Fitz gets together with Levi Brown.
Everything you need to know about the team—a full roster breakdown, position battles, preseason and camp schedule, rookie projections and more—before they get to Week 1 is directly ahead of you in this slideshow.
There is much to talk about, so let’s go.
This is the position everyone is asking about. Who’s going to start?
Will it be Kevin Kolb or John Skelton?
That answer is as clear as mud right now, but you can count on Coach Ken Whisenhunt to make the right decision. The quarterback who has the best showing in camp and preseason will win the job. It is not a guarantee the winner out of the preseason will keep his job, but we will deal with that if (when?) we get there.
The next question people ask is about the health of the running backs. Are Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams healthy?
Will they be able to remain healthy all season?
While mum’s the word with Beanie, Ryan has spilled his guts about his injury. He has kept everyone informed, almost force-feeding us all information as if to warn opponents of his readiness.
Williams partook in the Cards’ annual Fan Fest, held at University of Phoenix stadium for the first time, and took the ball on three handoffs—and he looked good.
Granted, the players were in just helmets and athletic shorts; however, the fact that he’s at nearly full speed is encouraging after the injury he suffered.
This is the question in which I am most interested. How will the offensive line perform with new pieces added?
The stat is well-known: 54 sacks allowed last season—the second-highest total in the NFL to only St. Louis (55).
Kolb went down 30 times in 291 drop-backs: A ratio of 9.7 drop-backs per sack.
Skelton went down 23 times in 316 drop-backs: A ratio of 13.7 DB/S.
How the line performs will dictate the success of the offense this season. With more talent backing up the projected starters, some jobs will be on the line this preseason—but we’ll get to that later.
Lumping DC Ray Horton’s entire unit into one seems like the right thing to do. In 2011, they lived by each other and they died by each other. Early on, one player failing meant the entire squad failed. It cost them more than one game in the first half of the season.
In contrast, the defensive play from the second half made it appear as though a completely different set of 11 men were on the field.
Mean, nasty, fired up men.
There were changes in personnel, yes. Outside linebacker Sam Acho started in place of old and injured Joey Porter; Richard Marshall suddenly found himself playing three positions during the course of a game.
It was beautiful to watch if you love defense. The question, then, is can they continue the success?
The big question on people's minds has to be this: Is this Ray Horton’s final year as the Cardinals defensive coordinator?
According to Horton, himself, the answer could be—but is not likely—yes. He told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com following his interview for the then-vacant St. Louis Rams head coaching job that he wants to be a head coach someday, but:
“One of the things burning inside of me is, as a player I have won a Super Bowl, as an (assistant) coach I have won a Super Bowl, I’d like to win one as a coordinator and I’d like to win one as a head coach. No one has ever done that. I think it will happen.”
So, yes, he would like to be a head coach someday. But he wants a ring as a coordinator as well, “which he might as well get in Arizona,” as Urban so perfectly stated.
Rich Bartel, QB
With a sixth-round pick used on the cannon-armed Ryan Lindley, Rich Bartel’s time on the roster may be expiring.
Entering his fourth year in the league, he has yet to start a game and has played in only three games.
Lindley is thought by some to be a future starter at quarterback. If he shows well during camp and preseason, Bartel may be out of a job—or at least relegated to the practice squad.
Stephen Williams, WR
Williams is an interesting case. He is long and athletic and would seem to be a good weapon on offense. But he has hardly been used at all so far through two seasons.
The fact that he doesn’t contribute on special teams is said to be a factor in Williams' lack of playing time. Williams told AZCentral.com that it’s hard to find a spot on special teams for such a large receiver,—he’s 6’5”—but that he needs to find a role there.
Williams has many threats to his roster spot ahead of him this season, and for him to be a part of the team he will need to recreate the camp and preseason he had as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010.
Jaymar Johnson, WR
Johnson would have had a difficult time making the roster before, but now with Michael Floyd set to make things happen and an undrafted rookie to be named later impressing some people, he’s a long-shot.
He has one career catch since being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2008 and none with Arizona.
D’Anthony Batiste, OT
An undrafted free agent now entering his seventh season as a pro, Batiste is on the cusp of being overtaken as Levi Brown’s backup because of rookie Nate Potter.
The only action Batiste saw last year wasn’t at tackle, but at left guard in Minnesota, where he filled in for an injured Daryn Colledge. His inclusion on the final roster may hinge on how Potter performs.
If it’s close, they may go with Potter—a youth movement is needed along the line.
Ronald Talley, DE
Ronald Talley’s best shot at saving a roster spot is an injury, just as it was last season. Talley was given a chance once nose tackle Dan Williams broke his arm and Nick Eason slid from his end spot to help platoon inside with rookie David Carter.
