgerald make the spectacular appear routine. A one-handed catch in practice Tuesday was the latest highlight.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Tim Hightower has worked with the first-team offense all offseason. Also: "Onrea Jones, who spent last season on the practice squad, is leading the competition for the No. 4 receiver spot behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. Rookie Andre Roberts and Ed Gant are among those competing for the job."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com gives rookie Walter Thurmond a chance to challenge for a starting job at right cornerback, although Josh Wilson is the favorite at that spot. Farnsworth: "Thurmond does have the skills to challenge for the starting job on the right side -- opposite Marcus Trufant. In fact, the Seahawks considered him one of the top three or four cover corners in the draft before he tore the ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee, and still felt fortunate to get him in the fourth round." I'd be surprised if Thurmond became a starter this season.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times links to Matt Hasselbeck's recent interview with KJR radio in Seattle. Hasselbeck: "John Carlson is one of my all-time favorite teammates. He's had an amazing offseason. Very unselfish player, and this year -- just because of the kind of offense that we're running -- we're going to be a very heavy two tight ends, two wide receivers, one back team. Really moving John around everywhere, making him kind of the focal point of what we're doing."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com quotes Isaiah Stanback this way after the former University of Washington quarterback landed with Pete Carroll and the Seahawks as a wide receiver: "USC probably recruited me the hardest of any school. I made the decision to go to UW obviously, but we faced each other for five years. I respect him as a coach and he obviously knows I'm a competitor from coaching against me. All I keep hearing from the guys I know out there is that the atmosphere is really good and it's a rejuvenated team. I'm looking forward to getting there."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Oshiomogho Atogwe became a free agent after failing to reach agreement with the Rams on a long-term deal. Coats: "Atogwe, 28, was a third-round draft choice and No. 66 overall in 2005 out of Stanford. The only player in that 11-man draft class still with the team is cornerback Ron Bartell, a second-round pick. First-rounder Alex Barron, a tackle, was traded to Dallas last month for linebacker Bobby Carpenter."
Also from Coats: a chat transcript in which he says the Rams have four linebackers from Ohio State out of coincidence more than by design.
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams could still re-sign Atogwe. Balzer: "The Rams insist they have not closed the door on Atogwe’s return, and remain interested in signing him. Of course, any hopes of that happening depend on the interest he generates in the open market. Teams mentioned as possible suitors include Dallas, San Francisco, Miami and Minnesota. Philadelphia, which lost safety Marlin Jackson to an Achilles injury Tuesday, is said not to be interested, but that report came when Atogwe’s rights were still exclusively held by the Rams."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at the 49ers' roster and concludes that cornerback William James and receiver Brandon Jones "must impress" to earn spots on the reduction to 53 players. Also: "Adam Snyder and David Baas are the 49ers' best options right now to start on the offensive line, but rookies Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are earmarked to take over at some point soon. Baas is working at center, which gives him much-needed versatility to lock down a backup spot, and Snyder has a lot of experience at the guard and tackle positions."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says a naming-rights deal could be critical for the 49ers as they push for a new stadium in Santa Clara. Barber: "Are the 49ers overly optimistic in their expectations of naming revenue?"
Also from Barber: a look at 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari.
Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News says "San Francisco, Oakland and even Los Angeles area interests are ready and waiting with stadium possibilities for the 49ers if Measure J goes down in Santa Clara, which would be an upset given polls showing a majority of likely voters favor building a $937 million stadium on a parking lot adjacent to Great America theme park."
I've kept pace with the changes and made available my latest 26-column, steroid-enhanced rosters. Download here.
The Cardinals' quarterback count includes Kurt Warner because Arizona hasn't removed him from its roster (a formality).
Some have asked about Arizona's situation at receiver. The team is carrying only five wideouts. Onrea Jones and Ed Gant are two of them. With Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban gone, the Cardinals do need to find a fourth receiver. Perhaps they'll draft one. Sean Morey visited Seattle this week.
Some of the information on these rosters is incomplete. I haven't updated starters. I haven't updated all jersey numbers for new players or recently re-signed players.
There's plenty of functionality built into this file. You can rearrange the information to your liking through the pivot table on the first worksheet. I've got it set up to show the information in the chart below (players on the active roster, plus restricted free agents).
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says new 49ers special-teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer held the same job with the Chiefs when 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was a top special-teams player for Kansas City. Maiocco: "Schottenheimer was out of coaching in 2009. He said he studied the principles of the spread offense in visits to Texas A&M and Illinois. He is defensive coordinator this week at the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, so he is getting a head start evaluating draft-eligible players."
