The Arizona Cardinals will use their final preseason game to evaluate several players on the bubble of making the final cut down to the NFL mandated 53-man roster. The deadline is Saturday, September 3 but we expect the decisions to be made on Friday after the game against Denver.
We've identified two key battles to watch during Thursday's game. The final linebacker job could come down to Quan Sturdivant and Reggie Walker and the last cornerback job could be between Marshay Green and Fred Bennett. A couple of other guys to keep an eye on include WR Stephen Williams, OL Floyd Womack and the battle between FB Anthony Sherman and Reagan Maui'a although we think both will eventually make the team.
We've gone through each position group in detail, now here's our final predictions for the Arizona Cardinals 2011 53-man roster. Obviously, the roster is a living thing and will change throughout the year but it's got to start somewhere and here's what we think it will look like.
This one's pretty simple. Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Rich Bartel will make the roster. Skelton and Bartel could flip back and forth between the backup job but the ankle injury to Skelton will likely give Bartel the edge to start the season.
Running back (Three)
Beanie Wells is obviously the main man in the backfield for the Cardinals. LaRod Stephens-Howling will make the team and Alfonso Smith should make the roster as well unless the team isn't pleased with his performance in Thursday's final preseason game and/or a better option for a backup become available.
The battle between Reagan Maui'a and Anthony Sherman is too close to call. The team is more committed to running the ball this season and either of these guys is unlikely to clear waivers if cut. Look for both to make the roster.
Wide receiver (Six)
Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts are locks. DeMarco Sampson, Stephen Williams and veteran Chansi Stuckey will likely get the last two spots. If the team decides to carry a fourth running back or an extra offensive lineman they could drop Williams and go with five wides. The strength and depth at tight end lets the Cardinals save a spot here but it could go either way.
Tight End (Four)
With Todd Heap, Jeff King and Rob Housler all but assured roster spots, the final decision will come down to Jim Dray and Stephen Spach. Dray is more versatile and therefore more likely to make the cut. It is possible that Spach makes the team as well in place of wide receiver Stephen Williams. It's unlikely, but possible.
The loss of Greg Toler has hurt the depth here and moved Al Jefferson, Patrick Peterson and Richard Marshall into the top spots. Michael Adams is reported to be returning from injury soon so he should make the team. The final spot should go to newly signed Fred Bennett but Marshay Green could possibly win the job as well. The battle between Green and Bennett could come down to the wire.
Veterans Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes will have a lot of work keeping the young cornerbacks playing right. Hamza Abdullah and Rashad Johnson provide depth with Matt Ware making up the final spot. Ware's spot, however, is far from secure.
Defensive Line (Six)
The defensive line looks solid with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell providing talent and experience on the outside while Dan Williams and David Carter could share time at tackle. Behind those four, veterans Vonnie Holiday and Nick Eason provide solid depth.
Linebacker is another strong position on the defense. Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington should start with Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield and Stewart Bradley all providing dynamic options off the bench. The final spot comes down to rookie Quan Sturdivant and three-year pro Reggie Walker. The is another battle that could come down to a final tough decision.
Offensive Line (Eight)
The starting five seems set with Levi Brown (LT), Daryn College (LG), Lyle Sendlein (C), Rex Hadnot (RG) and Brandon Keith (RT). Duece Lutui, Jeremy Bridges and Ben Claxton should fill out the position but it's very possible that Floyd Womack also makes the team and takes a spot from either a wide receiver or even one of the fullbacks.
Special Teams (Three)
Long snapper Mich Leach, kicker Jay Feely and punter Ben Graham round out the 53-man roster. No surprises here.