But before that he was on and off the practice squad and hadn’t seen any playing time.
He needs to show he can help the team in a time of need.
Brandon Williams, OLB
Williams may have had his roster bubble burst when the team signed free-agent Quentin Groves in May.
As of now, he’s got just as good a shot as Groves at making the roster, but that will soon change. Groves feels he fits in well with Arizona’s pass-rush-heavy defensive scheme, and if he’s right Williams would likely find himself back on the practice squad—or off the team completely.
Stewart Bradley, ILB
Even with a freshly restructured contract, Bradley has to make an impact on the field this preseason if he is to remain on the roster. He is being pushed by second-year player Quan Sturdivant, who could be a nice piece to the defensive puzzle if he pans out.
Sturdivant’s skills lean toward being a powerful run-stopper, and that contrast up the middle (Daryl Washington can cover with the best of them) could be formidable.
Bradley made more impact on special teams last year than on defense, and at five-years and $30 million he may be the highest-paid special teamer in league history.
He must make an impact on defense.
Mike Adams, CB
Somehow, there is a misconception with Mike Adams. And that is that he’s one of the better tacklers among the Cardinals’ secondary. That’s just not the case.
Last season he missed a tackle once every 5.3 tackle attempts (via ProFootballFocus)—that was dead last among corners on the team. He stands at only 5’8”, and that hurts him in coverage. Rookie Jamell Fleming will certainly have a spot in the secondary. As will Greg Toler, who is returning from injury.
He may fight for the last corner spot on the roster with the next player on the bubble.
Crezdon Butler, CB
After missing all but Game 1 of 2011 with a dislocated ankle, Butler returns to fight with Adams for likely the final spot on the Cards’ depth chart at corner. I like Butler’s chances over Adams.
To this point in his career—which is four games over two seasons—he has been a special teams player. But, his measurables add up to him being a great athlete, and who couldn’t use a supreme athlete in the defensive backfield?
The decision of Adams or Butler may come down to the final cut.
O’Brien Schofield, OLB
He was a backup throughout his first two seasons, but now O’Brien Schofield (pictured to the left) will be the Cardinals’ full time starter at outside linebacker.
After showing he understood the defensive playbook enough to stop using a quarterback’s wristband with the plays written on it, he started earning more playing time. And it paid off, as he recorded two of his 4.5 sacks in consecutive plays against the Cleveland Browns—huge, game-changing sacks.
What to watch for: Watch for Schofield to be more vocal on defense and really begin to unleash his talent for getting to the quarterback. It’s what he did in college, and it’s why the Cardinals drafted him in the fourth round despite a knee injury before the draft.
Dan Williams, NT
Dan Williams struggled at times last season. It seemed to click for him, though, about midway through the season—most notably during the Week 11 game at San Francisco.
Then, with 8:04 remaining in the game, his season ended.
Williams had broken his left arm above the elbow and, without him, Arizona was forced to use rookie David Carter and defensive end Nick Eason in a platoon role to get the job done.
They did a commendable job in doing so, but having him back will be huge for the success of the defense.
What to watch for: Watch for Williams to provide an enormous run-stopping presence throughout camp and preseason games. That’s why Arizona made him a first-round pick in 2010, and that’s where he will succeed throughout his career.
He should pick up right where he left off before being carted off the Candlestick Park turf.
Patrick Peterson, CB
We’re going to look beyond Patrick Peterson’s four punt return touchdowns for a minute to highlight his rookie season as a cornerback.
If I had to use one phrase to sum up what we all saw from a cornerback standpoint from Peterson, it would be, “Tip of the iceberg.”
In a recent evaluation grading the offseason of each NFC team, ESPN Insider Matt Williamson had this to say of Peterson and the secondary:
Adding [William] Gay and [rookie Jamell] Fleming makes Arizona’s secondary deep—and the Cardinals can get away with average starting talent on the back end because Patrick Peterson is on the cusp of becoming the second-best cornerback in football behind Darrelle Revis.
What to watch for: Watch for Peterson to grow exponentially as a defensive back. His aggressive play against top wide receivers will make him one of the toughest receptions around, and toward the end of 2011 he started showing that flare.
The returns on special teams are fun and exciting, but he was drafted to play cornerback—and in 2012 he will become a great one.
Stewart Bradley, ILB
As highlighted earlier, Bradley restructured the big-time contract he signed as a free agent last offseason. He will make less money this season, but it may be his last if he cannot grasp the switch from a 4-3 middle linebacker to a 3-4 inside ‘backer.
Coaches did all they could last year to get him on the field, giving him pass-rushing snaps from the outside as well as on special teams. But he struggled to understand the new terminology and scheme.
