Will Ken Whisenhunt and Cardinals be raising their arms in victory more in 2012?
The Arizona Cardinals are a team with a lot of personnel decisions to be made before the regular season opener against the Seattle Seahawks. The quarterback controversy rages on but battles are also erupting at running back and wide receiver. Even the offensive line has challenges for starting jobs.
The Cardinals defense really turned it on in the second half of 2011 but questions exist on that side of the ball as well.
Arizona has made its final cuts to get down to the final 53-man roster.
Start the slide show and start finding out who made the 2012 Cardinals.
Steve Skelton (center) rejoined the Cardinals' practice squad.
9/3/12 The Cardinals had several moves become official on September 3rd.
Arizona put lineman Jeremy Bridges on injured reserve with a torn thumb ligament. Bridges is out for the season.
The Cardinals signed Pat McQuistan to a one-year contract. McQuistan is a veteran with seven seasons' worth of experience and provides depth on a battered offensive line.
Arizona claimed linebacker Jamaal Westerman on waivers. Westerman was released by Miami and recorded three sacks last season.
The Cardinals named their practice squad of DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB, Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, TE Steve Skelton and WR Isaiah Williams. Those five players, all amongst the last cuts to get to the 53-man roster, are joined by three free agents.
WR Gerrell Robinson (cut by Denver), OT Steven Baker (Indianapolis) and LB Ricky Elmore (San Diego) were all signed to the practice squad.
8/31/12 The Cardinals made their final round of transactions to get down to the 53-man roster.
Offensive lineman Levi Brown (triceps) stayed on injured reserve, ending his season. RB Javarris James (ACL) and QB Richard Bartel (shoulder) were both put on injured reserve.
Injured linebacker Brandon Williams (shoulder) and wide receiver Stephen Williams (Achilles) were wived-injured.
The following players were released: CB Crezdon Butler, LB Antonio Coleman, S Blake Gideon, LB Clark Haggans, G Russ Hochstein, DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, WR DeMarco Sampson, TE Steve Skelton, RB Alfonso Smith, LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Ronald Talley, DE Everrette Thompson, TE Martell Webb, C Scott Wedige, WR Isaiah Williams and T D.J. Young.
8/27/12 The Arizona Cardinals made their first round of cuts and roster moves to trim their roster to 75 players.
Fullback Jared Crank (neck) and running back Thomas Clayton (knee) were both injured and waived. Starting left tackle Levi Brown was placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps muscle, ending his season.
The other Cardinals that were released are, DE Landon Cohen, S Eddie Elder, WR Gino Crump, WR Tre Gray, WR Jaymar Johnson, FB Reagan Maui'a, CB Marshay Green, LB Marcus McGraw; LB Zaxcj Nash, CB James Nixon, LB Paul Vassallo and K/P Ricky Schmitt.
8/1/12 The Arizona Cardinals signed running back Thomas Clayton and guard Rich Ohrnberger. To make room on the roster, center Ryan Bartholomew and wide receiver Stanley Arukwe were released.
Clayton is a running back to fill a gap for a game or two in the preseason while Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams take it easy in the preseason. Ohrnberger, a third-year lineman from Penn State, spent time with the Patriots and will be competing for a backup role.
7/28/12 The Arizona Cardinals signed guard Russ Hochstein to a one-year deal.
Hochstein will add a veteran presence to an offensive line with three rookies competing for jobs.
Could first-round draft pick Michael Floyd start in his rookie season?
QB (3) John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Richard Bartel,
RB (5) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith, William Powell
FB (1) Anthony Sherman
WR (5) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, LaRon Byrd
TE (4) Todd Heap, Rob Housler, Jeff King, Jeff Dray
OL (9) Lyle Sendlein, Darryn Colledge, Adam Snyder; Bobbie Massie, Senio Kelemete, Nate Potter; D'Anthony Batiste, Rich Ohrnberger, Pat McQuistan
DL (6)Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Vonnie Holliday, Nick Eason, David Carter
LB (7) Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield, Darryl Washington, Paris Lenon, Quentin Groves, Reggie Walker, Stewart Bradley
CB (6) Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Greg Toler, Michael Adams, Jamell Fleming, AJ Jefferson
S (3) Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Justin Bethel, James Sanders, Rashad Johnson
K (1) Jay Feely
P (1) Dave Zastudil
Could this play make someone the last man to make the team?
So, who are the last five to stay on the roster? Let's take a look.
