Training camp has come to a close and the preseason is winding down for the Arizona Cardinals. This is a good thing because it means that games that count for something are getting closer. The bad thing is that there may be even more questions coming out of training camp than there were entering it.
These questions lie throughout the entire roster. Who will be the starting quarterback? How will the team handle the Levi Brown injury along the offensive line? Can the defense live up to expectations?
All of these questions will be answered in 2012. If the Cards want to answer these questions correctly, they will need to put their most capable football players on the field.
Here are my predictions for the 53-man roster, with the starters listed in bold font:
The team will only keep three quarterbacks on their roster, which likely sees an end to the Richard Bartel era. Lindley has too much promise to cut or to try and sneak by and place on the practice squad. Skelton, by all indications, has been the better player this preseason. I think he is the starter come week one against the Seattle Seahawks.
Despite the hype for Williams and seeing the magnificent plays he can make on the field, I still feel that Beanie Wells will enter the season as the starting back. He has been injured through much of training camp, but from what I saw during my time in Flagstaff, he looked more explosive and faster than before. He and Williams will split carries anyways, so the term 'starter' is just that... a term.
With the thinness along the offensive line, I would not be shocked at all to see this list changed and more people added to help bolster the position. With Levi Brown out with a triceps tear, the young and rather unknown D.J. Young will get a chance to fill the position. Both Scott Wedige (undrafted) and Nate Potter could be moved to the practice squad. Overall, this position brings more fear to me than the quarterbacks.
Going into week one, I think Roberts holds on to the #2 job across from Fitz, even if I would hope rookie phenom Floyd gets it. Coach Whisenhunt just has a thing for starting his veterans over the rookies. Players that have been on the roster in the past such as Isaiah Williams and Stephen Williams won't make the cut this year. Byrd has been a camp standout.
The only real battle at this position is between Dray and Steve Skelton (brother of John Skelton), but I think due to his blocking abilities and stronger familiarity with the team, Dray will make the cut. Todd Heap will have to show that he can stay healthy this year or it may be his last in Arizona. The team is expecting big things and big improvements out of the sophomore, Rob Housler.
This unit will be 100% identical to the 2011 one, with Ricky Lumpkin earning another season on the practice squad. I am a fan of Ronald Talley, but I am not sure if he will make the cut over the wily vets like Holliday and Eason. Dan Williams has shown big things at the nose tackle position this preseason and will be expected to do more for the Cardinals in 2012.
The major surprise on this list is Bradley getting the edge over veteran Paris Lenon, despite Lenon now being recovered from his ankle injury. Bradley has been lights out during the first three preseason games and I think it is finally his time after signing as a free agent before the 2011 season. None of the undrafted players are going to make it onto this corps as Groves is a great situation pass rusher for the Cards to have at their disposal.
Many have wondered who the starting cornerback opposite of Patrick Peterson will be. I have not been impressed with Gay up to this point, so I have to think that Toler reclaims his starting role (if his knees can hold up). Justin Bethel has been too much of a factor on special teams not to have on the roster at this point. A.J. Jefferson will get a shot at redemption after having been demoted from a starter midway through the 2011 season. The team will try to get Blake Gideon, a UDFA out of Texas, to the practice squad.
This is going to be a fun season...