Cards camp will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time ever.
The Arizona Cardinals have a new home for training camp this season in University of Phoenix Stadium. The move from Flagstaff, the longtime home of Cards camp, seems fitting considering everything else that has changed this offseason.
All but three coaches remain from last season, and there are a bevy of new players on the roster. Some of the new players will be fighting for the last roster spots toward the end of camp, while others were necessary adds who will fight for starting spots.
With new coaches bringing in new schemes, some players have had to adapt to different roles—some of which they are completely new to, even for seasoned veterans. We will go over that, and more, right here, so let’s get to it.
Carson Palmer (No. 3)
The Cardinals traded a sixth-round pick to acquire Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders this offseason. He is the starter, and he will be expected to help improve the offense in a dramatic way—it was historically bad in 2012, so improvement is a near guarantee. There is no way they will be as bad this year as they were last year. I have predicted lofty things for the offense, and you can check that out at Yahoo! Sports.
Drew Stanton (No. 5)
New head coach Bruce Arians brought Drew Stanton with him from Indianapolis, and until Palmer was acquired, it was thought Stanton would compete for the starting job. He will now settle back into the backup role he is used to. While he may not be a great option as a backup, he is familiar with Arians’ offense and can provide insight to the other quarterbacks on the sideline while Palmer runs the show on the field.
Ryan Lindley (No. 14)
It is surprising to see Ryan Lindley still on the roster after his abominable rookie year. He is an inaccurate downfield passer, but he does show good poise in the pocket and has the ability to move around within said pocket when needed. Depending on what happens in camp and preseason, Lindley may find himself unemployed. With a sure thing in Palmer and a solid backup in Stanton, the only situation that would dictate keeping a third passer around would be injury.
Caleb TerBush (No. 6)
There is a term you will see all throughout this piece, so get used to it now. It is not meant to be harsh or mean; it simply is the truth around the NFL. And that term is, “Camp body.” This term describes Caleb TerBush perfectly. He is here to give the other quarterbacks on the roster a break when they need water. He will run the offense while Palmer and the others need a rest, and that’s it.
Rashard Mendenhall (No. 28)
Re-joining Arians in Arizona, Rashard Mendenhall is a three-down back who fell from grace in Pittsburgh following a 2012 season in which he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and failed to score a rushing touchdown for the first time since his rookie year. He is on a one-year deal that screams, “Prove it or lose it,” and at just 25 years old, he can either reemerge as a force in the backfield or sink further into obscurity this season. The choice is up to Mendenhall.
Ryan Williams (No. 34)
A 2011 second-round pick, Ryan Williams has yet to stay healthy as a pro. He has seen both seasons in which he has played come to an end because of injury, so he has the most to prove of everyone in the backfield. Williams has the talent to be a three-down workhorse-type back, but remaining healthy has to be priority No. 1 in 2013. If he struggles with injury once again, his career may be derailed before it truly begins.
Stepfan Taylor (No. 30)
Rookie fifth-round pick Stepfan Taylor got a late start to his first NFL season because his alma mater, Stanford, still archaically uses the quarter system. Luckily, he has a running backs coach in Stump Mitchell—former Cardinals great Stump Mitchell, that is—who is willing to help. He did just that, shortening his post-OTA vacation with his family to work with Taylor one-on-one to catch him up (via AZCardinals.com). Taylor could have an early impact regardless of his late start, as I have projected over at Yahoo! Sports.
Andre Ellington (No. 38)
We didn’t hear much from Andre Ellington—the other rookie late-round pick—at rookie camp or OTAs, and though it’s still early, that could be an indicator of what his rookie season will be like. He is a talented back who possesses adequate speed and agility, but there will be little use for small scatbacks in Arians’ offense this year. He has three potential three-down backs from which to choose. Ellington can be useful, perhaps as a receiver from the slot (much like Kansas City Chiefs RB Dexter McCluster).
William Powell (No. 33)
It was a good run for William Powell. He gave the franchise one season of production after multiple injuries sidelined the top backs on the roster. With so much depth, the only way Powell will make the roster is because of another injury or two.
