Cardinals’ Early 53 Man Prediction Per ESPN

Josh Weinfuss, ESPN’s beat writer for the Arizona Cardinals recently posted this early 53 man roster prediction:

https://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/34108780/arizona-cardinals-53-man-roster-projection-suggests-increased-role-james-conner

QUARTERBACK (2): Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy

Will Kyler Murray be at training camp? That’s the big question heading into the offseason. Will he be the Week 1 starter? Yes.

RUNNING BACK (4): James Conner, Eno Benjamin, Darrel Williams, Keaontay Ingram

Conner is the man this year. He’ll handle the bulk of the workload with Chase Edmonds leaving Arizona in free agency. Benjamin has shined during the offseason and Williams gives Arizona another veteran presence in the room. Ingram, a rookie, has the size to get reps early.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, AJ Green, Rondale Moore, Antoine Wesley, Greg Dortch

Hopkins won’t be around the first six weeks of the season, so another body will likely be on the initial 53. Kingsbury is a believer in Wesley, and Dortch has continued to turn heads.

TIGHT END (3): Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams, Trey McBride

Williams’ health will dictate his place on the roster to start the season, but Ertz and McBride are gimmes here. There could be four but at the expense of a spot at another position.

LINEMEN OFFENSIVE (10): DJ Humphries, Justin Pugh, Rodney Hudson, Justin Murray, Kelvin Beachum, Josh Jones, Will Hernandez, Sean Harlow, Marquis Hayes, Eric Smith

The biggest question surrounding the Cardinals’ offensive line is whether Hudson will report to training camp after an unexplained absence this summer. According to coach Kliff Kingsbury, he didn’t participate in minicamp because of an unexcused absence. The bottom of the offensive line will be key for injury insurance.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7): JJ Watt, Zach Allen, Rashard Lawrence, Leki Fotu, Jonathan Ledbetter, Matt Dickerson, Kingsley Keke

Allen is healthier than he’s been in a while and Watt looks to have recovered from his shoulder injury last season. Lawrence and Fotu are more experienced and Ledbetter, Dickerson and Keke complement a close defensive line unit.

LINEBACKER(10): Markus Golden, Dennis Gardeck, Devon Kennard, Victor Dimukeje, Cameron Thomas, Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, Nick Vigil, Tanner Vallejo, Ezekiel Turner

There’ll be a lot of pressure on the outside linebacker to make up for Chandler Jones’ loss in free agency. Golden will be the anchor of the pass rush but the other outside linebackers will be rotating in, trying to find the hot hand. The inside linebackers will be under scrutiny all season after Collins’ lackluster rookie season and with Simmons slowly coming into his own.

CORNERBACK (4): Byron Murphy, Marco Wilson, Breon Borders, Antonio Hamilton

This is a position where the Cardinals could take a look at other players between now and the start of Week 1.

SAFETY (4): Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, Deionte Thompson, Charles Washington

Safety has been the Cardinals’ most consistent group over the past few years. It’s unlikely there’ll be change here.

SPECIALIST (3): Matt Prater, P Andy Lee, LS Aaron Brewer

This trio is the definition of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Commentary:

Players Included*:

  • WR DeAndre Hopkins* —- 6 game PED suspension
  • C Rodney Hudson* —- currently holding out

Surprise Picks:

  • WR Greg Dortch
  • Eric Smith
  • DI Jonathan Ledbetter
  • DI Matt Dickerson
  • CB Breon Borders

These five players are good for the team’s depth. Not sure any of them are a threat to be claimed off waivers. Therefore, they may be best suited to start the season on the practice squad.

Notable Omissions:

  • RB Jonathan Ward —- while Kliff Kingsbury has been raving about Eno Benjamin’s work ethic and level of play this off-season, why then did Steve Keim draft Keontay Ingram with the team’s 1st Day 3 pick and then sign Darrel Williams in free agency? Williams is more than likely going to be RB2. If the Cardinals keep 4 RBs, then Eno might be the odd man out because Jonathan Ward has the clear edge on STs. Regardless, if the Cardinals waive Ingram, Benjamin or Ward, they will hope they will pass through waivers and be re-signed to the PS where they can be moved up on game days, per need.
  • WR Andy Isabella —-while there is a lot to like about Greg Dortch as a slot WR, if Andy Isabella finally gets his chance to shine during the pre-season games, he is either going to make the 53 man roster as one of the team’s deep threats , or he is going to be traded. Josh Weinfuss included DeAndre Hopkins among the 53, but acknowledged that one other WR might be added. Unless Dortch wins the job as punt returner, Andy Isabella has the edge on STs, where he graded in the top 5 last season. WR5 needs to be a ST contributor.
  • TE Stephen Anderson —- Maxx Williams is likely to start training camp on the PUP list. The Cardinals signed Stephen Anderson to be the TE Swiss Army dynamo who can play in-line, in the slot, as an H-back and as a fullback. His versatility makes him an odd’s-on favorite to make the roster. It’s most likely that the Cardinals will keep 4 TEs and only 5 WRs.
  • T Joshua Miles —- Eric Smith is best suited to play right tackle where the Cardinals already have Kelvin Beachum, Josh Jones and Justin Murray. This is why Joshua Miles, the backup top DJ Humphries at left tackle, has a stronger chance to make the roster, for the same reason why he did last year. He’s played in 17 games the last two seasons, mostly on special teams, where he has been very dependable.
  • DI Michael Dogbe —- the coaches have been raving about Michael Dogbe’s continued growth this off-season. There is no way, in my opinion, that Jonathan Ledebtter and Matt Dickerson would beat out Michael Dogbe for a roster spot.
  • OLB Myjai Sanders —- there is also no way that Victor Dimukeje is going to beat out Myjai Sanders. Maybe Josh Weinfuss forgot about Sanders. That can happen when doing roster predictions because of all of the moving parts. He didn’t mention Sanders in the comments, thus his omission was probably an oversight.
  • CB Jace Whittaker —- this could be a breakout season for Jace. He could be a factor for the Cardinals in the slot, where they urgently need improvement.
  • S James Wiggins —- it’s difficult to imagine the Cardinals only keep 4 CBs and 4 safeties, not just from a defensive depth consideration, but from a STs standpoint. Wiggins has the ability to be one of the team’s top gunners. Plus, he brings a physical level of play to the secondary as a backup strong safety. Deionte Thompson and Charles Washington are solid depth at free safety.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks to Josh Weinfuss —- these predictions are never easy —- but they are always interesting to consider.

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