The linebacker position for the Arizona Cardinals includes solid veteran options, exciting young players and is, on paper, a position of strength. But while there are seven obvious choices to make the roster, there is a final battle underway to make the 53-man roster when the NFL cut deadline comes around on September 3.
We'll start with the guys who are going to make the team. Veterans Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are a lock at both outside linebacker positions. Haggans is a great leader and solid, if not flashy, presence. Porter is coming off a down year and after restructuring his contract is promising to comeback with a vengeance. We'll see if he can deliver.
If Porter or Haggans can't get it down, there's two talented young players waiting right behind them. O'Brien Schofield is in his second year and has shown flashes of his incredible talent but he is still struggling to learn the system and game at the NFL level. He's a guy who could come on strong in the second half after he's had more time to absorb the schemes so his mind is free to unleash his speed.
Rookie Sam Acho is a gifted player and extremely smart. He's another guy who could continue to improve as the season wears on. Both Schofield and Acho should see reps immediately which will allow them to both develop and save wear and tear on the veteran starters.
Inside we'll likely see Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington. Washington has the potential to have a breakout season in his second year as a pro. His combination of speed and aggression is a joy to watch. Backing up these two is veteran Stewart Bradley. Bradley could very well find himself starting at some point. In essence you have a three-man rotation here.
So, that's your seven locks for the linebacker position. Porter, Haggans, Schofield and Acho on the outside and Lenon, Washington and Bradley inside.
That leaves one job left which will come down to Reggie Walker and Quan Sturdivant. Walker is a three-year NFL vet who played in 18 games for the Cardinals over the last two years. Sturdivant is a sixth-round pick from this year. Out of a rookie class that's excelled overall, Quan is the only guy who's not stood out.
Walker and Sturdivant will both likely play big minutes in the fourth preseason game. One of them will likely win the job based on what happens in the game. My prediction is Walker.