What to watch for: Watch for signs of comfortability from Bradley this preseason. He needs to find a way onto the field this season, or he will not be on the roster next season.
Adrian Wilson, SS
Adrian Wilson played last season with a torn tendon in his biceps muscle, and it ended up being one of his best seasons on the field.
He is the leader of the defense and a team captain, and though he will be 33 midway through the season, he has not slowed down. With the exception of the 2010 season in which he played through a painful abdominal tear, he has actually gotten better in coverage as he has aged.
What to watch for: Barring another unforeseen injury, watch for Wilson to pick up where he left off in 2011, which means a destructive force in both run- and pass-coverage. With a full offseason and this being the second year of Horton’s aggressive scheme, look for Wilson to be more active against the run.
Having a healthy Kerry Rhodes able to roam centerfield will allow Wilson to focus more on that also.
LaRon Byrd, WR
LaRon Byrd went undrafted during the most recent draft. Don’t ask me how, because I fully expected someone to take a chance on him.
He was not very productive throughout his days as a Miami Hurricane, but his athleticism is undeniable. He’s 6’4”, 220 pounds and has been compared to a pretty good current NFL receiver already. You’ll find out whom later on in the slideshow.
What to watch for: Watch for Byrd to impress coaches—and probably even you—enough to make this team. He is a big, physical receiver who can go up and meet the ball at its highest point, and he is unafraid of running routes across the middle of the field. That will be a big factor in who is granted one of the final receiver spots available.
Kevin Kolb, QB
For Kevin Kolb to be successful this season, not only does he need to win the starting quarterback job (obviously), he needs to be a winner as well.
Kolb was outplayed by John Skelton last year. Though the overall stats were nearly identical, where they differed was in late-game situations—in crunch time when the team needed the quarterback to step up and go win one.
What to watch for: Watch to see if Kolb has a better understanding of Arizona’s passing tree and the progressions he needs to make through any given play. Too often last year—and this was probably due to the lack of playbook knowledge—Kolb locked in on one receiver: Larry Fitzgerald. While Skelton was under center, he did a better job distributing the ball around the field. Kolb must show he can do that.
More on this in a minute.
Michael Floyd, WR
This rookie has no chance of being left off the roster, unlike Byrd, but what he can do is earn a start for Week 1.
Besides making complete sense because of how much of a matchup problem the combination of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd can be, it’s just good business for the Cardinals to start Floyd from the get-go. He appears to be a fan favorite already despite not playing a single meaningful snap in the NFL.
After all, the fans are what keep the game going.
They pay the salaries by purchasing over-priced tickets. They drive the egos by wearing player jerseys. They are the “12th-man” on the field for the home team by being as loud as humanly possible.
What to watch for: All public popularity aside, watch to see how Floyd plays against corners who can match his speed and athleticism. He likely will play with the second team during the August 5 Hall of Fame Game against the New Orleans Saints just to get him acclimated to an NFL defense.
But as the regular season gets closer, watch for him to play with the first team and for the Cardinals to try some different packages with him on the field. He is the game-breaker Arizona has lacked since dealing Anquan Boldin, and they will try early and often to get him open down the field.
Beanie Wells/Ryan Williams, RB
A good running back’s knees are the most valuable thing to his franchise. Keeping them fresh—especially after an injury—is important for the offense and for the back alike.
Both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are good running backs, and both are coming off knee surgery and are hoping to be back to full health by the beginning of camp.
If both are ready for the season they should wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Their contrasting styles could be called the oft-used “Thunder and lightning,” but whatever you call it, it will be good.
What to watch for: Watch for how Wells and Williams are able to cut and juke on their surgically repaired knees and how fluid they are able to run. It is probably more of a concern for Wells, as he is upward of 230 pounds but runs as if he were 200.
That and, we have seen Williams making cuts and juking players already, at Cards’ Fan Fest in mid-June.
John Skelton throws while Kevin Kolb looks on.
RT: Jeremy Bridges vs. Bobby Massie
Ten-year veteran tackle Jeremy Bridges will do everything he can to hold off a charge from rookie fourth-round pick Bobby Massie.
Bridges was the top-performing tackle on the team last year according to ProFootballFocus, but that’s not saying much.
So far, Massie has looked the part of a starting right tackle, and Coach Whisenhunt has noticed. If Bridges falters in any way, that might be all the younger lineman needs to step in and start.
CB2: William Gay vs. Greg Toler (vs. Jamell Fleming)
After losing cornerback Richard Marshall via free-agency to the Miami Dolphins, Arizona went out and signed six-year veteran and former Pittsburgh Steelers CB William Gay. He and Greg Toler, who is returning from ACL surgery, will battle for the starting spot on the field not manned by Patrick Peterson.