Alfonso Smith (No. 29)
Alfonso Smith had less of an impact in his time with the team than Powell did, though he did find the end zone once while Powell was shut out of the “TD” column. Much like Powell, his only chance to make the 53-man this time around is through multiple injuries.
Larry Fitzgerald (No. 11)
Ever the consummate professional, Larry Fitzgerald never showed the anger or frustration he surely felt the last three seasons without a capable quarterback. His big-mouthed father did—constantly—but never Larry Jr. It’s hard to remember the last time Fitzgerald the player showed a bigger smile after voluntary practices in June. Palmer should help him get back to the production fantasy owners are used to getting from him, and that makes every Cardinals fan happy.
Michael Floyd (No. 15)
Of the receivers on the roster, Michael Floyd is most like No. 11 and is most likely to produce as Fitz does. He is a physical clone of his longtime friend, and Palmer took a liking to him at OTAs. While it could mean little to nothing during voluntary unpadded practices, it also could be the start of a nice connection. Floyd should be the No. 2 receiver and outside deep threat for Palmer this year, and that will translate to the receiver putting up big numbers in year two.
Andre Roberts (No. 12)
With 2013 being a contract year for Andre Roberts, it goes without saying this is the most important season of his career. Another season in which he improves his numbers could mean a contract extension and decent money. A disappointment of a campaign, and he could be looking to find a new team in 2014.
Ryan Swope (No. 19)
The news is not good for rookie receiver Ryan Swope. He has yet to practice with the team due to fallout from a reported four concussions he suffered in college. Arians was taken aback by his absence, saying in part that he was, “very, very, very surprised” Swope missed so much time (via NFL.com).
Not being on the field sets him back, regardless of how much studying of the playbook he does. Getting into the scheme of things physically is very important, as most NFL corners can keep within arm’s reach of receivers. Small nuances like being a better route-runner can give young receivers an edge, and he’s losing precious experience by missing practice.
LaRon Byrd (No. 17)
An undrafted free-agent signee last year, LaRon Byrd made the initial 53-man roster as a rookie. He did not play much and was a healthy scratch most of the season. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, Byrd has the size to be a good possession receiver in the pros. He also has sneaky speed and can be a deep threat if given the chance. Will he get that chance? He did not impress at OTAs, and he is in need of a huge camp and preseason to make the roster.
Dan Buckner (No. 85)
Former Arizona Wildcats receiver Dan Buckner stands 6’4” and comes in at 215 pounds. As an undrafted free agent, he is considered a long shot to make the roster. But he possesses good hands, and his length could be an asset. We have not heard much from his offseason yet, but with Byrd struggling, Buckner would be a logical choice to supplant him as the big-bodied UDFA on the roster.
Robert Gill (No. 10)
By now, everyone has seen the video in which 29-year-old NFL rookie Robert Gill ran 25 miles per hour on a treadmill. That is both impressive and intense. It may not single-handedly help him make the roster, but if he shows he can run proper routes and has a team attitude, Arians may give him a shot as a speedy slot receiver—especially if Swope is unable to play.
Jarett Dillard (No. 16)
To some, the addition of three-year veteran Jarett Dillard screams “camp body,” but he could be more than that. This video, from a Senior Bowl practice in 2009, shows Dillard’s aptitude for running routes. He is not a pure burner, but—as mentioned with Swope—he creates separation by being able to stop on a dime and change direction.
In 21 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dillard had 35 receptions for 398 yards and a touchdown. He is a long shot to make the final cut. He is in rare company with his new teammate, as he, Fitzgerald and Randy Moss are the only players in NCAA history to catch a touchdown pass in 12 consecutive games. He did so in all 13 games his senior season.
Charles Hawkins (No. 89)
The first of many camp bodies remaining (all mentioned below, in fact), Charles Hawkins enjoyed a decent senior season at Southern University in 2012. He caught only 31 passes, but he scored seven touchdowns and averaged 15.1 yards per catch. He is small, at 5’8” and 180 pounds, and his 4.43 40-yard dash seems slow for a player of his stature (Swope ran a 4.34 at 6’0”, 205).
Kerry Taylor (No. 18)
Former Arizona State Sun Devils receiver Kerry Taylor has been with five teams in two NFL seasons and has yet to play in a game. He cannot get past the practice squad, it seems, and that could be where he is headed in Arizona.