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes Singletary as saying Everest was "doing a fine job" for the 49ers. Why, then, would the 49ers let his contract expire, allowing Everest to surface as a candidate with the Steelers? Singletary was vague.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes Singletary this way on Everest: "I think Al was doing a good job during the year, but there were some things I had to deal with personally. It was just something Al needed to take care of. I had to let him go."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says longtime Pete Carroll associate Pat Kirwan told radio listeners he wasn't pursuing a job with the Seahawks. That might mean the Seahawks weren't ready to offer him a high-level job within the organization.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the current postseason shows why the Seahawks shouldn't be too quick to write off Matt Hasselbeck. Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and even Drew Brees went through career difficulties before re-emerging as excellent players. Favre appeared finished with the Jets last season before making a run at MVP honors with Minnesota. Warner landed in Arizona after the Rams and Giants moved on with younger quarterbacks. Favre had enjoyed one good statistical season in his previous four before catching on with the Vikings. Warner had enjoyed one good statistical season in his previous four before signing with Arizona. Like the Rams' 32-year-old Marc Bulger, Hasselbeck, 34, has enjoyed one good statistical season in his last four. Warner was 34 in his first season with Arizona.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic raises six questions about the Cardinals heading into the offseason. Somers: "The contracts of a handful of assistants are ending, and team President Michael Bidwill tried to get some to sign new two-year deals. Only one problem: the Cardinals didn't spell out how much they would pay should there be a work stoppage in 2011. So some members of the staff remain unsigned, including strength coach John Lott, who has become a guru to many of the players. If the Cardinals want to send a bad message to players and fans, they will allow Lott and others to depart. To borrow a phrase from Lott, who borrowed it from 'Cool Hand Luke,' the Cardinals need to get their minds right." Letting key assistants get away would validate criticisms the organization has made strides in overcoming.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com lists the eight players Arizona recently signed to future contracts. The following players will join the 80-man roster once the NFL postseason concludes: receiver Onrea Jones, cornerback Rashard Barksdale, linebacker Ali Highsmith, receiver Ed Gant, defensive end Ryan Kees, guard Jonathan Palmer, tackle Tom Pestock and linebacker Mark Washington.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo will need to hire a receivers coach after Charlie Baggett left to join Derek Dooley at the University of Tennessee. Spagnuolo suggested the Rams won't rush to name a replacement. The Rams' problems at receiver appeared largely related to personnel. The team lacked proven talent at the position even before injuries sent Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton and Brooks Foster onto the injured reserve list.
Howard Balzer and Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat say the Rams' coaching staff is in Orlando for the East-West Shrine game. The staff will head to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.
The chart shows results for Arizona.
Veteran safety Aaron Francisco signed with the Colts. Receiver Onrea Jones signed with the Redskins' practice squad. Arizona re-signed four players to its practice squad.
Four others -- Wilrey Fontenot, Chris Vincent, Carlton Medder and Pago Togafau -- were injured when the Cardinals released them. All but Fontenot have reached injury settlements, leaving the roster. Fontenot remains on injured reserve. Update: Fontenot has also reached an injury settlement.
Some veterans on the list might have an easier time finding work after Week 1. Rules require teams to guarantee salaries to some veterans who are active for Week 1 and then released.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals announced four signings to their initial 2009 practice squad: guard Trevor Canfield, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, defensive end Alex Field and receiver Ed Gant.
Rules governing practice-squad eligibility can be confusing. Players are eligible as long as they:
- Have spent fewer than three seasons on a practice squad. As the collective bargaining agreement states, "A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. (A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)"
- Have never spent nine or more games in one season on a 45-man game-day roster. Failure to understand this rule creates confusion. Seemingly experienced players sometimes retain eligibility.
The Rams added seventh-round choice Chris Ogbonnaya and 2008 Eagles third-round defensive end Bryan Smith to their practice squad, joining cornerback Cordelius Parks, tight end Eric Butler, linebacker Dominic Douglas, linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive end Ian Campbell and receiver Sean Walker.
The 49ers signed seven to their practice squad Sunday. They'll could add an eighth after releasing a player to make room on the 53-man roster for offensive tackle Tony Pashos.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.
I've put together a list of recently released Cardinals players with eligibility for the practice squad. Each was released on the reduction to 53 players. Wilrey Fontenot, Carlton Medder and Pago Togafau were injured when they were released. I've placed asterisks next to their names.
