Predicting the Final Arizona Cardinals' 2012 53-Man Roster
Now that the 2012 NFL Draft is complete and the Arizona Cardinals' rookie camp has been wrapped up, it is now time to predict which rookies will make the roster, which crusty veterans will return and which will not make the cut.
The Cardinals drafted three offensive linemen, two defensive backs, one quarterback and one wide receiver.
The receiver, Michael Floyd, is a lock to make the 53-man roster; however, not all other picks will be guaranteed a spot for Week 1 of 2012. Many, in fact, have a lot of work to do in order to make their dream come true. Because, after all, they’re not NFL-ers, yet.
* Signifies player is a rookie
† Signifies player is a starter
The same trio from 2011 will once again man the ship that is the Cardinals’ offense in 2012.
Sixth-round draft pick Ryan Lindley is left out, but not out completely. He will be signed to Arizona’s practice squad to learn the tricks of the trade there during the season. Hopefully when either Kolb or Skelton do not return to the team in 2013, he will be ready to, at the very least, make the team as the emergency third-stringer.
Kolb will likely win the quarterback battle out of camp and preseason, but if he starts slowly or screws up early on, Skelton will be right there to take over.
Kolb’s leash is short—really short.
Running Back/Fullback (5)
Running Back (4)
Beanie Wells rushed for a career-high 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns in only 14 games last season despite the Cardinals’ offense sputtering on a regular basis. After knee surgery following the season,
Ryan Williams returns after a rookie season on the shelf, due to a ruptured patellar tendon he suffered during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He has been working to get back to full health, and says he will be ready for camp.
“You can’t break me,” Williams told AZCardinals.com.
The role of LaRod Stephens-Howling will be reduced with Williams back on the field in 2012. “The Hyphen” produced more than one highlight during the 2011 season, including a screen pass from Kevin Kolb in overtime of the Cowboys game in which he took 52 yards for the walk-off touchdown. (Shown here with a little Spanish flair!)
He will continue to return kickoffs for Arizona, and perhaps a lesser offensive responsibility will help him return to form after a disappointing year returning kicks.
Wide Receivers (6)
Michael Floyd should win the No. 2 receiving job by the start of the regular season, if not sooner. Larry Fitzgerald will benefit from this, and so will the running game.
Early Doucet seems like the most logical choice to remain the slot starter, as he produced just as much as Andre Roberts did in 2011 in 388-less plays on the field.
DeMarco Sampson is an exceptional athlete with good after-the-catch ability and no fear of going up and getting one over the middle. He could supplant Roberts as the No. 4 if Roberts continues to show hands of stone.
Stephen Williams is a bit of a mystery. It is unknown why he remained inactive the entire 2011 season, but he is the tallest receiver on the roster at 6’5”, and his presence in the red zone should become something defenses fear in the next few years. Hopefully for Williams and for fans, he is able to put it together in this, his third year in the league.
Tight End (3)
In his first season playing for his hometown Cardinals, Todd Heap spent much of the season nursing injuries. He was unable to make any large impact, but when he was finally able to get on the field late in the season, he showed he can still play at a high level.
Jeff King led the team in receiving for tight ends last year. That was not expected, as he was signed as a “blocking tight end.” All that usually means is he can’t catch.
King showed he can, in fact, catch, and that he can do it well. Don’t expect him to lead the tight ends in receiving in 2012, however, as a healthy Heap and a second-year TE should carry the brunt of the load in the receiving department.
Rob Housler disappointed many people as a rookie. The third-round pick came in with high expectations in 2011 after posting impressive measurables at the NFL Combine, leading all NFL tight end hopefuls in four of the six drills in which he participated.
The 6’5”, 250-pound athlete blazed an ultra-fast 4.55 40-yard dash and showed off a vertical leap of 37 inches.
If Housler comes into his own in his second season as a professional, Arizona’s offense should be a force with which to be reckoned.
Offensive Line (9)
Levi Brown† (Left Tackle)
Daryn Colledge† (Left Guard)
Lyle Sendlein† (Center)
Adam Snyder† (Right Guard)
Bobby Massie*† (Right Tackle)
Two new starters on the right side of the line, including rookie tackle Bobby Massie, should help improve the offensive line quickly. Adam Snyder came over via free agency from San Francisco, where he started all 18 games at right guard during the 49ers’ improbable run to the NFC Championship game last season.
Massie has his eye on the starting job at right tackle. It's all he played while at the University of Mississippi, and while the job is not yet his, I would be shocked if he did not earn it by Week 1.
Nate Potter should make the squad and begin immediately following Levi Brown wherever he goes. This may not sound like a good idea to those who look only to Levi’s entire 2011 season when judging his performance. He’s turned a corner in his development, however. It is my opinion that he will be an anchor for the line in 2012, and Potter will benefit from the knowledge he will gain from watching him work.