Tyler Shaw (No. 7)
There seems to be a large amount of small-school receivers in the league today, and Tyler Shaw is another. Shaw played his college ball at Northwest Missouri State, catching 166 passes for 3,021 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was productive all four years, never producing less than five touchdowns in a season. But he will not make the roster in the fall.
Jaron Brown (No. 13)
The middle two seasons of Jaron Brown’s Clemson career were his best. He hauled in a combined 63 catches for 813 yards and seven touchdowns. Brown has dabbled in kick and punt returning, and if he is to make the roster, he will have to excel in all facets of special teams. Do not hold your breath, though.
Michael Rios (No. 1)
If you like rounded-off routes, Michael Rios is your guy. He has a lot to learn about being a receiver, and the 6’2”, 203-pound Marist University product will not make the roster based on this. At this point, even the practice squad may be a stretch for Rios.
Rob Housler (No. 84)
Arians loves using multiple tight end sets. He does not utilize the fullback, which is why Anthony Sherman was shipped off to Kansas City this offseason. Instead, he moves his tight ends around to create confusion among the defense.
Rob Housler fits the mold perfectly, as he can split out wide and use his 6’5”, 250-pound frame to create mismatches in the secondary; he can line up as a traditional tight end next to the offensive tackle and use his 4.4 speed to create mismatches against linebackers. Or, he can line up as an H-back lined up where a traditional fullback would be (usually, the H-back is motioned into this position). Housler could have a breakout season in 2013, and the combination of quarterback and scheme, put together with his athletic ability, will be the reason.
Jeff King (No. 87)
Originally thought to be a blocking tight end with little receiving upside, Jeff King has proven to be more in two seasons with Arizona. He is nowhere near the burner Housler is, but he has good hands and uses his body well to shield defenders when catching passes in traffic. He will be on the field more this year than in the past as Arians’ second tight end.
Jim Dray (No. 81)
For a tight end with seven career receptions, Jim Dray sure has hung around with the Cardinals. That’s because he plays special teams. Entering his fourth NFL season, all with Arizona, Dray has seen his offensive snap count drop from 191 as a rookie to 128, all the way down to just 35 snaps last year. He could see that increase this season with so many multiple tight end sets, but he is a blocker, not a receiver.
D.C. Jefferson (No. 86)
Likely the fourth of four tight ends Arians will keep into the season, rookie seventh-round pick D.C. Jefferson is a project who has decent athletic ability for his size (6’6”, 255 lbs). He is an average receiver with good blocking skills and could play as an H-back on goal-line situations.
Kory Sperry (No. 83)
Kory Sperry has eight career receptions in four NFL seasons. There is a very small chance he squeaks onto the roster come September. In fact, it would be completely shocking to see his name on the initial 53-man.
Alex Gottlieb (No. 80)
Alex Gottlieb was undrafted out of William & Mary last year, and after being signed then released by Detroit, the Cardinals picked him up in April. He is a camp body.
Kyle Auffray (No. 46)
The guys over at Revenge of the Birds looked at Kyle Auffray shortly after his signing in May, and they determined that the UDFA out of New Hampshire could be headed to the practice squad. I concur.
Levi Brown (No. 75)
Getting back into the swing of things is left tackle Levi Brown. He has the starting job back after missing 2012 with a tricep injury, and he is expected to help improve the worst unit from a year ago. Left tackle was a sieve, as without him fans realized he wasn’t so bad after all. He may not be a top-five—or even a top-10—left tackle, but he is solid enough to keep Palmer upright and open lanes for Mendenhall, Williams, et al.
Bobby Massie (No. 70)
Some pundits believe the Cardinals needed to move Brown back to right tackle this season and dump last year’s fourth-round pick, Bobby Massie, after the rookie struggled out of the gate. He allowed a league-high 13 sacks in 2012, but every one of them came in the first eight weeks of the season. He was one of two right tackles (Tyson Clabo, Atlanta Falcons) to start all 16 games and not allow a sack over the back half of the season. He is a different player than he was a calendar year ago, and the line is much better for it (stats via ProFootballFocus, subscription required).