OT Nate Potter will likely be one of the last linemen on the roster. With the injury to Levi Brown, the Cardinals need to have healthy offensive tackles and Potter fits the bill. Look for the seventh-round pick from Boise State to stick around at the end.
LB Stewart Bradley has played well but was close to being cut. It wasn't certain if Arizona was going to keep five wide receivers or six. If they did, linebacking might have been an area to be cut.
WR LaRon Byrd might be able to make the team. After Gino Crump, Tre Gray and Jaymar Johnson were cut, Byrd survived. Right now he's seventh on the depth chart. With some more hard work and maybe a lucky break, Byrd might be one of the last men to make the roster.
RB William Powell has taken advantage of his playing time and might stick around for a fifth and final running back spot. He's one of the few Cardinal running backs that seem to be able to gain good yardage despite the weakness of the offensive line.
OL Rich Ohrnberger may have been cut if not for his versatility. Ohrnberger is listed on the depth chart as a backup for both guard positions and the center as well. That could have been the difference and the reason why he made the 53-man roster.
Will Alphonso Smith (center) be the last one in or the last one out?
Who are the last five to come off the roster? Here's the most recent ones to be cut.
CB Crezdon Butler was part of a logjam of defensive backs on the roster. Butler performed well but the Cardinals felt they had too much depth at the position.
CB A.J. Jefferson was reportedly traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a draft pick according to the Arizona Republic as the Cardinals needed to move a cornerback.
Offensive Tackle D.J. Young wound up being cut after a couple of weak performances at left tackle. Young had difficulty slowing down the pass rush and that won't be good enough to keep him on the roster.
LB Clark Haggans was released despite being a starter last season. Arizona has a strong crops of young linebackers that played well last season and Haggans is starting to age.
RB Alfonso Smith played hard but was buried on the depth chart behind Wells, Williams and Stephens-Howling amongst others.
Kevin Kolb is listed as the starting quarterback on the first depth chart.
QBs on roster: Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley
Projected starter: Skelton (named starter 8/31)
Offseason additions: Lindley (7th round-NFL Draft)
Roster cuts: Bartel was moved to IR 8/31
Projected final roster: Kolb, Skelton, Lindley
This is one of the most-watched position battles in the entire NFL. Arizona is still searching for an identity at quarterback since Kurt Warner led them to a Super Bowl appearance four seasons ago. With five preseason games, there is going to be a lot of time to figure out who will be starting the season under center.
Kolb may have the big contract but his injury history comes into play. Skelton led the team to several wins in the second half of the season but wasn't overly dominant.
Kolb is more of a pocket passer while Skelton showed ability to make plays while rolling out. Bartel and Lindley look to be battling for the third spot in the depth chart but neither has taken the step forward to claim it.
Regardless of who wins the job, they will have an uphill climb. With an offensive line that has allowed more than 100 sacks in the last two seasons, the player who can stay upright the most might win the starting role.
All four of them will be on the roster but no one has stepped up to take a firm grip on the job. Performances in the preseason will be scrutinized but there is a lot of time before the opener on September 9th against Seattle for the team to make a decision.
Running back Ryan Williams is eager to show what he can do.
RBs on roster: Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell, FB: Anthony Sherman
Projected starter: Wells, Williams FB:Sherman
Offseason additions: Thomas Clayton (signed 8/1)
Roster cuts: Crank (8/27); James went on IR 8/31 with an ACL injury.
Projected final roster: Wells, Williams, Stephens-Howling, Smith FB:Sherman
The running back position is also going to be a heavily-watched battle. Wells had offseason knee surgery and Williams ruptured his patella tendon last year in the preseason against Green Bay,
Williams looked good in the first few workouts of the preseason while Wells is on the Active/PUP list. Wells can be activated any time before week one but look for Arizona to take it easy with these two running backs.
The big question here is whether or not the Cardinals will get Wells and Williams reps in the preseason. Every coach holds his breath during the preseason hoping to avoid injuries. If either Wells or Williams went down with anything serious, it would really damage the Cardinals' chances in 2012. That would put extra pressure on the passing game and it's not likely the offense could handle it.
Stephens-Howling provides that change of pace and is a good pass-catching threat. With his small size and shiftiness, he gives Arizona a chance to use his speed to burn the defenses if he can get into space. Smith saw a few carries last season in limited action.