Working with Cardinals’ strength and conditioning coach John Lott will be a big part of Potter’s development, as well. His downfall in the draft was that he lacks ideal strength and is small for the tackle position. Lott will remedy that with a rigorous work out plan for the rookie.
Defensive Line (6)
Calais Campbell† (Right DE)
Dan Williams† (Nose Tackle)
Darnell Dockett† (Left DE)
With Calais Campbell’s shiny new five-year contract signed, the extra-large defensive end is set to be in Arizona until 2016, if he plays out the length of the deal.
That should give other defenders motivation to perform at their highest potential, as three of Arizona’s star defenders have been blessed with long-term contract extensions in the past three years—Campbell joins DE Darnell Dockett and SS Adrian Wilson.
It is clear the Cardinals want to build the defense around the best possible men in football. Not just on the field, but off it, as well.
Campbell and Dockett are the anchors of the line, and if “Dumpster” Dan Williams lives up to the hype which surrounded him when Arizona spent a first round pick on him in 2010, the line could be among the best in football.
Vonnie Holliday is one of two unrestricted free agent defenders expected to be re-signed, eventually. His coach-like ability on the sideline and on the field is far too valuable to lose, especially for such a young defense.
Sam Acho† (Right OLB)
Daryl Washington† (Strong ILB)
Paris Lenon† (Weak ILB)
O’Brien Schofield† (Left OLB)
Sam Acho, Daryl Washington and O’Brien Schofield are all part of one of the best young linebacking corps in the NFL. The production from the outside will be the driving force of the defense, and Acho led the way as a rookie with seven sacks in only 10 starts.
If Quan Sturdivant has improved his perception of the defense as much as hoped, he should make the roster. Sturdivant believes he is ready, and he thinks his first offseason with the team will be a big help.
“The defense, I think I am adjusted to it now. To not have an offseason (last year)…this offseason, I think it’ll help a lot,” he told AZCardinals.com.
This is a big year for Stewart Bradley. The Cardinals gave him a huge contract preceding the lockout, and once the work stoppage took hold, his ability to learn defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s defense—and a different linebacker position—took a big hit.
Bradley moved from the 4-3 in Philadelphia to the 3-4 in Arizona, and the transition was rocky in his first season.
Clark Haggans is the other UFA to be re-signed at some point. He slowly gave way to Schofield in 2011, but he played well enough to continue to be given playing time. He may have been the most consistent OLB on the roster throughout the course of the season.
Arizona’s third round pick, Jamell Fleming, could end up at one of the starting spots by year’s end if he puts in the effort. He was one of the more underrated defensive backs in the draft, and the Cardinals received a gift when he was there at No. 80 overall.
William Gay comes in and right away snags one of the starting spots in the lineup (with the NFL using increasingly more receivers, I consider the slot corner to be a starter). Whether that’s on the outside or the inside remains to be seen; however, the added talent could not be more welcome in the Valley of the Sun.
Greg Toler should have spent his downtime while recovering from a torn ACL with his nose in the playbook. Though it does not really help until he is able to get back to work on an NFL field, he should know it back and front. Putting it to use is something else, however, so don’t be surprised if he starts out slowly. This could mean getting burned by scrubs from the practice squad, or it could mean just looking slow to react in the preseason.
Either way, don’t read too much into Toler’s almost assured early failure in 2012.
Kerry Rhodes† (Free Safety)
Adrian Wilson† (Strong Safety)
Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes are among the top safety tandems in the league, and with Wilson seemingly getting better with age, there’s no telling how good they will be in 2012. The depth behind them is suspect, and should one of them goes down with an injury (knock on wood), a platoon role would be expected once again.
You all remember Rhodes’ broken foot last season. While Rashad Johnson filled in nicely on a part-time basis, he had help from Richard Marshall, who is no longer with the team.
Justin Bethel is an outstanding athlete. But as a college corner, he will need time to acclimate to the new position at which he is expected to play. He started four years at tiny Presbyterian College, and the talent pool at receiver was no doubt weak. He is good in run support nonetheless, and his natural athleticism and football instinct should help him in his transition. Putting on 10-15 pounds of muscle would not hurt anyone, either.
Special Teams (3)
Jay Feely (K)
Dave Zastudil (P)
Mike Leach (Long Snapper)
Jay Feely signed a two-year contract to remain in Arizona. The fan-favorite likely will retire in Cardinal Red.
Dave Zastudil is an old punter, and Arizona has not drafted such a player since 1989. They have scraped by with washed-out has-beens, and Zastudil is nothing less than that. Another used-to-be punting great could be on the roster by season’s end. Zasty should not even be on this list.
Mike Leach has been the long snapper for the past three seasons in Arizona. He has been great, and was rewarded for his efforts by signing a three-year, $3.27 million deal this offseason. Leach was a free agent.