Nate Potter (No. 76)
Second-year tackle Nate Potter is listed on the Cardinals’ official website at an even 300 pounds, but he looks bulkier than that. He came in as a 295-pound rookie in need of strength coach John Lott’s expertise, and it is quite obvious he received plenty of it.
He was once thought of as a future first-round prospect at Boise State but somehow fell all the way to the seventh round in 2012. He was forced into action perhaps before he was ready last year, and he struggled early because of it (a la Massie). But he was decent down the stretch, and if he improves his power run-blocking this year, he could end up supplanting Brown as the blindside blocker in the near future. Brown is owed $7.65 million next season, and if he does not perform up to his salary, he could be released.
Paul Fanaika (No. 74)
A former seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, Paul Fanaika has yet to play in an NFL game—and that will not happen this season; at least not with Arizona. I believe Arians will carry three tackles into the season, and all others are merely camp bodies.
Jamaal Johnson-Webb (No. 62)
At 6’6” and 306 pounds, Jamaal Johnson-Webb became the first Alabama A&M alum to receive an invite to the NFL combine. Not even longtime NFL veteran and four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis received an invite. Johnson-Webb started 46 of a possible 48 games during his four-year college career, and he should be looking for work in the near future.
Joe Caprioglio (No. 60)
Joe Caprioglio played both tackle and guard while at Colorado State. His versatility is the only reason I believe he has a chance to be placed on the practice squad, as Arians loves versatile linemen and may want to try developing him for a while.
Jonathan Cooper (No. 61)
Arizona’s first-round pick this offseason, Jonathan Cooper was thought to be making the move from left to right guard because of veteran starter Daryn Colledge. But Arians had other plans and, instead, Colledge will make the transition to right while Cooper—thought by all to be the most athletic interior lineman in the draft—will stay at left guard. He is a destructive force in the run game. Together, he and Brown will pave the way for the backs and keep Palmer from being blindsided by pass-rushers.
Last year, Arians’ Indianapolis Colts offense ran the ball to the left 62.6 percent of the time while racking up exactly 100 more rushing attempts to that side than to the right. With the current outlook of the Cardinals’ line, that could be the case in 2013 for Big Red.
Daryn Colledge (No. 71)
The aforementioned switch to right guard for Colledge has not been easy. He was quoted by Josh Weinfuss of AZCardinals.com in June as saying the move is “the hardest thing I could possibly ever do in my life.” He is a professional athlete and is expected to be just fine by the time September is here, but the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes to mind in this situation. Colledge spent the vast majority of his seven-year career on the left side.
Now, he moves to the right to pair up with Massie who, like Colledge, played every snap a year ago. In fact, the two were the only Cardinals offensive players to be in on every snap in 2012, putting up 1,078 plays. Durability aside, Colledge will be good if he can quickly learn to flip muscle memory and habits. He is a very cerebral player, so in time, he should get it down.
Earl Watford (No. 78)
Rookie fourth-round pick Earl Watford could take some time to develop into the NFL player coaches hope he can be. Much like Cooper, he is very athletic and moves well in space. But he is jumping from small-school opponents of James Madison University to the cream of the football crop; his adjustment will take time.
Senio Kelemete (No. 64)
Senio Kelemete did not see game action as a rookie until the final week of the 2012 season. He stepped in at right guard and allowed a sack and a quarterback hit in 43 snaps, but he has potential to develop. While “potential” is a good thing to have, having the people around him to get the ball rolling is important, and Kelemete—along with all young offensive linemen on the team—now has that.
Chilo Rachal (No. 73)
At one point in Chilo Rachal’s 49ers career, he was thought to be one of the best guards in football. He then lost his job to the worst guard in football, Adam Snyder, and has been passed around the NFL since. He spent last season in Chicago and played in eight games. Now, he replaces the man who replaced him in San Francisco but will ride the bench all season—if he makes the team at all.
Mike Gibson (No. 69)
Free-agent signee Mike Gibson is a solid run blocker. Drafted in Round 6 by the Eagles in 2008, he was waived and never played for them. He was picked up by Seattle and played for the Seahawks in 2009 and 2010, appearing in 15 games. He has an outside shot to make the team because of his versatility, having played both left and right guard as a pro. He started four games on the right side and five on the left for Seattle in 2009.
Lyle Sendlein (No. 63)
To go from undrafted free agent to three-year team captain is pretty special. Lyle Sendlein is the quarterback of the offensive line and has been for the better part of five seasons. He missed the final five games last season after tearing the MCL in his left knee, but he is healthy and ready to go this year. Having Sendlein back is a great thing with so much change going on around him. He is not the best center in the league; he may not even be in the top half. But he is steady and consistent, and he never quits on his team.
Scott Wedige (No. 66)
It is very rare for a franchise to carry more than one center into the regular season. Signed by the team as a UDFA last season, Scott Wedige saw action in two games following the Sendlein injury, but not before he was waived by two other teams (Giants, Bengals) en route to returning to his original signing team. He likely is bound for the practice squad once again if no one claims him.
Adam Bice (No. 68)
Adam Bice is another versatile lineman signed as a free agent this offseason. He can play anywhere on the line, but don’t expect him to make even the practice squad. One center on the 53-man and one on the practice squad is customary in the NFL, and Sendlein and Wedige have those spots locked down.
Calais Campbell (No. 93)
The Cardinals’ defensive line starts with Calais Campbell, who seems destined for a Pro Bowl one of these years. With a new, more aggressive scheme in place that calls for the D-linemen to be the pass-rushers, perhaps this is the year it finally happens. Campbell totaled 14.5 sacks under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a great feat considering the nature of the scheme. This could be a career year for No. 93.
Darnell Dockett (No. 90)
Whereas Campbell blossomed under Horton, Darnell Dockett’s production came to a screeching halt the last two years. He was not happy playing in Horton’s scheme, but he appears to be giddier than ever working with new coordinator Todd Bowles.
One thing of note, however. He keeps tweeting about his excitement and how, ”#imnota3-4linemen,” but the defense is not switching to a 4-3. They will be a base 3-4 and give different looks, but Dockett is, in fact, still a 3-4 defensive end. His role has changed, though, and he should get back to the Dockett we Cardinals fans know and love.
Matt Shaughnessy (No. 91)
Former Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy signed with Arizona as a free agent this offseason. Though he could stand up to rush the passer this season, he is better with a hand in the dirt stuffing the run and creating havoc at the line of scrimmage. He can even drop inside and play some defensive tackle in four down linemen looks.
Frostee Rucker (No. 98)
Another free-agent acquisition who is adept at stopping the run, Frostee Rucker will be a rotation player like Shaughnessy. He may not play as much, but in goal-line situations and times when the starters are in need of a breath, Rucker provides a solid rotation option.
Ronald Talley (No. 96)
Ronald Talley has not played much as a pro. He does have one start, last season at the New York Jets, but with the moves this offseason, he may be out of work soon.
Everrette Thompson (No. 60)
There is some upside to Everrette Thompson’s game that leads me to believe he has an outside chance to crack the 53-man roster this season. There is a lot of veteran depth already there, but with proper time and development, Thompson can be a solid role player along a defensive line. Could be one of eight signed to the practice squad.
Dan Williams (No. 92)
Dan Williams transformed himself from an overweight defensive lineman into a fitter, run-stopping machine last year. He looks to have kept the weight off this offseason, which means he is serious about becoming the class of the NFC at nose tackle. The former first-round pick has been somewhat of a disappointment in three seasons, but he came on toward the end of 2012 and was rated as one of the best run-defending defensive tackles in the entire NFL a season ago (No. 8, according to PFF). Williams could have fun this season, plugging holes in the run game and getting after the quarterback.
David Carter (No. 79)
Cardinals fans seem to have lofty expectations for David Carter despite the fact that he was a sixth-round pick the year after Williams was taken in the first round. One thing he has going for him is that he can play—and has played—every position along a 3-4 line. He earned four starts a year ago, two from right end and one each from nose tackle and left end. The question with Carter is can he crack the rotation with the depth now at DE? He will spell Williams, but if that’s it, he may be on the bench a lot this season.
Padric Scott (No. 67)
By now, it should be no secret who Padric Scott is. The former Stanford and Florida A&M D-lineman was the only nose tackle Arians added this offseason, and for good reason. He was a Division I commit for a reason, and he also transferred for a reason. Scott has the talent to be a solid player quicker than most expect.
I’d say most don’t expect him to make the 53-man this September. He will, and he could start seeing significant playing time in some capacity early.
Ricky Lumpkin (No. 95)
Ricky Lumpkin is essentially a camp body this year. He signed as a UDFA in 2011 and has been on and off the practice squad ever since. Lumpkin did play eight snaps against the Detroit Lions last season and was credited with one tackle and a defensive stop (per PFF). That may end up being the extent of his Cardinals career.
Sam Acho (No. 94)
This is a big season for Sam Acho. He excels at covering running backs and tight ends, and he has been good against the run. Pass-rushing was an issue for Acho in 2012, as he notched just four sacks in 16 starts after a seven-sack performance in 10 starts as a rookie. His role is changing this season, as linebackers will not be relied upon as heavily for rushing the quarterback. But his prowess in the other aspects of linebacking makes the transition easier.
Lorenzo Alexander (No. 97)
Keeping with the theme of run-stopping defenders, Lorenzo Alexander was brought in this offseason to push for a starting spot opposite Acho. Never thought of as a pass-rushing threat (only eight sacks in six NFL seasons), Alexander does well at other things, like defending the run, that make him a valuable add. Is he starter material? That depends on a number of players and their performance this preseason.
O’Brien Schofield (No. 50)
Like Sendlein, O’Brien Schofield’s season ended early after an injury. And also like Sendlein, Schofield returns this season ready to go. Whether he will start at his usual left outside linebacker position remains to be seen, mainly due to the Alexander addition. But it does not look good as of now. Alexander is currently listed as the starter, and while it’s just July and there is an entire month of camp and preseason games to be played, early bets could be safer placed on No. 97 earning the starting spot.
Alex Okafor (No. 57)
Former Texas defensive end Alex Okafor comes in as a fourth-round pick with a lot of potential. Sound familiar? It should, as his current teammate, starting ROLB Acho, was in the same situation coming out of Texas three years ago. Okafor looks a lot like Acho on the field, and that could bode well for the rookie.
Tim Fugger (No. 53)
Tim Fugger followed coach Arians to Arizona as Stanton did. Unlike Stanton, however, Fugger likely won’t make the roster. He is a camp body, but he could end up making the practice squad.
Dan Giordano (No. 48)
Making the move from a college 4-3 defensive end to a NFL 3-4 outside linebacker can prove troublesome. Some high draft picks never fully get it, so for a UDFA to do it successfully could take more time than Dan Giordano has. That’s not to say he won’t do it successfully or even that he won’t do it in time to impress coaches into giving him a roster spot. But the chances are not good.
Daryl Washington (No. 58)
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, star inside linebacker Daryl Washington will be suspended the first four games of the regular season following a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He is the defense’s heart and soul; he is the leader of one of the best defenses in the league. It could be a long first month of the season if the other inside backers can’t step up in Washington’s absence.
Karlos Dansby (No. 55)
Fortunately for the Cardinals, Karlos Dansby re-signed with the team this offseason and—at age 31—is still a good enough player to hold down the fort in lieu of Washington. Dansby has notched at least 94 total tackles each of the last six seasons, including four seasons of at least 100. He knows and understands Bowles’ defense. The two were in Miami together for three seasons before Bowles took a job with the Eagles.
Kevin Minter (No. 51)
It won’t take fans long to notice No. 51 on the field once games get underway. Kevin Minter is as hard-hitting a linebacker as was available in the draft, and the rookie could play a major role when the team travels to St. Louis Week 1. In Washington’s absence, expect Minter to earn the other starting ILB spot opposite Dansby.
Jasper Brinkley (No. 54)
Some have said the fit in Minnesota was not a good one for Jasper Brinkley, that he would be better as a 3-4 ILB than the 4-3 MLB he was with the Vikings. While that may be the case, the reasoning is troubling. He is not very athletic, is not a sideline-to-sideline linebacker (much like Washington, Dansby and even Minter are) and he misses far too many tackles to be worth much in the open field.
Reggie Walker (No. 56)
Reggie Walker has played a minor but important role in the four years he has been in Arizona. He has appeared in 24 games on defense over that time, never earning a start but always doing whatever was asked of him. He is a team player who wants to win as much as the next guy. His role as an inside linebacker could be changing soon, however, as he spent time last year at outside linebacker filling in after Schofield went down.
He was average during that span, but average is all you can ask for from him. He is in a contract year, and that could motivate the 26-year-old to give a little extra.
Zack Nash (No. 59)
With nine inside linebackers on the 90-man training camp roster, there will certainly be those among them who won’t make it through to the start of the regular season. While Zack Nash is likely one of those, he is a candidate for the practice squad. An undrafted free agent last season, Nash was on the practice squad until midway through the season and helped fill in for Schofield at OLB. There is nothing flashy about his game, and not standing out could be the deciding factor for coaches.
Colin Parker (No. 52)
Former Sun Devils inside linebacker Colin Parker was a beast on defense and special teams in college, and the latter is why he is still around. Many NFL players hang around on a roster playing key roles on special teams while developing at their respective position. Parker has talent and could be a future role player at linebacker, but the former UDFA will have to prove his worth on kickoff and punt teams until that happens. Don’t hold out hope he makes the 53-man, however.
Kenny Demens (No. 45)
Another of this year’s UDFAs, former Michigan Wolverine Kenny Demens is a camp body with potential to be a practice squad member for a franchise down the road. I don’t see him on any PS this season.
Korey Jones (No. 47)
I envision Korey Jones as an outside linebacker rushing quarterbacks, but he is listed as an inside linebacker. At 6’2” and just 233 pounds (similar to Washington as a rookie), he will need to add bulk to play either outside or inside successfully. His natural burst off the line tells me he can succeed in rushing the passer, but it looks like I am in the minority in that department.
Patrick Peterson (No. 21)
I recently called Patrick Peterson the most overrated player on the Cardinals’ roster. Much of that has to do with the media and his peers talking him up as though he is the best cornerback in the league—he was ranked No. 33 overall in NFL Network’s Top 100 and the top CB. But some of that has to do with the utter dominance 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree displays against him.
The table below reflects Peterson's performance against Crabtree compared to every other defender he has faced (numbers via PFF).
Peterson is among the most athletic players in the league, and that helped him through his first two seasons. But it’s time for the two-time Pro Bowler to take the next step and become a true shutdown corner.
Antoine Cason (No. 20)
For the first time this offseason, Antoine Cason is listed as the other starting cornerback (via Ourlads.com). Until recently, it was Jerraud Powers donning the No. 2 CB spot. That follows my belief that Cason will, in fact, start opposite Peterson this season. He has the most experience as a starter, and he is bigger and more physical than Powers is. Having two corners as physical as Peterson and Cason on the field at all times is a huge asset, and it could lead to a vastly improved secondary (remember, William Gay was the No. 2 most of last season).
Jerraud Powers (No. 25)
Powers’ first three seasons have ended early due to injuries. He should be considered an injury-prone player, and one who is not very good to begin with. His opposing passer rating has increased each year, from 85.6 as a rookie to 98.7 in 2011 to an even 105.0 last year (per PFF). He may not even earn the nickel corner spot because of the next player.
Javier Arenas (No. 35)
Of all the corners on the roster, Javier Arenas has the most experience from the slot. He has a tendency to be burned, and he did not intercept a pass last year, but his athleticism is a nice matchup against smaller slot receivers. Powers has almost no experience in the slot, and he is not as quick or athletic as Arenas is. Powers will play one of the slot roles with Cason starting, but it could be the dime position, which means he will be on the field far less than Arenas.
Jamell Fleming (No. 29)
A third-round pick in 2012, Jamell Fleming played a lot of football early in his rookie season. Then, he suddenly stopped playing. He rode the bench from the bye week (Week 10) through the end of the season. In those final seven games, Fleming played just one snap (Week 15 against the Detroit Lions).
The same could be true this season if he doesn’t step it into high gear. For as much promise as he showed, it could be over just like that with the depth Arizona now has at the position.
Justin Bethel (No. 31)
Justin Bethel was a sixth-round pick in 2012 who made the roster as a special-teams ace. This season, he is on the roster bubble due to the depth added at corner. He should be playing safety, but Arians moved him to corner, where he could get buried. In my eyes, a Bethel/Tyrann Mathieu combination at safety could develop into one of the most dynamic in the league.
Bryan McCann (No. 22)
Former Raiders, Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Bryan McCann has played in 29 games throughout his four-year career. He has never started a game at corner, but he played the bulk of defensive snaps most recently with the Dolphins against the New England Patriots following an injury to Dimitri Patterson. While he didn’t light up the world with pass breakups and interceptions, he was where he needed to be at all times. McCann could be a sleeper pick to sneak onto the 53-man.
Ronnie Yell (No. 43)
Ronnie Yell is a UDFA out of San Jose State. He’s a camp body and nothing more—again, not to sound harsh.
Rashad Johnson (No. 49)
Four-year safety Rashad Johnson just signed a three-year deal to remain with his drafting franchise. He will battle for the starting strong safety spot with others below. Replacing legend Adrian Wilson will be tough to do, but Johnson has been a solid contributor when on the field and should do just fine.
Tyrann Mathieu (No. 32)
Though he has his skeptics, Mathieu could end up starting at free safety for Bowles’ defense as early as Week 1. He has impressed to this point, showing coaches his athletic ability and natural instinct when reacting to the ball in the air. He has a knack for getting his hand on the ball, and that playmaking ability will be why he ultimately starts right away.
Yeremiah Bell (No. 37)
Thirty-five-year-old Yeremiah Bell is penciled in as the starting free safety, but that could change the deeper into camp we get. Everyone will have their eyes on Mathieu, and he is a natural on the field. Bell is going to lose out to the rookie and be forced into a rotational role at both free and strong safety.
Tony Jefferson (No. 36)
There is a reason Tony Jefferson went undrafted out of Oklahoma, but I don’t know it. I felt he could have been a late-round pick. Nonetheless, he is on the roster and could be among a few UDFAs to make the roster.
Jonathon Amaya (No. 27)
Originally an undrafted rookie in 2010, Jonathon Amaya spent some time on Miami’s practice squad before joining the New Orleans Saints via trade (Reggie Bush trade). The Saints released him a year after the trade, and he re-signed with Miami. He’s played in seven games in three NFL seasons, totaling nine tackles, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in that time. He is a camp body.
Javon Harris (No. 41)
The other starting safety for Oklahoma a year ago, Javon Harris also went undrafted. To me, his was less surprising than Jefferson's was, but Harris is a baller regardless. He could be a good candidate for the practice squad for now, but I see him on an NFL 53-man roster before long.
Curtis Taylor (No. 26)
A former 49ers seventh-round pick in 2009, Curtis Taylor ended his first two seasons on injured reserve for hip and quad injuries, respectively. After spending some time in Oakland, San Francisco picked him back up and placed him on their practice squad late last season before dumping him once again. He is a camp body.
Jay Feely (No. 4)
Veteran kicker Jay Feely is entering his fourth season with the Cardinals. He has converted 86.1 percent of his attempts (68-of-79) with a long of 61—that’s a franchise record, surpassing the team record of 55, held by himself, Neil Rackers and Greg Davis.
Dave Zastudil (No. 9)
Setting two NFL records in a single season and finishing third in another is usually a good thing. As a punter, however, it can be an indicator of a failed offense, and in the case of Dave Zastudil, it was. Zastudil set records in punts inside the 20 (48) and punting yards (5,209; first 5,000-yard punting season in NFL history).
The offense was historically bad, no doubt. The Cardinals defense set up the offense with the fifth-best average starting field position a year ago (via FootballOutsiders.com), and all the quarterbacks did with that was allow Zastudil to set records.
Mike Leach (No. 82)
Technically, Mike Leach is a tight end. But in four seasons with the Cardinals, he has a grand total of 18 snaps at the position. He doesn’t have a career reception, yet he is the most important part of the special teams. Leach is rock-solid as a long snapper, and perhaps one of these years he will be rewarded for his efforts with a Pro-Bowl bid.