But rookie Jamell Fleming has to be included in the mix as well because, if he keeps impressing coaches the way he has to this point, he may find himself in that role before too long—though it is doubtful he starts the year as the No. 2.
Whisenhunt said Fleming’s quickness—among other things—was part of the reason why the Cardinals took him in the third round of the draft, also telling Darren Urban:
“His change of direction is outstanding. He was physical off the tape. Playing inside or outside, those guys have to be physical to make it more difficult for the offenses.”
It is possible he earns playing time on the outside as a rookie, paired up against opposing teams’ No. 2 receiver.
WR2: Michael Floyd vs. Andre Roberts
This battle will be one of the most-watched in the days and weeks leading up to real games. Andre Roberts has not yet been what the Cardinals hoped he would be, which is a speedy, playmaking receiver and solid No. 2 threat opposite Larry Fitz.
There are very few—if any—who doubt Michael Floyd’s talent and potential to become a great No. 2 and eventually a solid No. 1 target.
The dilemma, then, is who to put where? While Floyd’s fan base grows by the minute, there are still plenty of people who care that have faith in Roberts’ ability to become a good starting receiver.
Expect those people to be converted once Floyd sees game action. Keep a watchful eye on this one.
QB: Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton
This is the competition NFL fans around the nation—OK, maybe the NFC West—will be on pins and needles watching this late-summer. (OK, maybe not on pins and needles, but they’ll be watching.)
Kolb, as mentioned earlier, was outplayed by Skelton in late-game situations last year. He had roughly the same amount of opportunities as Skelton did, but he couldn’t seal the deal as often as Skelton did.
But he did play better than Big John in the first half of games. Skelton was one of the worst first-half quarterbacks in all of football last season. In fact, the only QB I can think of offhand who was worse in the first half of games is Tim Tebow.
Side note: Skelton and Tebow were nearly identical in terms of first half numbers throughout the season. Skelton was better than Tebow in the fourth quarter and later, while Tebow led one more fourth-quarter comeback. He was named as one of the NFL’s Top 100 players in June. Skelton was nowhere near that list.
It will be interesting to see which of the two, Kolb or Skelton, can take the reins and dominate this preseason.
Wednesday, 7/25—3:05-5:00 PM
Thursday, 7/26—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM
Friday, 7/27—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM
Saturday, 7/28—11:30 AM-1:20 PM (Red and White Practice)
Monday, 7/30—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM
Tuesday, 7/31—3:15-5:00 PM
Wednesday, 8/1—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM (Lumberjack Stadium)
Thursday, 8/2—3:15-5:00 PM
Friday, 8/3—9:00-11:00 AM
Preseason Game 1 vs. New Orleans Saints—Sunday, 8/3, 5:00 PM, NFL Network (HOF Game, Canton, OH)
*Team will practice in Missouri with Kansas City Chiefs all week following HOF Game*
Preseason Game 2 at Kansas City Chiefs—Friday, 8/10, 5:00 PM
Monday, 8/13—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM
Tuesday, 8/14—3:15-5:00 PM
Wednesday, 8/15—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM
Preseason Game 3 vs. Oakland Raiders—Friday, 8/17, 7:00 PM
Monday, 8/20—9:00-10:15 AM, 3:15-5:00 PM
Tuesday, 8/21—8:45-10:20 AM
Preseason Game 4 at Tennessee Titans—Thursday, 8/23, 5:00 PM, ESPN
Preseason Game 5 vs. Denver Broncos—Thursday, 8/30, 8:00 PM
The Cardinals have held training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff since the team moved to Arizona in 1988.
In 2005, Peter King of SI.com ranked NAU as the third-best training camp destination in the NFL, right behind the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay (home of Packers camp) and St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA (home of Steelers camp).
King said of NAU:
The long shadows of the San Francisco Peaks frame the pine-tree-lined practice fields […] The Northern Arizona campus is a gorgeous sight to see when you arrive. The fields are pristinely kept, and the tableau of the red-and-white Cards against the green trees and blue sky makes you want to get out an easel and your third-grade paint set.
The picture above, taken six years later, is just what King is describing.
Yeah, folks, it’s that time of year again. Time to head up north and smell the pine while listening to the bark of the quarterbacks’ cadence, the cracking of shoulder pads and the coaches hollering instructions.
Ah, training camp. It’s a beautiful thing.
Via the Cardinals' Official Website
94 Acho, Sam—OLB
27 Adams, Michael—CB
13 Arukwe, Stanley—WR
2 Bartel, Rich—QB
62 Bartholomew, Ryan—C
74 Batiste, D’Anthony—OT
31 Bethel, Justin—S
55 Bradley, Stewart—ILB
73 Bridges, Jeremy—OT
75 Brown, Levi—OT
22 Butler, Crezdon—CB
17 Byrd, LaRon—WR
93 Campbell, Calais—DE
79 Carter, David—DT
60 Clayson, Braeden—OG
69 Cohen, Landon—DE
57 Coleman, Antonio—OLB
71 Colledge, Daryn—OG
38 Crank, Jared—FB
89 Crump, Gino—WR
65 DeChristopher, Blake—OL
90 Dockett, Darnell—DE
85 Doucet, Early—WR
81 Dray, Jim—TE
98 Eason, Nick—DT/DE
42 Elder, Eddie—DB
3 Feely, Jay—K
11 Fitzgerald, Larry—WR
29 Fleming, Jamell—CB
15 Floyd, Michael—WR
23 Gay, William—CB
37 Gideon, Blake—DB
16 Gray, Tre—WR
30 Green, Marshay—DB
54 Groves, Quentin—OLB
53 Haggans, Clark—OLB
86 Heap, Todd—TE
91 Holliday, Vonnie—DE
84 Housler, Rob—TE
45 James, Javarris—RB
20 Jefferson, A.J.—CB
83 Johnson, Jaymar—WR
49 Johnson, Rashad—S
64 Kelemete, Senio—OG
87 King, Jeff—TE
4 Kolb, Kevin—QB
82 Leach, Mike—LS
51 Lenon, Paris—ILB
14 Lindley, Ryan—QB
70 Massie, Bobby—OT
45R McGraw, Marcus—LB
43 Nash, Zack—DL
38R Nixon, James—DB
97 Parker, Colin—LB
41 Parker, Larry—DB
21 Peterson, Patrick—CB
76 Potter, Nate—OT
33 Powell, William—RB
25 Rhodes, Kerry—FS
12 Roberts, Andre—WR
10 Sampson, DeMarco—WR
39 Sanders, James—S
1 Schmitt, Ricky—P
50 Schofield, O’Brien—OLB
63 Sendlein, Lyle—C
35 Sherman, Anthony—FB
19 Skelton, John—QB
44 Skelton, Steve—TE
46 Smith, Alfonso—RB
68 Snyder, Adam—OG
36 Stephens-Howling, LaRod—RB
61 Stewart, Chris—OG
52 Sturdivant, Quan—ILB
96 Talley, Ronald—DE
28 Toler, Greg—CB
48R Vassallo, Paul—LB
56 Walker, Reggie—ILB
58 Washington, Daryl—ILB
48 Webb, Martell—TE
66 Wedige, Scott—C
26 Wells, Beanie—RB
59 Williams, Brandon—OLB
92 Williams, Dan—DT
80 Williams, Isaiah—WR
34 Williams, Ryan—RB
18 Williams, Stephen—WR
24 Wilson, Adrian—SS
67 Young, D.J.—OT
9 Zastudil, Dave—P
Round 1, No. 13: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Michael Floyd will compete from the word “Go” for the No. 2 wide receiver spot on the roster with Andre Roberts.
No one doubts his ability to beat out Roberts, but some have speculated that it may not be by Week 1.
But he will because of everything he adds to the offense. It makes little sense to keep a talent such as this under wraps; look for Floyd to have a Larry Fitzgerald-type rookie season.
Round 3, No. 88: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
Arizona needed help in the secondary after losing defensive MVP Richard Marshall to free agency. Jamell Fleming is that help.
He is strong and versatile as a cornerback and will likely play all over the secondary. He could be in contention for a starting spot early on.
Round 4, No. 112: Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi
Bobby Massie felt slighted when he fell from his projected second-round position to the middle of the fourth round, and the Cardinals couldn’t be happier that he was there.
Massie told AZCardinals.com he doesn’t know why teams passed on him earlier.
“It just makes me hungry,” Massie added. “I was projected to go higher and earlier in the draft. I’m ready to strap on the pads and show teams why I should have been drafted earlier.”
He will push 10-year veteran Jeremy Bridges for the starting right tackle position immediately, and could end up with the job before Week 1.
Round 5, No. 151: Senio Kelemete, OG, Iowa State
As of now, both guard positions are well-manned, with Daryn Colledge (2015) and Adam Snyder (2016) locked up for the foreseeable future.
He has the potential to be a good starter down the road and will provide depth along the line, as he can also play tackle, if asked.
Round 6, No. 177: Justin Bethel, CB/S, Presbyterian
Justin Bethel is well-known on YouTube for this flat-footed 60-inch box jump.
Bethel played cornerback at tiny Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, but he will shift to safety with the Cardinals. Because of the position change he has a better chance to make the final cut.
His speed will help as well.
Round 6, No. 185: Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State
As mentioned earlier, Ryan Lindley will push Rich Bartel for the No. 3 quarterback spot. He seems to have a real chance to overtake Bartel, but to do so he will need to show a good understanding of the offense.
If either John Skelton or Kevin Kolb succumbs to injury and Lindley is with the 53-man, he would then become the backup. With Kolb’s recent history of boo-boos, there’s a chance the No. 3 could be needed as the first backup.
That would be a big step for a sixth-round pick.
Round 7, No. 221: Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
Nate Potter is very technically sound. He has good, quick feet and excels in pass protection.
He will need to add bulk to his frame if he wants to contend for a spot on the line, however. That will be his biggest challenge, but strength and conditioning coach John Lott will make sure he does what he needs to do in order to get massive.
–There’s a good chance all seven of Arizona’s draft picks makes the final 53 this year, but the later-round men have a lot of work to do between now and September 9 (Week 1) to make that happen.
Rookie receivers Michael Floyd (15), Tre Gray (16) and LaRod Byrd (17).
Stanley Arukwe, WR
Watch this kid run. He was a sprinter at Troy University and ran a silly fast 4.19-second 40-yard dash. He won’t make the roster, but watching him run down the field on go-routes should be fun.
LaRon Byrd, WR
After somehow going undrafted, this 6’4”, 220-pound receiver is showing why he was worth a pick. He even garnered some Larry Fitzgerald comparisons during minicamp with his leaping ability and impressively soft hands when catching passes. Keep an extra close eye on him at camp and during preseason games.
He can make this team.
Braeden Clayson, OG
A versatile lineman, he can play multiple positions for a team (played left tackle, left guard and right tackle at Idaho State). That could help his chances at earning a roster spot, but it likely won’t be enough. He may be among the first or second group of players to be cut.
Jared Crank, FB
As Arizona carries only one fullback on its roster during the regular season, this former Purdue fullback is nothing but a roster-filler—a “camp body,” if you will. He may make it to final cuts, but only because they require the services of two fullbacks until Week 1.
Blake DeChristopher, OG
My darkhorse candidate to make the final cut, he won the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy for most outstanding offensive lineman in the ACC last year. He is a powerful blocker and smart young man; watch for him to turn heads and be awarded with a spot on the initial 53-man roster.
Blake Gideon, S
With Justin Bethel moving from corner to safety, this slower than fast thumper in center field will have a hard time getting from sideline to sideline in the NFL; especially with an array of strong-armed quarterbacks able to drive the ball with tremendous velocity. Watch for him to be among the first cut after the first preseason game.
Tre Gray, WR
If he were faster he would be good from the slot. Even making the practice squad will be difficult for this small-but-slow receiver. Watch for him to fade quickly during camp.
Marcus McGraw, LB
Despite being an undersized middle linebacker (5’10”, 236), he has good instincts and is a tackling machine. He collected at least 100 tackles in each of his four years at the University of Houston, but regardless of that he will likely not make the final cut.
Zack Nash, LB
This productive pass rusher from Division II Sacramento State set multiple school sack records, including for single season (13) and career (29.5) totals. That will not help him make the roster, though, as he lacks burst off the line and would get manhandled by offensive linemen because of his lack of overall strength.
James Nixon, CB
With such a deep chart at cornerback, this converted halfback would be great on special teams. He has speed and is incredibly versatile, so the chances of him making the team are increased slightly. It still will be an uphill climb to get there, but anything can happen.
Colin Parker, LB
He’s a little undersized, at 6’1” and 233 pounds. Not drastically like McGraw, but not ideal, either. He was a good special teams player at Arizona State, but this hybrid inside/outside linebacker doesn’t stand a chance to make the roster.
Paul Vassallo, LB
He produced over 100 tackles during his final season at the University of Arizona, but needs to add bulk to be considered a pass-rushing threat. He is not a speed rusher and will need to work on being quicker off the ball. There is virtually no chance he makes the roster.
Scott Wedige, C
A second-team All-American at Northern Illinois, this center shows good footwork and keeps a low base in pass blocking. Unless they see Ryan Bartholomew as the future center of the offensive line, Arizona should probably keep this guy around. I have a feeling he will develop into a solid starter down the road. Could supplant Bartholomew on the practice squad.
Cardinals guard Adam Snyder
William Gay, CB
He is yet another transplanted member of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense and is very familiar with Ray Horton’s defensive scheme.
He will challenge Greg Toler for the No. 2 cornerback position but likely will see a lot of time at the nickel spot.
At just 26 years old, he is someone who still has room to grow as a football player, and that could be a great thing for Arizona’s secondary.
Quentin Groves, OLB
He has bounced around so far in the NFL. Drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars and traded to the Oakland Raiders two years later, he has been unproductive as a pass rusher. But he believes he fits right in with Horton’s system and will thrive because of the aggressive nature of the 3-4 he employs (as stated earlier). He will battle for a backup outside linebacker role but could earn a spot in rotation.
James Sanders, S
Coming from an Atlanta Falcons defense that allowed 25 passing touchdowns last season and struggled to cover as a whole, he did not stand out at all. He does provide veteran depth behind both Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, and he can play special teams, but he is no threat to challenge either starter for their job. This was expected.
Adam Snyder, G
Deuce Lutui and Rex Hadnot are no longer on the roster, so he will start at right guard. Continuity is a big factor in how successful an offensive line can be, so getting him as much time during camp and preseason will be important. The line as a whole could see increased playing time during games this August to try and jumpstart the melding process.
Jay Feely scores a touchdown as Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard looks on in helpless disgust.
New Orleans Saints, Aug. 5, 5:00 PM (Canton, OH)
Most Important Matchup: Arizona pass-rush vs. top-notch offense.
The starting units for each team will play approximately two to three series, so pay attention early to how Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield attack the big offensive tackles of the Saints. Look for them to blitz as much as they can, as their time is limited and Horton will try to force the issue to get them into a groove.
But also watch the backup pass rushers—Quentin Groves, in particular.
This will be his first chance to prove he can be a productive NFL pass rusher, so look for him to be aggressive in his pursuit of Saints backup QB Chase Daniel.
Final Score: Saints 27, Cards 20
Kansas City Chiefs, Aug. 10, 5:00 PM (Kansas City, MO)
Most Important Matchup: Patrick Peterson vs. Dwayne Bowe
Peterson has enough talent to fill an entire defense, and Bowe is just the kind of athlete to challenge how far he has come since his rookie season. Once again, the starters will not play much, probably most of or all of the first quarter, so keep an eye on that matchup.
Also watch rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming, who could spend some time mirroring veteran and former Cardinals 1,000-yard receiver Steve Breaston from the slot. Breaston is faster than Fleming, but watch to see how physical off the line the rookie is with him—and any receiver, for that matter—when he gets a chance to play.
Final Score: Cards 21, Chiefs 13
Oakland Raiders, Aug. 17, 7:00 PM (Glendale, AZ)
Most Important Matchup: Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton
By this point in the preseason, Whisenhunt should have at least an idea of who his starting quarterback should be. But this game could still sway that decision, so it is imperative that the quarterback play be nearly flawless from both men.
Pay attention to how Kolb moves within the pocket and whether he has the nerve to hang in and deliver a pass when the pocket collapses. For Skelton, watch his accuracy on intermediate passes. That’s where he struggled most during his first two seasons with Arizona, and that’s where he will win or lose the quarterback competition.
Final Score: Cards 34, Raiders 17
Tennessee Titans, Aug. 23, 5:00 PM (Nashville, TN)
Most Important Matchup: Michael Floyd vs. Andre Roberts
Now onto the No. 2 receiver spot, watch to see how Floyd has progressed through camp and the first three preseason games. By now he should look more like a professional starting receiver than Roberts, and it could show by increased play on the outside.
Keep an eye out for the run-blocking of each receiver, as that may be a large factor in deciding who plays where when the games count. Floyd is very physical and has the size and strength to dominate smaller corners, but Roberts can hold his own and is willing to block downfield.
Final Score: Tennessee 14, Cards 13
Denver Broncos, Aug. 30, 8:00 PM (Glendale, AZ)
Most Important Matchup: Right tackles vs. Denver pass rush
By the final game of the preseason, the starting lineups have normally been determined, and some coaches like to rest their key starters so there are no unnecessary injuries leading up to Week 1.
Whisenhunt will still have decisions to make, however, and one of those will be at right tackle.
Jeremy Bridges has to be much better than rookie Bobby Massie during this final preparation, or it could mean his job. The Broncos have one of the better pass-rushing defenses in the league, so this will be a great test for both heavyweight contenders.
Final Score: Jay Feely 22, Broncos 3 (All my real Cards fans understand this.)
I wrote an early 53-man roster prediction in mid-May, and for the most part this one remains the same.
A few picks have changed, but the majority remain the same.
You can compare them here, if you like. Players are listed in alphabetical order.
If Lindley is released in order to sign him to the practice squad, there is little doubt another team will sign him—likely to their own practice squad. He has a lot of upside (huge arm; willingness to work) and can develop into a starter in just a few short years. Even Peter King believes he will be a starter—this season.