Sherman looks to get the nod at the fullback position. Teams usually don't carry two fullbacks on the roster so Crank could have a lot of work to do to unseat Sherman.
Williams might be able to wrestle the starting role from Wells if he makes plays in the preseason and Wells lingers on the PUP list. Clayton will take a few carries while preserving Wells and Williams.
Larry Fitzgerald makes a catch in the regular season finale in 2011.
WRs on roster: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Early Doucet, LaRon Byrd
Projected starter: Fitzgerald, Roberts, Doucet, Floyd
Offseason additions: Floyd 1st round NFL Draft, Crump signed a UDFA deal.
Roster cuts: Stanley Arukwe was released 8/1.Gino Crump, Jaymar Johnson and Tre Gray were all cut on 8/27; Stephen Williams was put on IR 8/31 with an Achilles injury. DeMarco Sampson and Isaiah Williams were both cut 8/31.
Projected final roster: Fitzgerald, Roberts, Doucet, Floyd, Byrd
The Cardinals have one of the best wide receivers in the game in Larry Fitzgerald. After him, there is a drop in talent to Andre Roberts who gets the nod on the initial depth chart as WR2.
Doucet looks to be more comfortable in the slot but it remains to be seen where Floyd fits in the puzzle. After Fitzgerald, the next four spots on the depth chart are a toss-up. Byrd has been called "Little Fitzgerald" but hasn't tied up the fifth WR spot.
This position has a little more stability than the quarterback and running back jobs but still has question marks about the actual order. Given how the Cardinals may need to do plenty of passing in 2012, reach receiver position must be filled with guys who can step in and make plays.
Sampson, Byrd, and Williams,need to take advantage of their opportunities in the preseason. If they don't, they could be amongst the second wave of cuts.
Heap stretches for the end zone in the season finale.
TEs on roster: Todd Heap, Rob Housler, Jim Dray, Jeff King,
Projected starter: Heap, Housler
Offseason additions: none
Roster cuts: Steve Skelton and Martell Webb were cut 8/31.
Projected final roster: Heap, Housler, King, Dray
The quadriceps injury suffered during OTAs landed Jeff King on the PUP list but has done little to slow down the competition for the starting spot. Heap is a two-time Pro Bowl tight end from when he was with Baltimore but struggled with injuries in 2012.
Housler looks to be a lock to make the roster. At 6-foot-5 with a 40-yard dash time less than 4.5 seconds, he has the size and speed to create mismatches down the field. The biggest question is whether or not the Cardinals would be able to utilize the tight end position.
The Cardinals ranked towards the bottom in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns from the tight end position in 2011. No one expects the Cardinals to morph into the Patriots overnight and execute out of two tight-end sets like they do. They need to determine who will be the best consistent option at the position. The downside of rotating tight ends might tip off the opposing defense as to what kind of play might be run.
Dray is on the fringe of making the team while Webb and Skelton need to shine in the preseason to get consideration for a roster spot.
Levi Brown blocks Osi Umenyiora last season.
OTs on roster: D'Anthony Batiste Nate Potter; RT:, Bobby Massie, Pat McQuistan
Projected starter: Batiste, Massie
Offseason additions: Massie 4th round NFL Draft; Potter 7th round NFL Draft; McQuistan signed 9/3
Roster cuts: Levi Brown placed on IR 8/27; D.J. Young was cut 8/31; Bridges was placed on IR 9/3 (thumb)
Projected final roster: Young, Massie, Potter, McQuistan
It's clear that the Cardinals needed help on the offensive line and they addressed those needs at the draft. With Brown coming back, the quarterbacks will have a known commodity to protect their blind side. Massie may not start in the early going but will learn quickly and Potter adds depth.
Brown suffered a torn triceps muscle in the third preseason game against Oakland. D'Anthony Batiste has been shuffled to the left side and Massie is seeing increased playing time.
On the right side, Bridges suffered a torn ligament in his thumb in the final preseason game and was placed on injured reserve. Bobby Massie will be pressed into service to make holes for the running backs to go through. Regardless of who goes out there, these tackles are going to have their hands full with some speedy edge rushers this season.
Only time will tell if they have the skill as a unit to direct the rush away from the quarterback and give him time to throw. If they don't, a repeat of the last two seasons is a very realistic possibility.
Darryn Colledge (71) blocks for John Skelton against the Eagles.
OGs on roster: Daryn Colledge, Senio Kelemete, RG: Adam Snyder, Rich Ohrnberger
Projected starter: Colledge, Snyder
Offseason additions: Kelemete 5th round NFL Draft; Hochstein free agency
Roster cuts: Braeden Clayson and Russ Hochstein were both cut 8/31.
Projected final roster: Colledge, Snyder, Hochstein, Kelemete
Colledge and Snyder will have to pick up those blitzes up the middle in 2012 to give the quarterback time to read through his progressions.
With approximately sixty percent of the running plays in the league being between the tackles, the guards will play a key role in getting those lanes opened for the running backs.
Kelemete may be able to play either side with his quickness and could open up some interesting options as a pulling guard. Ohrnberger's versatility can see him on the depth chart at either guard spot or center.
The guards will be under pressure to hold the line in 2012. Hopefully they will be up to the task.
Sendlein has been anchoring the offensive line for the last two seasons.
OCs on roster: Lyle Sendlein,
Projected starter: Sendlein
Offseason additions: none
Roster cuts: Ryan Bartholomew cut 8/1; Scott Wedige cut 8/31
Projected final roster: Sendlein
This job is Sendlein's to use. He's the incumbent starter and has been for a couple years. Bartholomew was expected to be a backup before he got injured and released.
Wedige, a rookie from Northern Illinois, is trying to catch on to be a backup but may find the going tough. Sendlein has been an anchor on the line and made 66 starts in five seasons.
With his durability, Sendlein is likely to be the only center on the roster for the Cardinals in 2012.
Calais Campbell (93) blocks a Josh Brown field goal.
DEs on roster: Calais Campbell, Vonnie Holliday,
Projected starter: Campbell
Offseason additions: Holliday
Roster cuts: Richard Talley was cut 8/31.
Projected final roster: Campbell, Holliday
There's little doubt this is Campbell's spot. He was given the franchise tag and wound up signing a five-year deal in the offseason. With his size (6-foot-8) and ability to rush the passer, Campbell is set to be a key to the Arizona defense in 2012.
Holliday came to the Cardinals as part of the Tim Hightower trade with Washington last July and he re-signed with the team this season, Holliday figures to be a backup at age 36 and see little playing time.
Talley may not be on the roster due to the talent ahead of him. He is also facing legal issues stemming from a bar fight in Detroit. According to the Washington Post, Talley allegedly hit a man over the head with a champagne bottle during a fight in late March. His case remains in litigation and he remains at camp.
Dockett (left) takes down Sam Bradford for a sack.
DTs on roster: NT: Dan Williams, David Carter, ; DT: Darnell Dockett, Nick Eason
Projected starter: Williams, Dockett
Offseason additions: none
Roster cuts: Ricky Lumpkin was cut 8/31.
Projected final roster: Williams, Dockett, Eason, Carter
There's little doubt who the starting defensive tackles are. Williams is coming off a season where he missed the final six games with a broken arm. He wants to prove he can last a full season and be that plug in the middle of the front three.
Dockett is a reliable player who has only missed two games in his eight seasons with the Cardinals. He's got a great first step and has that nose for finding ball-carriers in the back field. With him on one side and Campbell on the other, it gives the Cardinals a formidable defensive front.
Eason saw some action after Williams got hurt and he performed well enough. Don't expect Eason to play much but he can be effective when he's asked to fill in.
Acho (right) tackles Eagles' tight end Brent Celek.
OLBs on roster: ROLB: Sam Acho LOLB: O'Brien Schofield, Quentin Groves
Projected starter: Acho and Schofield
Offseason additions: Groves and Haggans, free agency
Roster cuts: Nash was cut 8/27; Clark Haggans was released 8/31.
Projected final roster: Acho, Schofield, Groves, Williams
Last season, Acho and Schofield used their youth to fuel the outside of the 3-4 defensive system. Acho recorded seven sacks and forced four fumbles last season. Look for more of the same out of him this season.
Schofield lines up opposite him and comes into camp 18 pounds heavier and carrying the same amount of speed as he did last season. Both Acho and Schofield have a chance to establish themselves as one of the better young linebacker duos in the game.
Groves will give them both a push and serve as situational backups.
Paris Lennon tackles the Ravens' Ray Rice.
MLBs on roster: Darryl Washington, Paris Lenon, Reggie Walker, Stewart Bradley
Projected starter: Washington and Lenon
Offseason additions: none
Roster cuts: Marcus McGraw and Paul Vassallo were cut 8/27. Quan Sturdivant andColin Parker were cut 8/31.
Projected final roster: Washington, Lenon, Walker and Bradley
Washington and Lenon make a formidable duo in the middle of the 3-4 defense Arizona will run in 2012. Lenon, the veteran of the linebacker corps, is able to get to the ball quickly and has good vision to sniff out the plays the opposition is running.
Lenon will put up good numbers in tackles, he had 93 last season, but is more of a stay-at-home linebacker. He doesn't put up good numbers on the rush as he has recorded only 10 sacks so far in his 11 seasons.
Washington is trying to finalize a contract extension with the Cardinals and with good reason. He racked up 107 tackles last season (92 solo) and 5 sacks. He finished strong last season with 11 tackles against Cincinnati and 12 solo stops against Seattle.
Combined with Acho and Schofield, Washington gives the Cardinals a linebacker group that could stay together for several years.
The rest of the linebackers on the roster are playing for backup roles but their performances over the next few weeks will decide who stays and who gets cut.
Gay (bottom) knocks the feet from under Rams' running back Steven Jackson.
CBs on roster: Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Michael Adams, Greg Toler, Jamell Flemming,
Projected starter: Peterson and Gay
Offseason additions: Gay-free agent from Pittsburgh; Flemming, 3rd round draft pick
Roster cuts: Marshay Green and James Nixon were cut on 8/27. Crezdon Butler and Larry Parker were released 8/31.
Projected final roster: Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Michael Adams, Greg Toler
Peterson is the number one cornerback. He is strong in coverage and is an excellent kick returner. After Peterson, the next four spots on the depth chart are a toss-up.
Gay could be the starter opposite Peterson and give Arizona a strong cornerback pairing. Gay could be the blitzing corner and Peterson might be the cover corner.
Toler is coming off of knee surgery from last season and is certain to be in the mix for a starting job as well. When you toss in Adams and the rookie Flemming, the defensive backfield looks to be crowded.
While the attention is being focused on the quarterback and running back position battles, this one will also be just as hotly contested.
Wilson (24) looks for the ball against the Bengals.
Safeties on roster: SS: Adrian Wilson, Rashad Johnson, FS: Kerry Rhodes, James Sanders, Justin Bethel,
Projected starter: Wilson and Rhodes
Offseason additions: Bethel 6th round draft pick; Sanders FA (Atlanta)
Roster cuts: Eddie Elder was cut 8/27. Blake Gideon was released 8/31.
Projected final roster: Wilson, Rhodes, Bethel
Adrian Wilson is a Pro-Bowl safety and is as close to certain as it gets to being on the team. Rhodes has played opposite him for a couple years now and should continue to do so.
After those two, it's anyone's guess who the backups will be. Bethel has a 40-inch vertical leap and can block kicks. Johnson saw limited playing time but would record about four tackles a game. Gideon and Elder are both rookies trying to latch on.
Sanders was picked up from Atlanta in the offseason but didn't make a big impact on the stat sheet with the Falcons.
The starters are set but the five preseason games will tell us who will be backing them up.
Feely (3) sends another three points through the uprights against Dallas.
Ks, Ps on roster: PK: Jay Feely; P: Dave Zastudil,
Projected starter: PK: Jay Feely; P: Dave Zastudil
Offseason additions: none
Roster cuts: Ricky Schmidt was cut 8/27.
Projected final roster:PK: Jay Feely; P: Dave Zastudil
On a team that has questions in several key areas, the kicking game is not one of them. Feely will continue to be the man in the kicking game. Zastudil, an 11-year veteran, will be the punter and holder on field goals and PATs.
Patrick Peterson goes the distance against St. Louis.
Returners on roster: Patrick Peterson PR, LaRod Stephens-Howling KR
Projected starter: Patrick Peterson PR, LaRod Stephens-Howling KR
Offseason additions: none
Roster cuts: none
Projected final roster: Patrick Peterson PR, LaRod Stephens-Howling KR
Peterson showed his abilities on punt returns in 2011 when he took four of them back for touchdowns. Two of them proved to be the winning score including one in overtime against the Rams (pictured above).
Stephens-Howling is the kind of returner who wants to see the play develop to find his lane before accelerating into the open field. Both of them have amazing speed in the open field and are a threat to return the ball for a score every time they run one back.
Even if they don't score, they both play pivotal roles in helping the Cardinals get good field position to help the offense.