Quarterback Tyler Palko showed enough during preseason for consideration, although the Cardinals have not been inclined to carry a fourth quarterback during the regular season. Guard Trevor Canfield was a draft choice. Defensive end Keilen Dykes appeared to make a strong run early in camp. Receiver Onrea Jones showed promise at times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: There weren'y any big ones. Undrafted rookie linebacker Reggie Walker did beat out veteran Victor Hobson. The team kept seven receivers for now, including Lance Long, after injuries affected Early Doucet, Anquan Boldin and (previously) Steve Breaston. I would not expect the Cardinals to keep seven receivers all season, a reminder that this is the team's initial 53-man roster, not the final one.
Arizona sought to upgrade its secondary through the draft and free agency. That spelled the end for veteran safety Aaron Francisco. I thought the team might keep veteran center Melvin Fowler as insurance. Rookie returner LaRod Stephens-Howling stuck around, costing fullback Tim Castille a chance to continue with the team. Tight end Leonard Pope's demise had been on the horizon for a while and it was a bad sign when he was playing deep into the second half of the fourth exhibition game.
No-brainers: The team also released quarterback Tyler Palko, receiver Steve Sanders, receiver Ed Gant, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, running back Chris Vincent, cornerback Jameel Dowling, fullback Reagan Maui'a, guard Trevor Canfield guard Carlton Medder, defensive end Alex Field, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, tackle Oliver Ross, receiver Onrea Jones, defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, linebacker Chase Bullock and linebacker David Holloway. Canfield, chosen in the seventh-round, was the only 2009 draft choice released.
What's next: The heirarchy at tight end will continue to shake out, with Dominique Byrd essentially getting an extended tryout while Ben Patrick serves a four-game suspension. The team still could use a backup center with some experience.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt's recent comments about LaRod Stephens-Howling highlight a subject likely to shape the team's plans for its practice squad.
What to do with a talented player who doesn't fit neatly into a general position, in this case, running back?Stephens-Howling would be a prime candidate for the practice squad if the Cardinals did not initially make room for him on their 53-man roster. Specialist Michael Ray Garvin also could be a factor depending on how he recovers from knee surgery.
Quarterback Tyler Palko made an impression during the Cardinals' exhibition opener, but the team generally does not keep a quarterback on its practice squad. The need for an additional arm seems diminished with new quarterbacks coach Chris Miller sometimes throwing during practice.
Defensive end Keilen Dykes was making a strong push for a roster spot before suffering an injury. His status seems a bit less settled.Receivers Onrea Jones and Lance Long could also be strong candidates for the practice squad if they do not land spots on the 53-man roster.
The chart shows all 31 current Cardinals players with eligibility, arranged by position.
NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
As the NFL puts it:
After 12 noon, New York ti
me, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.
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:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks and 49ers appear dramatically improved at receiver this season. The Cardinals might also improve at the position if 2008 third-round choice Early Doucet emerges following an injury-affected rookie season.
Uncertainty at the position in St. Louis could lead the Rams to keep an eye on the NFC West discard pile when roster limits tighten.
The chart shows how many receivers each NFC West team has carried for its past six regular-season openers. The top row shows current counts. A look at how they stack up:
Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet and Jerheme Urban are back. Sean Morey, listed as a receiver, has been a Pro Bowl player on special teams. Lance Long is reportedly looking good again this offseason. Also: Shane Morales, Justin Brown, Ed Gant and Onrea Jones.
San Francisco: Isaac Bruce, Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones, Jason Hill and probably Arnaz Battle stick around. Dominique Zeigler isn't a significant contributor on special teams, hurting his chances if the others stay healthy. Also: Maurice Price, Mark Bradford, and Dobson Collins. Note: I have listed Michael Spurlock as a kick returner. That's why his name didn't show up on this list initially. I changed the 49ers' count to 11 given that Morey is counting at the position for Arizona. Thanks to redng0ld for pointing it out.
St. Louis: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson and Tim Carter comprise the likely top four based on what we know so far. Derek Stanley is recovering from knee surgery. Brooks Foster is a rookie fifth-round choice. Also: Travis Brown, Nate Jones, Horace Gant, Chad Lucas, Sean Walker and Jarrett Byers.
Seattle: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler comprise the likely top four. Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu could be favorites for the final two spots if Seattle keeps six. Also: Billy McMullen, Michael Bumpus, Mike Hass, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent.