2012 Arizona Cardinals Final 53.
By Eric Judd @ericjuddTSHQ
A quick guess, with analysis, as to the Final 53 in Arizona.
While the starter is a constant source of debate, the top 3 (in no particular order) is quite easy. Skelton gives the team the best chance to win, and will end up the starter. Kolb will only be given a chance to prove he finally has grasped the offense and caught up with the speed of the game in Arizona, if Skelton gets hurt. Expect Kolb, and his monster cap hit, to be cut next off-season.
2011 QB (3)
RB (4) 2011
Chris “Beanie” Wells
While Alfonzo Smith was the 4th RB last season, the indecision in his cuts has really limited his effectiveness in preseason. Powell, meanwhile, has proven able to carry the load, and break off long runs, even if it is against opponents 3rd stringers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smith picked up after final cuts on August 31st by a team short on backfield depth (DET, WAS, HOU, DEN). Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, if healthy, can be the best running back tandem in the NFL. If Arizona has its way, they will rely, heavily, on these two. Stephens-Howling has the diminutive size and blazing quickness to be as effective as Darren Sproles in New Orleans. Whisenhunt just needs to use him that way.
Sherman does exactly what you want him to do, hit people before they hit the running backs. He is an underrated receiver, and, with the emphasis on the ground game, will be an important piece to the Cardinals success.
2011 RB+FB (5)
The last two spots at wide receiver are difficult. DeMarco Sampson has a slight edge because of his history with rookie QB Ryan Lindley at SDSU. LaRon also makes my cut because he is arguably the fastest of the remaining wideouts. And he has Fitz-like hair. Michael Floyd has not yet earned his #13 overall draft status and has been a near-absent figure during the pre-season. It will be imperative for him to use his blocking prowess to find his way onto the field. As long as Fitzgerald is playing, Floyd will never be the featured wide receiver. However, he does have the inside track to be, by far, the best #2 in the league.
2011 WR (6)
Todd Heap is not what he used to be, and is probably the safest bet to miss some time with injury this season. Rob Housler is a wildcard. With the rapid shift to the utilization of Tight Ends in the NFL, Housler has all the skills to be considered amongst the best. However, even with Whisenhunt’s playing experience at the position, TE will, most likely, not be a featured part of the offense. Dray and King are toss-ups for the final roster spot. Each are underrated receivers who are used, and needed, as an extra body on the line.
2011 TE (4)
With Levi Brown, most likely, being put on IR before the end of preseason, the awful position of OT just got worse. None of the 5 that will survive the cut has any business playing left tackle in the NFL for any length of time. Even right tackle is a stretch. 2012 is yet another example of Russ Grimm’s inability to coach up players to perform at the NFL level. Arizona should count their lucky stars if Daryn Colledge is able to work his magic on Chad Clifton, enough so that he can actually pass a team physical. Bobbie Massie, viewed as a steal when he was drafted in the 4th round. Unfortunately, he has been unable to crack the starting line-up. It will take time for Massie to acclimate to the NFL, a luxury the Cardinals do not have. 7th round pick, Nate Potter sits on the cusp, not because of his pedigree, and his winning history in college, but because Potter looks completely out-matched in the NFL, even in the 4th quarter of a meaningless preseason game. Potter would benefit from a season on the practice squad, but with the severe lack of depth at the position, his making the final 53 wouldn’t be a surprise.
The guard position is also a relatively easy decision. Daryn Colledge makes his money in the run game. Adam Snyder got a lucrative contract during free agency because he…played in the division? I’m not quite sure. Senio Kelemete, who played tackle in college, will have an opportunity to learn the position without being forced into the starting lineup. Hopefully, after a year of seasoning, his development allows the front office to free up some of the money invested in the interior of the offensive line.
Captain Lyle Sendelin has been the rock of the line for the last 4 seasons, starting every game. While not as flashy or well-known as some other centers in the league, Sendelin is one of the most important pieces of the offense.
2011 OL (8)
The Arizona defensive front 3 might just be its deepest position. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are two of the best 3-4 DEs in the NFL, producing serious run game disruption and pressure on opposing QBs. Dan Williams enters his 3rd in the best shape of his career. His lower playing weight has impressed coaches, all the while increasing his in-game stamina, even in the rarified training camp air of Flagstaff, AZ. Hopefully; his slimmed-down figure doesn’t impact his ability to clog the middle of the line. If Dan Williams is unable to produce up to, or near, his first round draft position, do not be surprised to see David Carter earning a starting position at some point this season.
2011 DL (6)
Daryl Washington is beginning to earn a reputation outside of the desert. Another productive season will vault him into the conversation for the league’s best ILBs, another reason why the front office is (finally) proactive about getting him re-signed, long term. Paris Lenon, injured during preseason has quietly outperformed his modest free agent contract. So much so, that the (until recently) much higher paid Stewart Bradley was unable to surpass him on the depth chart.
Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield have finally earned the opportunity to be full-time starters at 3-4 OLB. Each had a tremendous second half of 2011, which only helps to increase their expectations. If they are able to produce consistently at the levels set last season, this pair of 4th round LBs will be in line for significant raises in the near future. Haggans provides veteran depth, while Groves was given another opportunity to prove he is not a draft bust.
2011 LB (8)
Patrick Peterson will use his second season in the NFL to earn a Pro-Bowl spot, not only as the best punt returner in the league, but as, perhaps, the best CB in the NFC. The second corner spot was supposed to be up for grabs. Free agent William Gay is the only one that has earned it, and that is mostly by default, coming from Pittsburgh and his familiarity with Ray Horton’s scheme. Greg Toler has not yet returned to form after his knee injury, but he does have starting experience. Rookie Jamell Fleming and special teams stalwart Michael Adams will be competing for the nickel CB job. AJ Jefferson, not only lost his starting job from a year ago, he also lost his place on the final 53.
Kerry Rhodes, while not the dynamic playmaker he once was, is still as productive veteran in the Arizona secondary. Justin Bethel, is, outside of Patrick Peterson, the most exciting defensive back on the team. His speed is unquestionable and his knack for the football, whether as a gunner on special teams or as a kick-blocking machine, has more than made up for his small school background.
Adrian Wilson, the longest tenured Cardinal, seems to get better with age. Playing through a torn bicep, Wilson once again proved his toughness, while earning a trip to the Pro-Bowl with his outstanding play and devastating (legal) hits. James Sanders and Rashad Johnson might have the easiest job on the team, as nothing short of Armageddon would keep Adrian Wilson of the field.
2011 DB (10)
2011 ST (3)
While this position very rarely changes, it probably should. Feely, while mostly accurate, does not have the leg to keep pace in the NFL. His kickoffs are sub-standard, rarely resulting in touchbacks, 31%, good for 7th worst in the league. Eliminating the opponent’s opportunity to return a kickoff would also help avoid any issues on the coverage team. Dave Zastudil is just acceptable, nothing spectacular. He gets the job done. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cardinals actually waste a draft pick on a kicker or punter in 2013.
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