If both Kolb and Skelton fail pathetically, then yes, Lindley would have a chance this season. But don’t expect that.
Anthony Sherman (FB)
With the uncertain health of Wells and Williams, Alfonso Smith could play a small role early on. But he will be gone as soon as both prove to be in game shape. Stephens-Howling’s role will be diminished with Williams’ insertion into the offense, but he will still get some opportunities. After all, he did prove to be a game-changer at times last year.
This season spells the end of the line for Stephen Williams. With LaRon Byrd impressing early and the receivers sharing similar physical attributes, Williams becomes expendable.
Michael Floyd should start over Andre Roberts, and Roberts could share time with Early Doucet as the No. 1 slot receiver. Roberts will still play on the outside from time to time, but only when the Cardinals offensive package calls for Floyd or Fitzgerald—or both—in the slot.
Jeff King led his fellow tight ends in receiving last year. That’s not going to happen again this season, as Rob Housler could emerge to become a great receiving threat. Injuries hampered both Housler and Todd Heap’s 2011 season, and if both stay healthy, King can focus on what he was originally brought in to do, and that is block.
Levi Brown will start at left tackle, and for now Jeremy Bridges should be penciled in as the right tackle. But Bobby Massie will push him all preseason long, and I fully expect the rookie fourth-round pick to emerge as the starter if not by Week 1, then shortly thereafter.
Nate Potter needs to add bulk but should be a good backup to Brown in case of emergency.
Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder will start at left and right guard, respectively, but the backups—both rookies—are starters-in-training. It’s exciting to see such young talent across the line after the past handful of terrible seasons from the unit as a whole.
The best undrafted center in the NFL. Nothing else can be—or needs to be—said.
With two of Arizona’s best defenders now locked up through 2015 (DD) and 2016 (CC), the line will be among the best in football for many years ahead. Their styles of play are vastly different, but they both make a big impact on the game in their own way.
This is one camp battle I did not highlight, but you should all watch this one carefully. David Carter played well in place of Dan Williams last year, and Williams’ job may not be as secure as you think. Both men, however, are up-and-coming talents on the line, and a rotation at nose tackle featuring them both is probable—and smart, if you’re Ken Whisenhunt.
If you are KW and you’re reading this, then please don’t tell Dumpster Dan I said his job is in jeopardy. He’s kind of big, and he seems like the type of person I’d just as soon not upset. Thanks.
Bold prediction: Both Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield will record double-digit sacks during the 2012 season. An Arizona defender has not recorded double-digit sacks since defensive end Bertrand Berry tallied 14.5 in 2004. Having two record 10-plus during the same season would be historic for the franchise.
Fun Fact: Since the sack became an official stat in 1982, the Cardinals have had only two seasons in which multiple players recorded at least 10 sacks. In 1983, DT David Galloway (12), and DEs Al Baker (13) and Curtis Greer (16) all did it. The next season, 1984, Baker (10) and Greer (14) did it again.(Via ProFootballReference.)
Don’t sleep on Quentin Groves. He could surprise some people this year.
Coming into his third season, Daryl Washington has emerged as one of the NFL’s best young inside linebackers. He certainly thrived last year while running Ray Horton’s aggressive defense, recording the most sacks by a middle ‘backer (5.0) while notching 107 tackles.
Stewart Bradley could be entering his final season in Cardinal Red. He may need to find a 4-3 defense of which he can be the leader, because he had a tough time acclimating to Horton’s scheme. But, he should get every opportunity this preseason to show he’s capable.
With Greg Toler returning from injury and William Gay signing via free agency, the loss of Richard Marshall is all but forgotten. Rookie Jamell Fleming will contribute immediately and so will A.J. Jefferson, and Patrick Peterson could be on the verge of becoming a top-five corner as soon as this season.
Things are good on the defensive wings.
So far, Adrian Wilson is healthy (knock on wood), and he’s the NFC’s best safety. Kerry Rhodes is also fully recovered from a broken foot he suffered midway through last year, so the tandem could be back and both healthy for the first time as teammates. This will play a huge role in how Horton calls his defense. He can be more aggressive when calling blitzes because his two Pro Bowl safeties will be back patrolling center field for him.
Justin Bethel is another up-and-comer on defense to watch this year. He will play all over the field, and that could include some work on special teams as a kick returner if LSH struggles as much as he did last year.
Jay Feely (K)
Mike Leach (LS)
Dave Zastudil (P)
Expect a better Feely this season. He struggled to connect on field goals early throughout the 2011 season, but he put it together to connect on all 11 of his final attempts to close out the year—including two game-winners in overtime.
Mike Leach has been Arizona’s long snapper since 2009. No need to explain what he will do this year.
Dave Zastudil is a very mediocre punter.